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Old August 13th, 2009, 03:20 AM   #1
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Simple white balance question

When you are shooting a subject that is in complete shade but everthing else in the background is daylight, how do you white balance? Do you white balance for the shade (what I have been doing), for the sun, or some sort of compromise between the two? I white balance for the shade, but the background looks terrible and all the colors in the scene look off.
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Old August 13th, 2009, 05:08 AM   #2
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Short answer - always white balance for your subject.

If the color temperature difference between your subject (in the shade) is that drastic then add some fill light either from a 5600K light (daylight) or a reflector and that will help your picture. This will also help mitigate the difference in exposure from your subject in the shade and the background in bright sunlight.

White balance can also be used as a tool to give your subject a warmer or cooler skin tone and then it becomes an artistic tool.
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Old August 13th, 2009, 11:24 AM   #3
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I try to split the difference if there's a big difference in subject and background BUT having the subject in shade means that skin tones would become more blue-ish... NEVER flattering.

As Rick suggests, at least a reflector would help. Also, I NEVER allow my subjects to move into the shade for an interview if I can help it at all. I'll always move them out into the light and TRY to keep them from having to squint. Even in direct sunlight only falls on half of their face(meaning the sun is at 90 degrees to them, I find that it looks better than severely mixed colour temp. It's difficult to say the least and I've gotten into some pretty heated discussions with journalists regarding their placement and it has often come down to me saying "if you want to stand THERE for your stand-up, I might as well not even bother to roll tape because the result will be ABSOLUTELY useless"...

I'm actually a team player, but not in the conventional sense. When I'm right, I don't necessarily defer to others JUST so that everyone feels warm and fuzzy (and then gets back to the edit bay with something the editor can't use).
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Old August 17th, 2009, 11:56 AM   #4
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Well, first of all, if your subject is in the shade, but the background is fully lit with direct sunlight, then your main issue is not color balance, it's the discrepancy between the light levels with the subject and the background.

That being said, if your interview is in the shade, you have to do the cooler shade balance...at least a 6500K or higher. Then, you have two more things to try:

1. Get some extra light on your subject. A pair of reflectors works well...and if you take the shade balance, but fill with bounced sunlight, you'll usually get a pleasantly warm skin tone.

2. Cut down on the backlight. Ideally, you hang one of the black net scrims behind the subject to knock a stop or two off the backlight. But it's a pain to set up in a run and gun. Failing that, you've got to find a better background. If I'm shooting in shade, I try to find a spot with something fairly dark in the background, and line things up carefully. But really, if you put the subject in the shade, you should be able to find a fully shaded background...or don't shoot. Either way, a little fill light (either from a reflector or an HMI) in a shade shot looks really good.
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Old August 21st, 2009, 01:40 AM   #5
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I wasnt talking about interview lighting. With interviews, you have (more) time to light and compose things to your liking. I mostly shoot documentaries. If your subject is in the shade and wont be there for long, there is not much you can do as far as setting up lights.

For example, i had a high school color guard in the shade on a hot bright sunny day. I white balanced for the shade where my subjects were located, but all of my stuff looked terrible because the background was waaay off. The sun background is such a huge part of the shot no matter how you do it in some shade situations.

When I can control the situation its easy for me to find good/better composition and white balance settings. For interviews i defuse the sun as a hair light and bounce the key light in and white balance is easy. I often dial in my white balance settings up to +/- 200 if i think the subjects skin needs it.

I have trouble with
A. shooting subject(s) in shade with direct sun playing a large part in your background shot

B. mixed light (3200 and daylight) falling on your subjects...and not in a way where the light blends togeter and you just take a whitebalance of the room. More like one second they are in 3200 and the next they are in daylight.
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Old August 21st, 2009, 02:39 PM   #6
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That kind of lighting challenge is always a problem. As a general rule, I find balancing to the cooler temperature is overall more pleasing; warmer looks better than blue.

I'm wondering, though if the problem with your video was more the multi-stop difference in the light levels between shade and sunlight than a color balance issue.
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Old August 21st, 2009, 10:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Lukehart View Post
I wasnt talking about interview lighting. With interviews, you have (more) time to light and compose things to your liking. I mostly shoot documentaries. If your subject is in the shade and wont be there for long, there is not much you can do as far as setting up lights.

For example, i had a high school color guard in the shade on a hot bright sunny day. I white balanced for the shade where my subjects were located, but all of my stuff looked terrible because the background was waaay off. The sun background is such a huge part of the shot no matter how you do it in some shade situations.

When I can control the situation its easy for me to find good/better composition and white balance settings. For interviews i defuse the sun as a hair light and bounce the key light in and white balance is easy. I often dial in my white balance settings up to +/- 200 if i think the subjects skin needs it.

I have trouble with
A. shooting subject(s) in shade with direct sun playing a large part in your background shot

B. mixed light (3200 and daylight) falling on your subjects...and not in a way where the light blends togeter and you just take a whitebalance of the room. More like one second they are in 3200 and the next they are in daylight.

Dan,

The issues you bring up are common.

One primary way to solve them seems not to be very intuitive to folks new to the game.

Move.

If you frame a shot and realize that it's crappy because of shadows, or backlighting, or harsh sunlight don't just sit and fume about it. Simply stand up and move to another angle where the foreground and background light level is more even.

Watch the pros.

If one frames something and it doesn't look correct, they move. I've shot sports gigs where the best shot was from someone ELSES seat. And so I've learned how to come up with a smile and say,

"Hi - could I ask you a favor?" You're seats are terriffic and you're smart to have picked them out. In fact, it's the perfect angle for a great picture of the band. Would it be too much trouble for me to I put my tripod here and grab a quick 30 second shot of the band from your perspective?"

Notice there's a compliment wrapped in a smile here. Which works 99% of the time.

Moving the sun = difficult.
Moving yourself = a whole lot easier.

FWIW
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Old August 22nd, 2009, 10:35 AM   #8
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This isn't an answer, but....

There's really nothing you can do. "Control" is the key too great looking shots. As you've already stated, when you can control the situation, you can get a much better looking shot.
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