Monthly Archives: January 2011

Adjusting the White Balance of your RAW images

Getting the correct white balance can be a real challenge in some situations but there is one way that you can get the best possible white balance results every time you take a photo. The secret is to shoot your photos as RAW rather than JPEG. Shooting your photos as a RAW image allows you to adjust the white balance after you have taken the photo! We aren’t going to go into all the details of a RAW image in this article but after reading it you should be able to get started.

One disadvantage to shooting your photos as only RAW (note that some cameras allow you to shoot in both RAW and JPEG) is that you need a program that can read the RAW image. There are a number of commercial and free options out there for you to choose from. Some programs will actually give you more options than others so you may need to do a little research and try a few out before you settle on your favorite. As of this writing Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is considered by many as the number one commercially available program out there for RAW processing. One of our favorite free alternative called RawTherapy is also available. No matter what program you use, there should be a similar way of adjusting the white balance for your photos.

For the purposes of this article we will be using RawTherapy to adjust the white balance of our photo. The first step is to open the photo you would like to adjust.

Original Photo using RawTherapy

Most of the programs out there have the controls you are looking for on the right hand side of the screen as shown below.

default controls

We want to adjust the white balance of this photo so we need to click on the color tab.

Color Controls

Right at the top you can see it has our white balance settings. To control your white balance you actually have to sliders, the temperature and the tint. The temperature setting will allow you to adjust how worm or cool the lighting was when you shot the photo. The tint control is used to compensate for any green or magenta tint that may be in the image. Most of the time simply adjusting the termerature setting will give you the right setting but if you still aren’t getting what you want try moving the tint slider one way or the other depending on your photo.

The image we are using for this example is a little cooler than we would like. You can see a slight blue tint to the overall image. We need to move the temperature control a little to the warmer side. In addition to the temperature we need to move the tint slider to remove a little bit of the magenta tint. We also adjusted the exposure a small amount to brighten the image up a bit.

Adjusted Photo using RawTherapy

Now that we have the image looking the way we want we need to save it out as something we can use more easily. Near the bottom of the window you should see a Save Image button that when clicked will give you some options to save your RAW image into something else such as a JPEG file.

Output settings

Note that you don’t need to save your original RAW file. Programs such as RawTherapy don’t do any adjustments to your original RAW file but rather save all of settings that you applied to the RAW image in another file. When you go to open your RAW image up again, it looks for the second file it created and loads all of the settings from that file. Note that this second file is fairly small in size because it is just storing the setting information and not any of the image data.

Remember the next time you are shooting in a less than ideal lighting situation and you need to get the white balance right on you may consider switching your camera over to shooting RAW.

Shooting Basketball (Fluorescent Lighting)

We’ve talked about the challenges of shooting basketball in old gyms.  Let’s get a bit more specific and talk particular types of lighting, starting with Fluorescent lighting.  You will find many basketball gyms using fluorescent lights because of the cost savings.  Fluorescent lights though cause real challenges in achieving good basketball photos.  We are all familiar with those long fluorescent light tubes we see in offices and commercial buildings.  This same design continues today, but it has also changed with looped tubes and other tube designs that can often make it difficult to tell by just looking at the light fixture if you are shooting in a fluorescent gym.

A little history and background
Fluorescent lights began being used commercially back in the 1930s.  They became popular because fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent light.  Fluorescent lights are a gas discharge light which means that electricity is used to excite an ionized gas such as mercury vapor.  The resulting ultra-violet radiation is converted to visible light with a fluorescent coating on the inside of the lamp.  Standard heat temperature ratings (kelvins) do not apply to fluorescent lights, in addition fluorescent lights change over time through usage, making basketball photography under fluorescent light most difficult.

Okay…………..that was probably more than any of us wanted to know and what does that have to do with how you get a good basketball photo…………………  

Bottom line
We are real fans of automatic white balance, but basketball gyms and fluorescent lights are one place it usually doesn’t work well.  Fluorescent lights typically produce a more warm color in the orange and red range.  When that combines with yellow/orange hardwood floors and wood bleachers you can get some very orange photos.  
There are primarily three things you can do to improve the color in your basketball photos::

  1. Try the “fluorescent” white balance setting on your camera.   That setting will often compensate quite well for the lights.   
  2. You can manually set the white balance by shooting something white in the gym and then manually adjusting the white balance.  We will cover this in a future blog, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
  3. Shoot in RAW mode and adjust the white balance afterwards.  We also plan to cover this in a blog.

So, if your basketball photos are looking real orange, or reddish try that fluorescent setting and see what you get!


Scott