Using white balance for setting the mood in a photo
White balance, something we’re all familiar with these days. Be it setting it to a preset on the camera, dialing it in by eye or perhaps even going as far as to using a colour checker passport / grey card to nail it in camera. It seems that most of the time, a lot of people are either using white balance to “start from an accurate base” so that any tweaks they do in post or Lightroom etc start from “0” so to speak, or, they just leave it on auto.
Well, while this article may not be for the more seasoned of shooters, the value it can hold to those just starting to develop an understanding of colour and how it ties to mood can really begin to take the reigns of creative control here.
You see, the benefit to picking a custom white balance on set / location (not to be confused with using the “custom” white balance feature on the camera settings) is that it completely changes the mood both yourself and/or the client receives while looking at the back of the camera. I did a test while out for a walk earlier in the year, swapping between the extremities of each side (warm and cold) and I was really surprised at how much of a difference it made.
On one side of the shoot I dialled the white balance to 3500K for a really warm image, as if the window behind him was a warm interior heating the alleyway outside. On the other picture I moved him further down to near a window and dialed the white balance to closer to 8K and used it to give a feeling of the moonlight filling the scene. This is all basic stuff, but you can’t deny the difference in feeling it gives you.
Having that feeling on set can drastically alter the way you work and “see” things which ultimately can lead to you choosing different poses, positions, clothes, styles, post processing techniques etc.
Swapping your camera over to custom K (Kelvin) white balance allowing you to dial in a “feel” on location can seriously help to change your mindset, which in turn can help you think of poses, lighting etc, it can drastically change the way you think and as a result can sometimes directly influence the outcome of a shoot, just by moving a dial. Pretty cool right!
Some photographers have adopted this technique via tethering where they will shoot and get CaptureOne or Lightroom to apply presets as they go in to give the client a closer “vibe” of the finished photo, from experience I think this is a really helpful method to help communicate not only to yourself but others around you where you intend to go.
See how a simple difference in white balance can completely change the mood? It’s something to try out while you’re “out on the plains”.
Until next time!
Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.