Understanding White Balance for eCommerce Product PhotosJuly 18, 2014 - Holly Cardew
Have you ever taken a product photo and the colour turned out funny?
Let’s take a look at why that’s the case! Here’s a short primer on understanding white balance.
The effect of light and different colours
Light sources are rarely pure white; they often have a slight ‘colour temperature’ that affects the photo and may result in a strange tint that makes the photo not accurately resemble the real colour of the product.
For example, if you take a photo of a piece of paper next to a candle, the warm candle light will make the paper appear slightly yellow. The sun produces a slightly blue light, so taking a photo of the same piece of paper in natural light will make it appear more blue.
Getting the temperature right
Colour temperature is measured in Kelvin, and our brains are able to adjust to different light naturally and process these colours for us.
Going back to our piece of paper, whether we’re indoors or by candle light, we can see that the piece of paper is white. However, a digital camera can only guess. If you set your camera to ‘Auto White Balance’, it will guess the Kelvin number based on a white element in the photo that it uses as a reference point.
You can manually adjust your white balance settings to make the colours more realistic. If you properly adjust your white balance accordingly, the piece of paper should appear white regardless of the sunlight or candlelight. Have a look at how different the product looks in the photos below, each of which was taken using a different white balance setting.
Why is white balance relevant to eCommerce store owners?
If you sell your products online, the customer can’t touch the real product before they buy; therefore you want a product image that serves as an accurate representation.
This means that while a photo might look good, you should always ask yourself whether the colours in the photograph are the same as those in real life. This is why understanding white balance is important.
If you’re not a camera expert or you’re using a simple smartphone camera as opposed to a DSLR, you can always edit the temperature of the photo later in Photoshop or any other kind of photo-editing software. Even something simple like iPhoto has a pretty good temperature adjustment tool for product photography. So, remember to adjust!
All in all: Make sure your photos look how your products really look
Understanding white balance isn’t difficult, but it’s an important concept for eCommerce store owners. You always want to delight your customers, and one great way to do that is by showing them exactly what they’re going to get.