White balance: the iPhone photographer’s little secret

By , Dec 22, 2012

iPhone Photography Series

I hope you have enjoyed the last few weeks exploring the creative possibilities of exposure. I wanted to continue on our adventure back to the basics of photography. Something I’m sure you have seen at some point in your photographic pursuits is a dial, slider, or some other control annotated with a cloud, sun, flash, shade, and light bulb. Although, camera companies have done a great job researching the iconography that best represents ‘it’, they really don’t explain what ‘it’ is. In today’s lesson we will quickly learn what ‘it’ is and then explore creative ways to use ‘it’ to our advantage!

What is ‘it’ and what are those little icons all about? In short, they are your camera’s ‘white balance’ control. Before we can understand what white balance is, we first need to understand a bit about color temperature. As you know from experience, all light sources are different. For example, I think I look pretty handsome under candle light, then I look at myself in the mirror under fluorescent bathroom lights and I quickly realize I’m no Brad Pitt. The candle light is warm and brilliant and the fluorescent light is cold and harsh. If you were to hold up a white piece of paper, or my untanned skin (I’m part Nordic) in candle light it would appear more golden. If I were to take off my shirt under florescent lights, you would mistake me as albino. What we in the photo industry call a ‘color cast’.

Your iPhone’s camera will do its best and make an educated guess at what the white balance should be, but it doesn’t always get it right. If you want complete control over your white balance setting, you can use apps like KitCam, Camera+, etc. Here is a quick example using KitCam. I shot the same scene under the same light using different white balance settings.


Candle – Cools the images down


Sun – A little warm, but not extreme


Shade – Really warms the image up bit

If you are shooting outside, set your white balance to ‘Sun’. If you are under florescent lights, set it to ‘Fluorescent’. If your subject is in the shade, set it to ‘Shade,’ so on and so forth. You get the idea. Now that we understand how to get accurate colors in our photographs, adjusting the white blance is also a great way to extend your creative possibilities.

One great way to maximize your sunsets, is to set your white balance to cloudy or shade and really warm them up as I did here.

Assignment

Now that you understand what those icons on your iPhone (or any camera) are all about, I’m looking forward to seeing how you use creative color casts in your own iPhone Photography. Maybe use a cooler white balance in a snowy scene, or a warm one by the fireplace over the holidays. Or, maybe just use the correct white balance next time you are out with your friends so they look good on Facebook.

Either way, I really wanted you to understand a bit more about photography in general. Whether it is your iPhone or ‘big camera,’ I want you to realize your own creative visions. Make sure to tag your photos with #iDBwhitebalance!

Close up on some of your work

Here are a few of my favorites pictures of yours that were tagged with the #iDBexposure hashtag on Instagram:

Photo by @vulpes_cana
Photo by @vulpes_cana

Photo by @steelcityry
Photo by @steelcityry

Photo by @lyra_
Photo by @lyra_

Personal Note: it means a lot to me that so many of you are getting excited about making photos. Thanks for all your kind words over the last year. I hope you are learning and having fun. I’m looking forward to seeing you back here in 2013!

Justin Balog is an award winning photographer and filmmaker. You can follow is daily creative adventures at HOSSedia.com or learn more about iPhone Photography in his iBook ‘Big World Little Lens‘. Click Here for the iPad Version. You can buy the PDF version of the eBook here. To find out more about Justin, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • http://www.facebook.com/jajidejumbo Justin Koopmann

    idownloadblog lost it´s interesting
    stuff

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003172597133 Ecc Thanh

      For example?

      • Guest

        I can think of 3 examples,
        – Justin Biebers Blog,
        – Celeb Highlights (or any other celeb news crap)
        – Fred (anything to do with that “Oh hey its FRED” guy for that matter)
        – Any Celebrity twitters.

        wait that’s 4.
        but anyways I don’t speak for sebastien, I happen to like this blog.. not all of the photography posts.. but some do teach a few things I did not know

      • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

        I have no idea what you’re talking about. Bieber? Celebs? Fred??? Celebrity twitters? What does all that mean?

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      When I don’t like a site, I simply don’t read it.

  • mdee4

    You guys might not like these posts but I really like these photography posts! They have taught me a lot about these photo apps and how to correctly use them. Keep them coming.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Don’t worry, we aren’t going to stop because a couple trolls have nothing better to do than hating :)

      • steelcityry

        Glad to hear you say that Sebastien, I really look forward to these posts.

      • http://www.hossedia.com/ Justin Balog

        Yep, keeping them rolling!

    • http://www.hossedia.com/ Justin Balog

      Right on! I’m glad you enjoy them. We have been trying to teach them for a more general photographic perspective. That way, what you learn you can apply to ll your photographic endeavors. Thanks again for chiming in and keep up your own creative pursuits.

  • steelcityry

    Clearly those guys are trolls but also want to let both Justin and Sebastien know that I love these posts and that these assignments paired with Justin’s own website have really created a passion in me for not only iPhone photography but photography in general. Keep up the great work guys!

    Also, thanks for another feature Justin!

    • http://www.hossedia.com/ Justin Balog

      No need to address them, but thanks for you kind words. I’m glad that you are enjoying expanding your creative horizons. I’ve been following your evolution on IG and it has been great fun to watch. Keep it up and thanks again!

  • Lobo555

    Hey can u please give a link to all the photography post u made, i check idownloadblog using pulse so is hard to find all

  • http://twitter.com/DarwishTheBoss The Boss☠

    Awesome.Hope to see a complete guide on photograpy apps.Like which is good , Value for money and etc

  • mishobaranovic

    The KitCam slider does not change the white balance of the scene, all it does is apply a colour filter onto the live image. There is actually no way to correctly adjust your white balance using the app. In contrast, apps like ProCamera and Camera+ let you lock your white balance using a ‘white paper’ or ‘grey card’ method.

    • http://www.hossedia.com/ Justin Balog

      Thanks for noting that. You are correct. I was trying to introduce the
      concept with KitCam. In my advanced lesson, which is coming up next, we
      talk about using Grey cards to lock it in.

  • Isidra

    Is this usable for shooting video? Trying to eliminate orange people.