White Balance Testing

After being (slightly) disappointed with the pictures I took at the Ommegang Hop Chef Competition I had a quick back and forth on Twitter with Sean M. Buchan today. I’m an avid reader of Sean M. Buchan’s posts on Beertographer and Serious Eats and I’m extremely impressed with how bright and clear his photos are, so after our discussion I decided to go home and do a little homework on how to better take advantage of my cameras white-balance functions.

Most of my pictures are taken at home are at night, with the 3-4 (crappy) light sources I have in my kitchen. The above photo of the beginnings of tonight’s Carne en su Jugo was taken with white balance set to Auto. As you can see, the white of the spine of the jalapenos are very warm in color, more tan than white.

This is (almost) the same picture with the white balance preset. As you can see, the whites are actually white! A huge improvement in my opinion. Now on to something I take pictures of much more frequently: beer!

These are bottles from last night’s comparo between Iniquity and Self-Righteous. (Self-Righteous was the clear winner, a little disappointing considering how much of a Southern Tier fan I am.) Notice again, there are no real whites in this picture, all off-whites. Here’s the preset white balance (slightly out of focus) version:

It’s like someone OxiCleaned my photo! Huge difference. One last one of this weekend’s Lawson’s haul. Auto, yellowy:

And Preset:

Only a slight difference but enough that the second pic is much clearer and crisper.

So, that was my homework for the evening, and it was very enlightening. Har har. Now I need to snag a gray card or one of those White Balance caps or something so I can do this on the road. This’ll be a learning process but well worth the effort.

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