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Balance For the Blue

It's not always possible to stop and white-balance when you are shooting under a variety of light sources. Following subjects that move from sunshine to open shade or covering an event in a hotel ballroom with sunlit windows on one side, quartz lamps on the other, and fluorescents overhead are among our the many daily challenges. But while lighting conditions that a network crew might manage with several cases of fixtures and grip equipment can be a solo-shooter's biggest nightmare, there is no need to let them stop the shoot or even spoil the shot.

One way to avoid off-color shots is to use your camera’s viewfinder readout as a measurement device. Hold a white card in a number of different locations and instead of looking away once the display says “BALANCE OK”, take note of the color temperature indicated. Knowing exactly what the different color temps are lets you apply the small crews’ golden rule for shooting under mixed light; Balance for the blue.

Balancing for the blue means setting a white balance where the light is the coolest (highest color temperature reading.) Shade and sun? Balance in the shade. Quartz and fluorescent? Balance for the fluorescent. This means that any off-color shots will be a little on the warm side. And scenes--especially when people are the primary subject--that are a little red are far more tolerable to the eye of the viewer than those where skin tones are tinged with the blue or green cast that comes from balancing for the warmer light source before following your subject into the cool zone.

Coming up next; how to shift color or warm up a shot without tweaking the camera controls.