Why does the right white balance make your sunsets and sunrises stunning?

Better Travel Pics: Tip No. 4 White Balance

Zen master on the beach in Bali
Zen master on the beach in Bali, shot in WB "Cloudy"

When you are shooting at the ends of the day, adjusting the white balance on your camera to Cloudy cloudy wb will give you warmer colours (more yellows). Often this is a very pleasing effect. In fact it is my go to setting for sunsets and sunrises.

Previously we have talked about tripods, setting your ISO to 100 and ensuring your image stabilisation is turned OFF when your camera is on the tripod.

White balance is something you’ve probably never thought about before. What it does is change the balance of colours in your shot to suit the prevailing light. For instance, indoors under fluorescent lights is different to outdoors in the sun. Likewise, a cloudy day is different to a sunny day. 

Your camera has a bunch of different white balance settings pre-programmed which you can use to get the best possible result.

On the top of your camera it might be there as WB or it will be in your settings under White Balance or WB.

I tend to do one of two things with my white balance;

  1. I put it in AUTO (AWB) and let the camera work it out.  If you’re not sure, then that’s a great default position to use. You don’t want it in one of the specialised light modes or flash mode or anything like that.
  2. The other mode that I use is the cloudy mode. It looks like this. It’s basically for a day when the clouds are out. When you use the Cloudy WB you get a warmer, more yellow shot. It works really well for sunsets and sun rises. 

The key difference between the AWB and using a pre-programmed setting like Cloudy is that AWB will adjust as the light changes where as a pre-programmed setting won’t.

I will often leave my camera in cloudy WB as it allows me to make sure that throughout the morning my white balance is the same. 

NOTE: As I shoot in RAW I can make endless changes to my WB in post production. This is not the case with JPG, you need to get it right when you shoot it.

My suggestion is that you try the Cloudy mode and get a feel for the difference it makes to your shots compared to AWB. You will either like it or not. But remember, once you are finished your shoot put your camera back into AWB or all your daytime shots will look yellow.

Sun setting over the waves of Double Six Beach in Bali, shot in WB cloudy.Sun setting over the waves of Double Six Beach in Bali, shot in WB "Cloudy"

Smartphone Tip

Your phone will default to AWB. To get a look similar to cloudy WB, set your WB between 6000-8000k in an app such as VSCO.

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Have a great day

 

John

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