After a recent wedding gig with my mentor, we sat down and talked about various ways to improve my photography. Specifically there were two areas she was concerned with: Noise, and White Balance.
Now… I have a really nice professional camera paired with pro glass. But the camera is also capable of super-high ISO, which means noise. Noise can swallow detail in images and render an image useless… You can pull some of the noise out in Lightroom/Photoshop but this can introduce a plastic-like look which is not very desirable and pretty much means that the image will be left on the cutting room floor.
Improper white balance also means hours of manually color-correcting an image with no guarantee that you’ll get it right.
Contrary to popular belief, today’s digital cameras, even the best ones, struggle with correct white balance settings. So unless you somehow help the camera learn exactly what the WB setting should be, it’ll make a best-guess, and still not be entirely correct.
The display above (shot at the 2012 Washington Home and Garden Show) was lit with several high-power incandescent studio beams. The photo came out of the camera, as shown here.. I didn’t touch the color levels. The White Balance setting is near-perfect.
This image was badly-lit. several high-power incandescent studio lights combined with several other gel’d studio high-beams made this situation a recipe for disaster.
But.. look at the pillow. (I’ll call it an RGB pillow for obvious reasons) The colors are true but more importantly, the whites are white!
Overall I took about 50 shots, and believe it or not, 26 of them are keepers. That’s a noticeable increase from my usual 20%.
So… How did this happen? After some research I stumbled on a nifty little tool that at first I thought was a bit gimmicky but after watching some training videos I was convinced. (No, this is not a paid advertorial.. I just felt this interesting enough to post about =)
You may have heard of it.. It’s called an Expo-Disc and costs roughly $99. My camera bag has some fairly expensive equipment but I think as of today, the Expo-Disk is perhaps the most critical piece of gear in there.
Learning to use it was straightforward and easy. As your lighting situation changes as you move from room to room, it’ll take about 5 seconds for your camera to learn the new WB setting then off you go shooting with a perfect WB setting stored in your camera.
Digital cameras always try to resolve to “18% Grey” to determine the correct White Balance. More often than not they get it wrong. The Expo-Disc lets your camera find 18% grey, after which it knows exactly how to shoot the scene. This also bring out more vibrant colors in the image. Before, my RAW images always came out muddy, dull and flat, requiring a LOT of post-op work.
In my 2012 Home and Garden Gallery, the colors are untouched. The images came out of the camera with these colors intact. A few of them have been sharpened, some dodging and burning, but the colors are all from the camera.
I highly recommend adding the Expo-Disc to your camera bag.