Saturday, May 16, 2009

Q and A: How to handle color balance?

Jay and I get lots of emails from other photographers - and we try to respond to all of them (though that's not always easy... and it's getting harder every month). Today, I answered an interesting question - and I thought some of you might also be interested in the answer... so here it is.

S asked: "In several landscape photos - most of which are taken during sunrise and in coastal areas - I see that the foreground water has a cool blue tone, and the sunrise has a strong warm tone. When I try this for myself, I either get one of the cool or warm tones, or get a mix of both. How this blend of cool and warm tones is achieved?"

My response: In wide-angle nature photography, it is very common to have an image that requires different white balance in different regions. In order to handle situations like these, I shoot RAW and process a single images at least twice – once using warmer tones, and then again using cooler tones. I open both versions of the image in Photoshop, and use layers and masks to combine them - creating a final image that is as close to my visual reality as I can bring it.

In the real world, it is rare to find a scene with even light balance overall. Shady areas have a different light temperature than sunny areas, reflected light is different from diffused light, and so on. It is up to the photographer to determine the nearest reasonable color balance for the best possible result. I try to create a final image that is as close as possible to reality as I saw it. It’s not always easy – and my images aren’t always perfect – but I do try. :)


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