White Balance

The White balance setting on a camera adjusts the colour setting of a picture taken by adding cooler or warmer tones, depending on what kind of light the photo was exposed to when it was taken.

It removes unrealistic colour tones from a photograph, and makes it appear closer to what the  setting of the picture would look like when viewing with the human eye. The White Colour Balance setting, having taken into account the colour temperature of a photo is meant to adjust a picture so that bodies that appear white in person, appear more white in the photograph.

What is Colour Temperature?

With the human eye, when moving from one location to another, for example a sunny day outdoors to  a small tungsten lit room, little change will be noticed, as the human eye is capable of viewing the colour of the light as neutral, even when it is not.

Through the lens of a camera however., this is different. It can not easy adjust the tones of a picture because of that locations lighting, but instead may make the picture appear too blue if shot outdoors, or too orange, if shot indoors with an artificial lighting.

Colour Temperature therefore measures the colour characteristics of light in degrees of kelvin.(k). The lower the kelvin degree, the warmer the colour and the higher the degree, the cooler the colour. It can range from 1900 K to 10,000 K.



Auto White Balance


 In this photograph, the settings on the camera automatically adjusted the tones to make it look more natural. Without the auto white balance setting, this photograph would have had more of a bluish look to it, as it was taken in daylight, and this is the kind of effect a picture taken in this lighting would have. However, the white balance added more ‘white’ to the picture, making it more neutral. Although the preset is relatively accurate, and seemed to do the job for this photograph, it is not always reliable, and may fail to do the job for some lighting situations. It certainly improved the tones in this picture and it definitely looks natural, but the overall look of the photo could still be perfected, and perhaps brighter.



In this picture, the white balance was set to the daylight setting. Although the photograph is not bad, I do not think this white balance setting was ideal for the lighting of the location, as there is definitely still a blue undertone, and warmer tones can still be added to perfect the picture. The daylight setting does typically add warmer tones to a picture, but in my opinion, it didn’t add quite enough for what this picture needed. This may be because the weather in the location that the picture was taken was in fact more cloudy than sunny, and so a different white balance setting would have probably been more appropriate in adjusting the tones.





Furthermore, in the above photo the tones are definitely less blue and more on the warm side. It makes the picture more bright, and is a great look for the picture. However it can be argued that the tones are little bit too warm, so that the picture looks slightly unnatural. This is completely up to what the photographer wants for the picture. If they were trying to achieve tones that made the day look brighter, even though in real life it wasn’t, this is a great option. When taking this picture with my colleagues however, the goal was to make the picture look as close as possible to the way it looked to the human eye, and to what we were seeing. In that case, this would not be the best picture for portraying what we saw, although a good one.



In my opinion, the cloudy white balance setting suit the lighting conditions in the setting of this picture best. It is slightly brighter than the auto balance preset, which was the next best option, but wasn’t too bright so that it made the photograph look unnatural.




It is definitely clear that the Tungsten setting is not suited for the lighting that was in this setting. It is typically used for photos with a Tungsten lit background and which would appear overly yellow or orange in the photograph. The White Balance setting will therefore add cooler, blue tones. However, for the purpose of the photo taken, the tones that needed to be added were quite the opposite. Because the cloudy, outside setting made the photograph look blue without any white balance, warmer tones were needed to make the photo neutral. This has definitely showed me how it can help photos with a very orange undertone achieve a natural look, and although having done it in theory, seeing just how much it changed the picture shown above made me realise how effective this white balance setting can be.



The fluorescent filter also gives the photo a very different look to what it originally was like. Like the Tungsten preset, this one also adds cooler blue tones, just not as intensely. This does not give the picture a neutral or natural look,as instead of cooler tones, warmer ones needed to be added. However, if someone wanted to achieve a specific look for their film, one that did not necessarily have to be natural but instead on the artsy, abstract or creative side, this setting could definitely work.


Auto White Balance


 This experiment was meant to test the lighting if it was coming from both an exterior source and interior source. I do not think the exterior lighting was prominent enough compared to the indoor lighting, as it seemed to overpower it, therefore making our results not be as accurate as they could have been. However, the auto white balance seemed to be most appropriate for this picture.



Furthermore, this picture has a very yellow undertone, and as the preset wasset to daylight, this is quite understandable. Not much daylight was present in this picture, as the indoor light was much more dominant.



This picture taken with the shade preset shows an even more of a yellow-ish undertone. It definitely does not look natural and as there is little to no shade in this photograph the setting would not be appropriate.



Similar to the one discussed above, this image is not as yellow as the one before, but still not natural.



This white balence preset gives the picture a bluish look. Although it is a little dark, it is much more natural than the images that had a yellow undertone.




Between this and the auto white balance, this preset balances out the lighting the best.



Auto White Balance


The Auto white balenc in this picture does a great job in balancing out the indoor light



As mentioned before, the daylight preset is not suitable for this picture as daylight is most certainly not one of the sources of light in this image, and it makes the picture look unnatural. If one wanted brighter tones in their picture, this could definitely work, but in order to makes the image look as realistic as possible, this is not the right preset to use.



The shady preset too makes the photograph look unrealistically bright.



This preset is not bad in making the image bright yet still realistic.



The Tungsten preset is very good at matching the tones within the picture to what they would look like in real life. I think this was the most suitable preset for the indoor shots.



This picture is extremely similar to the Tungsten preset. It is slightly brighter yet still manages to make the picture’s tones as realistic as possible.



Three Point Lighting

Key, Fill and Back

Three point lighting is a standard technique and method used universally for filmmaking and photography. Izzy Hyman, a filmmaker and film editor commented ‘It has the power to transform an otherwise boring and flat image into a dynamic interesting image with a subject that “pops”.’ It is the basis of lighting and the backbone to understanding and applying other more complex lighting techniques.

The purpose of a 3 point lighting system is to make the subject or setting within the film look 3 dimensional rather than flat,and the three lights used to achieve this are the key light, the fill light and the back light.

The key light is the main and biggest one used, while the others support it. Its purpose is to put light on the subject and has the biggest influence on how the scene will look. The lighting Director can choose where to place it in the set according to what look they want for that particular scene. However, it is typically positioned either above the subject or on one of it’s sides . Izzy Hyman suggested that the key light should be around 45 degrees away from the subject.

Secondly, the fill light’s purpose is to fill in  the shadows created by the key light. If a key light is used alone, it can create a lot of contrast between the light and shadows, giving the scene quite a dramatic look. Although this can be very captivating, it will not look natural if the scene is meant to be more lifelike. The Fill light is positioned opposite the key light, the fill light and is meant to be more subtle and less powerful than the key light. If the fill light casts even more shadows, it means that the light is too bright or too close to the subject. This can be fixed by a number of ways. The first and most simple option would be to move the light further away from the subject. Also, if a fluorescent or LED light is used, one may be able to dim intensity of the light, without affecting the white balance or colour temperature. Furthermore, Neutral Density Gels can also be used. They are simply semi opaque grey sheets that can be placed over the light to take away some of its intensity without changing the colour. They are often seen as an essential in modern photography and film making.

Finally, the backlight is placed behind the subject is positioned at the back of the subject, and rather than being a direct and strong light source, it provides highlight and definition for the subject in the scene. One of it’s main characteristics is the way it creates a glow around the hair or shoulders of the subject. To achieve this, the light should be placed at he back of the subject behind it’s head, and pointing down.

Reflective Light

A reflector can be used to bounce, enhance or diffuse natural or artificial lighting, and it is an absolute necessity for both film making and photography. Different colours can do different things with the lighting in your scene. While gold and silver are great for highlighting, white reflects and bounces the light effectively, proving to be a good fill light source. Silver is also said to be very beneficial for video shoots, creating high contrast images and gold is ideal for creating a golden glow for indoor shooting as well as sunsets, creating a natural look. There are also black reflectors, which blocks out unwanted light and translucent ones, which aim to subtly broaden the light source. All of these reflectors are beneficial in lighting a setting and can be used according to  what one may want the lighting of their scene to look like, and where the light source is coming from.

Electromagnetic Spectrum and Visible Light

Electromagnetic Spectrum describes the total amount of light that exists in the universe. The human eye can only see the tiniest amount of light compared to how much there really is, and this is called visible light. Scientist Christopher Crokett defines light as  ‘a wave of alternating electric and magnetic fields’. Light waves are given off by anything that is hot enough to glow, for example a lightbulb, the sun, or fire.



Reflector positioned beside the subject





Reflector positioned below subject





Reflector positioned above Subject





In this assignment, I was asked to take pictures in the daylight, positioning a gold and then white reflector above, beside and below the subject in order to reflect the natural lighting onto her. It was hard to locate any bold differences or changes in the photographs, but subtle ones were definitely noticed. In theory, white reflectors are the best for reflecting the sun, while gold ones are great for creating strong, gold highlights. In some of the photographs taken, this was certainly noticeable whereas in others it was hard to notice any highlight or light changes at all.

In the first photograph shown above a gold reflector was held on the right side of the subject to reflect the light with a gold undertone while the second shows the effect of a white reflector being held in the same position. In all honesty, when looking at both pictures by themselves, I found it particularly hard to notice any significant change in the lighting of the picture.When comparing the two however, there are definitely some differences. The gold tones in the first one are recognizable against the brighter reflecting of the light source in the second one.  I think if more lighting equipment was used and I had a more control of what kind of light was used and what direction it would be coming from, the effect of the gold reflector would be more noticeable, as would the intensity of the light reflected on the white reflector. Also, the direction that the natural lighting is coming from in the picture over exposes the subjects face. This could be responsible for the fact that the reflector’s light was not showing up. If it was not for the slight shadowing on the left side of the subject, the picture would be flat, with little dimension.

Furthermore, when the gold reflector was placed below the subject, a much bigger difference was noticed. The light that is reflected onto the subjects face is quite apparent. There is even a gold undertone. Compared all of the other photographs above, the models chin is much less defined, as the light blocks out more of the shadow created, illuminating her face even more. Interestingly, when a key light is placed below the subject instead of a reflector, unlike shown in this picture, it is meant to distort the actors features, resulting in higher cheek bones and a pointy nose.This is because in natural circumstances, the light would come from above. This definelty is noticed in the picture where a white reflector was used below the model, but not so much with the gold reflector. This could be because the main purpose of a white reflector is to strictly reflect  light onto the subject from wherever it is coming from, while the gold reflector illuminates the subject.  This technique was used quite a lot in old horror films.  It is argued that the lower the height of the light, for instance from chin level or below,  the longer the shadow it throws behind the subject, which can cause problems when it shows up on the wall behind. It is generally not used in films as frequently nowadays.

Photographer Oded Wagenstein used a silver reflector positioned below the subjects face, much like the one I took. He said that it lightened under his models eyes, and eliminated harsh shadows. It is especially essential, he continued, in harsh midday light.This is quite relevant in relation to the picture I took with the gold reflector, as it definitely lightened some of the shadowing on my subject’s face.

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 200reflectors portraits 2


Lastly, there is a slightly noticeable difference when the reflector was placed above the subject. Although not boldly so, the top of the models head is lighter as it eliminated some of the shadowing when both the gold and white reflectors were used. As mentioned before, the first of these pictures as a gold undertone while the latter does not.Above the subject is where the key light is usually placed as this is where natural light would typically come from; above or on eye level with the subject. It is meant to create a slight shadow on the side of the models nose, and also lighten both eye sockets. If an actual light was used instead of a reflector or if the light was more intense and powerful, this would be more visible in the picture that I took. However, for the purpose of this assignment, the reflection of light was certainly recognized. Also, the main light source was coming from the right side of the subject’s face instead of above, which would affect the results of this demonstration quite significantly.


Reflector placed beside subject





Reflector placed below subject





Reflector placed above subject





For the pictures above, a gold and then white reflector was used to reflect the indoor, overhead lighting. Although the same reflectors were used from the shots taken outside, the type of lighting and the direction it was coming from made all the difference for how these images turned out.

The first two photographs show the gold and then white reflector being held on the right side of the subject and the difference between the two are quite apparent. The photograph with the gold reflector has a significant amount more shadows than the photograph below it.  It proves that the white reflector is much more effective at bouncing off light from its source to the subject. The lighting in this picture is not only more intense than the first one, but most the shadows were also eliminated. The first picture had a very slight golden glow when compared to the other, but not in an obvious way at all.

Furthermore, there is very little difference between the second set of photos, where the reflectors were placed below the subject.  The photo taken with the gold reflector is almost identical to the one taken where the same reflector was placed beside the subject. The photograph taken with the white reflector below the subject however, reduced even more of the shadowing. As the light source was coming from above the subject, and the reflector was directly below it, the light would have been able to bounce straight onto the subject, making the light even more intense than the previous set of photos taken.

Lastly, the two photos that were taken with the gold and white reflector positioned above the subject are very similar to the previous ones. It is hard to identify any  sort of golden glow on the subject in the first one, while the second picture with the white reflector has even more shadowing than before. This is quite odd, as I would have thought with the reflector being positioned right by the light source, it would have had the most significant effect in reflecting the light onto the subject. However, this is not the case, and the shadows in both pictures are quite dramatic. This could be because the reflector may not have been held in an appropriate enough position to effectively let the light bounce off of it and onto the subject. The angle that it was held at could have been blocking the light instead of reflecting it.

In Conclusion, the outside shots were much more of a success than the indoor ones, especially where the gold reflector was used. Although many articles have claimed that the gold reflector is more effective for indoor shots, I have found that outdoor light brings out its illumination more. The indoor shots did however prove the effectiveness that a white reflector has in eliminating shadowing and making the subject more bright on a whole.