Night Photography Tips – Custom White Balance

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Here’s a great tutorial on nighttime photography from Amy R on YouTube.  Amy covers all the bases as she explains the best times to take night photos as well as what camera settings and lenses are best suited for shooting those tasty night time cityscapes.  She also shares her secret sauce methods and photographic techniques that work – as well as what to avoid – so that your night photos become sharper, clearer and more stunning.

One of the most important settings on your camera that will help to insure that your nighttime images will look their best is Custom White Balance.  Though many of today’s cameras have factory preset sunny and cloudy settings as well as Auto White Balance, you’ll find that these work the best when you’re outdoors in the daylight – where the sun is the dominant light source.

This isn’t always the case when you move indoors.  You may be going into a darkened room where your main light source is a flash or LED light panel, or even ambient room light – all with different intensities and color temperatures than the sun – so setting custom white balance becomes imperative.  The same hold true for night photography, where the sun dips below the horizon and it’s light gives way to street lights, building lights, stop lights, etc.  All these competing light sources can wreak havoc on your camera’s Auto White Balance and drastically affect the color of your images.  This is when you really should use your camera’s custom white balance.

Now, some people will tell you that you can just shoot RAW and correct the colors in post.  But if you’re like me, you’ll want to spend less time fiddling with your images in post and more time out enjoying life and taking more images.  So why not just spend the extra 2 minutes to get it right in the camera in the first place?  This applies even more to Hybrid Photography, where you blend those nighttime stills with some nighttime video.  It’s not as easy to correct the colors of the video after it’s shot, but if you have the right white balance set before you shoot it, then your stills and videos should match up right out of the camera.

Here’s a short tutorial on Custom White Balance by BergerBrothersCamera on YouTube

To set your camera’s custom white balance setting, Yvonne recommends using a tool called an “Expo Disc” (we found a great selection on Amazon ranging from about $12 to $99 USD).  Another great tool for setting white balance is an X-Rite Color Checker.

If you’re in a pinch and you don’t have one of these tools at your disposal, a plain white napkin will usually do the trick as they’re color is very close to true white.


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