White Balance is a popular - and confusing - topic in digital photography. And it's no wonder, considering all the presets and custom options. That's why many photographers simply set the WB on automatic and forget about it. But auto WB can be unreliable at times, with the colors in the photo failing to match the colors that attracted you to the scene in the first place.
In our books - The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light - Jim Miotke and I point out our preference for using a Daylight or Sunlight white balance throughout the day - from dawn to dusk. Periodically, we'll switch the WB setting (i.e., when shooting in blue-tinted shade on a sunny day or when heading indoors under artificial lighting). Otherwise, Daylight/Sunlight produces the colors just as we want them, so we rarely have to tweak things in the digital darkroom.
One of BetterPhoto's top pros - Jim Zuckerman - uses this WB workflow, too. Check out his beautiful photo and his excellent thoughts on the subject...
Says Jim Z: "There are many things to think about when you take pictures, both technical and artistic. When you are shooting under the pressure of time (such as things are changing fast and if you hesitate you’ll lose the shot), it makes sense to simplify the things you have to consider. Even when photographing static subjects like the waterwheel in Guildhall, Vermont, I prefer to concentrate on the composition, the light, the depth of field, and the background, and I try to eliminate unnecessary considerations.
"That’s why I always use daylight white balance for all of my outdoor shooting. It produces the best color at sunrise and sunset, and if I find myself taking pictures in shade or after the sun went down, as was the case with this waterwheel, the pictures will have a slight bluish cast that I either accept (which I do most of the time) or I tweak the image in Adobe Camera Raw with the ‘temperature’ slider. It takes only a moment to warm up an image if that’s the look I want, and that saves me from diverting my attention from the important task of getting the picture in the first place."
- Jim Zuckerman is a top stock photographer and published author who teaches many excellent online photography courses at BetterPhoto.com, including Perfect Digital Exposure and Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography.
- Jim Z is also a contributor to both of the upcoming BetterPhoto Guide books (co-authored by Jim Miotke and Kerry Drager): The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (subtitled "Learn to Master Composition, Color, and Design") and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (subtitled "Learn to Capture Stunning Light in any Situation", and due out in April 2012).