A single bold colour – red umbrella on a snowy morning

Using bold colours · making a colour stand out · low light photography · having patience · shooting raw

Red umbrella in the rain. The Bank, London. By Damien Demolder

Red umbrella in the snow. The Bank, London. By Damien Demolder

I’m not a great fan of black and white images that use a spot of colour. It seems a little forced to me, and the effort that goes into this sort of picture post capture is rarely rewarded with an attractive image. Well, that’s just my taste, anyway. I do like images that use limited colour, so long as the setting is natural or realistic looking. And, in fact, I actively go looking for this sort of thing – not just to show a black and white scene with a burst of colour, but rather to show how some colours can stand out against others.

I took this picture outside the Bank of England, in a square I cross everyday on my way to work. The place has a great atmosphere about it and it’s a favourite place of mine. I like to shoot the commuters as they emerge from the underground station, as they come out well lit into gloom of the morning. On this morning the wet snow added to the gloom, but it also created the luck that had this chap appear with his rather buckled bright red umbrella. While usually this is a monochromatic type of scene, the bold brolly really broke the formal grey and upright structures with it burst of jollity.

As always when I’m shooting at night, or in dawn or dusk situations, I had the camera set to raw+jpeg so I can choose which light source to balance for afterwards. In this case I took a custom white balance sample from the white tiles of the underground tunnel, the light of which matched that shining on the man and his brolly. Doing this made him look normal, while the cold of the sky could be brought out with its blue.

This wasn’t the first picture I took at this spot that day – I’d probably shot four or five other people as they emerged from the tunnel, and while they looked pretty good I reckoned that by hanging on I could improve my chances of getting something extra. It paid off – and it usually does. I spot a scene with potential and frame it up – then just wait for the right person to come along and walk right into the picture. It takes a bit of patience, but that’s the whole point. You need to be able to recognise when you haven’t quite got the best shot that could be had, and that by waiting a little longer you could improve it.

As with the other pictures I took before hand, without the brolly this is a picture of a man coming out of a tunnel. With the brolly it becomes something more exciting. And that’s what you get when you mix luck with patience.

Samsung GX10. with Rikenon 28mm f/2.8 lens, 1/30sec @ f/2.8, ISO 1600


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Red umbrella in the rain, London. By Damien Demolder

Red umbrella in the snow. Bank of England, London. By Damien Demolder



Back lighting graphic shapes – Bus Stop girl

Backlighting • Graphic shapes • Channel mixer • Cropping

The best way to show graphic shapes is to reduce the scene you are photographing to its most basic and fundamental elements. In this case that reduction process meant removing the colour and producing a level of contrast that would show exactly the lines and curves that caught my eye in the first place. I couldn’t control the light, obviously, and the scene only worked from one angle, but it is the element of back lighting that really helps, even in these overcast conditions, to create a semi-silhouette of the bus stop structure and the waiting woman. So I got lucky.

The backlighting reflects off the road and the pavement, making both brighter than they would be from any other angle. This backlighting has also brought out the pattern of the paving and has emphasised the straight edges between each slab. This creates a mass of lines travelling towards the camera and which also lead the eye back into the picture.

Contrasting shapes
The woman stands out as she is the only element in the scene not made up of straight lines, which makes her come forward as the obvious subject. Even the roof of the shelter, which we know is curved in reality, is represented here by straight and solid edges. The only random shapes are made by the pigeon about to land, but as that is quite hidden it doesn’t take too much away from the subject.

Having shot this with low contrast settings in-camera I took the image into the Curves and created enhanced mid-tone contrast to strip out some of the image’s greys. In Levels I enhanced the blacks, and reduced the highlight output to inhibit true whites and to soften the visual effect.

Keeping it level, and cropping
At the time of shooting I was very careful to keep all the uprights absolutely straight and level, as they are an essential part of the picture. If you find yours are not quite straight they will distract the viewer’s attention and make them miss the point of the picture. I know I say it a lot, but keeping uprights completely upright is so important.

The last thing I did to the picture was a crop it to 5x4in proportions. I chose this format as it has a classic feel that introduces a quite formal atmosphere that compliments the neat and rigid linear structure and patterns of the scene.

Choosing the moment
Picking the right moment is especially important in this type of scene, as we want to keep things as simple as possible. With people and cars in the background the scene becomes cluttered and we loose the sense of what the shot is supposed to be about. With all these extra shapes that over lap it becomes difficult to see the woman, the back lit road is blocked and the pavement falls into shade. Even one additional element is enough to spoil the picture and create a distraction, as you can see from the these additional shots shown here.

About the black and white conversion
I converted this image to black and white using the channel mixer tool in Photoshop. I chose to use the green channel as it produces the more moderate contrast of the three available. The red channel showed blown out highlights, as does the blue channel. The green channel is also the sharpest and more detailed, and it displayed the right tonal differences between the coloured elements in the scene to make hedges and the grass verge stand out.

Sony Alpha 700, with DT 16-80mm F3.5-4.5 ZA Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*. 

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Back lit girl at bus stop in Warsaw, Poland. By Damien Demolder

Photographing street scenes – The right moment

Having a fag, by Damien Demolder. Sony Alpha 700 DSLRJust as with wildlife photography it is the shots that show behaviour, rather than the pure record pictures, that work best in street photography. To show that behaviour clearly, so that the viewer can recognise what is going on, you have to pick your moment carefully. You have to show the moment in which the action happens.

Decisive moment?

This moment is often called ‘the decisive moment’, but the phrase is so over burdened with history and expectation that I prefer to just call it ‘the right moment’.

In this scene of a couple of office workers having a smoke break I spotted the potential from a way off, as the pair made an interesting shape that broke the pattern of the straight lines of the pillars and windows. As they had only just lit-up I knew I had a while to get the shot I wanted. I noticed the guy on the left had a particular way of blowing out his smoke in an over dramatic fashion. He turned his head, blowing the smoke away from his friend and in the process propelling it across the dark lines of the concrete. As the smoke got caught in the light of the overcast day it became illuminated, and created just the contrast I needed.

I shot a few frames to get a feel for the composition, and to watch the behaviour before everything lined up and I got the picture I wanted. Going back over those other frames, it’s obvious that it is the small detail of the smoke blowing that makes this moment stand out from the others. The alternative frames have the same pattern and the human shapes that break it, and they have the interest of two humans chatting. But they lack that extra something that separates the ordinary picture from the interesting.

Using a shallow depth of field

To help the subjects stand out from the background I used a really wide aperture to introduce a really shallow depth of field. Using a long lens helped too, as longer focal lengths make it easier to reduce the amount of the scene that is in focus. I was lucky that I had an exceptional lens – a 135mm f/1.4 which I was using on an APS-C sensor camera, so it was acting more like a 200mm. But even if you don’t have a long lens that’s not quite as ‘fast’ as this one you can still get the effect. A 200mm zoom will give a similar effect at f/4.5 on an APS-C camera.

Making the crop

The last thing I did to this picture was crop it to the 16×9 format. I did this for two reasons, firstly there is quite a bit of spare space at the top and bottom of the picture, as you can see from the full frame examples below. The second reason is that I love the movie feel this cropping ratio lends an image, and this picture suits that look. It could be a frame from a film, and the ratio of the format just enhances the sense of the moment.

Sony Alpha 700, 135mm f/1.4 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens, 1/2500sec at f/1.8 and ISO 400

Taken in Warsaw, Poland.

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Having a fag, by Damien Demolder.

Not quite the right moment

Having a fag II, by Damien Demolder.

This one’s nearly there, but it could be more interesting

Having a fag, by Damien Demolder. Sony Alpha 700 DSLR

Ahh, that’s a bit better

Black and white portraits – blue channel man

Using filtration in male portraiture • channel mixture conversions • shooting in colour for a black and white result

Black and white blue Channel conversion male portraitWe automatically think about using channel filtration to create black and white images when we are shooting landscapes, because we are all used to the idea of fitting filters for this type of subject. The reference pictures that stick in the mind that demonstrate what filters do to monochrome images – the deep black skies and fluffy clouds of the red filter – are generally landscapes in which we can see how blues darken and green grass lightens. In fact, you probably wouldn’t shoot a black and white landscape without thinking about filtration.

We don’t associate lens filters with portraiture in the same way, unless warming or adjusting a colour picture, but sometimes red filters are used to reduce the effects of skin blemishes. With this in mind when converting a colour portrait image to black and white I often use a red channel bias in Channel Mixer (Image>adjustments>channel mixer) to lighten the redness of spots, skin patches and veins close to the skin surface. This looks great for women, as it can leave a flattering facial glow as well. But it really doesn’t look macho enough for portraits of men.

A portrait converted to black and white via the red, green and blue channelsI have found the channel that delivers the more manly effect is the blue channel. It adds depth to the skin and presents a more tanned, or weathered, look (I know, but you can still see it in black and white!). The blue channel makes men look stronger and more heroic, which I think is what most men prefer. And the deeper and more complex shades of this kind of conversion provide the ideal base for adding a colour tone too. There is so much more grey in black and white images converted using the blue channel that toning and staining colours have much more impact.
A male portrait converted to black and white using the green and the blue channels. By Damien Demolder If you find a blue channel conversion produces too strong a result remember that you don’t have to use it on its own. My favourite channel of all is the green channel, as it has lower contrast and better sharpness than red or blue, and I like to mix it in with the others to rein in any over-blown effects. Try mixing 50% green and 50% blue for a more restrained image.

Obviously to make use of these effects and options you need to be shooting your portraits in colour. I find that shooting everything in colour gives me the most flexibility, so I shoot in colour even when I know I will only want a black and white final result.

Nikon D40 with 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX at f/16 and ISO 200, with Bowens flash heads.

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Black and white blue Channel conversion male portrait

The final version of the portrait convertedto black and white via the blue channel. Sepia toned portrait

The deeper tones of the blue channel conversion make a better base for accepting sepia and other colourised effects.

Simple pictures – Blue Bay

Creative white balance – simple composition – previsualisation – looking

Blue Bay, by Damien DemolderThe sun had well and truly gone at this stage, and its setting had not brought the spectacle I had been hoping for. Nice enough, the colours hadn’t played across the sky as there were simply too many clouds. I was determined though to go home with something in the bag, so I sat down to take a rest and to have a think. I had brought a folding chair with me to do this, as I was beginning a faze of purposeful looking and contemplation. I figured that rather than rushing between locations and snapping what occurred to me first, I should try to slow down a little and spend more time looking. The chair thing would help me do this, as by sitting I would be more likely to stay in one place for longer. This wasn’t a trekking sort of day, as I knew I wasn’t going anywhere other than on this stretch of beach. I could carry the chair, dump it down and work around that as a base.

I had been to this location so many times before, and although I had taken plenty of nice, and even good, pictures there, I never felt that I had quite captured whatever it was that appealed to me about it. In actual fact, the issue was that I hadn’t actually identified what it was that appealed to me – which kinda makes it difficult then to capture it in a photograph. The idea of the chair was that I would sit for a while looking at the scene to try to unravel the mystery. If I sat I wouldn’t be bothered by the weight of my camera bag, or the urge to move on you get sometimes when you stand, so I could sit in comfort until the answer came to me.

I’m not sure that I really did find the answer to the question I had in my head, but I did find an answer to a question I hadn’t thought of. As the sun went even further below the horizon and the land areas became silhouettes against the sky and its reflection in the sea I realised part of the attraction of the place is the curved line of the shore around the bay. In the simplified form of the monochromatic moment I saw the light. Where I live we don’t see much sky, as there are houses and trees all around, but here the sky is massive, stretching right down to the ground – so the big sky is one factor. And the shape of the coast line is the other.

Waiting until the sun had gone the sun turned a cool blue that showed up perfectly in the daylight white balance of my camera. My eyes were seeing grey, as my brain filtered out the evening shades, but the camera was able to help me see the reality.

I tried plenty of compositions, but what worked best was when I just concentrated on the principle elements of the curve and the sky. With the camera angled upwards slightly I got rid of the foreground shingle and plants that were fighting for attention in the dim lighting. Removing those details simplifies the scene and makes it clear what I am trying to draw the viewer’s eye to. And exposing for the sky has brought out its detail, and kept the land mass to a basic silhouette.

I don’t think I have really captured the essence of this place yet, as this shot is a bit of a side track. I’m actually quite pleased as it means I can still go back and carry on trying – it’s a wonderful place.

Nikon D3 with 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S NIKKOR at 28mm. 1/4sec @ f/18 and ISO 200, and daylight white balance

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Blue Bay, by Damien Demolder

Making a frame – matting and adding text

Improve your on-line presentation – add titles to your images


Creating a virtual photoframePictures should be able to stand on their own two feet without embellishment, but there are few that don’t look at least 30% better when they are mounted and framed. Obviously, this sort of treatment is reserved for prints, but even those who show their work on-line or in an electronic form can benefit from this form of presentation. We don’t frame every picture we take, only the best, so when we add a frame to an image, even electronically, it sends the message that we think the picture in question is special. Framed images have that prestigious air about them.

When ‘framing’ this picture I decided to go for a multi-layered effect to add depth to the mount. This just echoes the effect you get when you use a double window mount, with two shades of card and the white edge that shows in the cut. When working this way it’s best to create the outer-most mount first. There are a number of ways of to create these mounts, but I’ll show you a simple one.

Make a bigger canvas

First you need to make the background mount, which you do by enlarging the canvas the image sits on. Go to the top bar of Photoshop and selectCreate new canvasEdit>Canvas Size. Ensuring the central square is selected as the Anchor, type in the size you want the final picture to be leaving a bit to spare so that you can crop later on to the final dimensions. If your picture file is 7x5in @ 300ppi, for example, create a background canvas that measures about 10x10in @ 300 pixels per inch.

With the image sitting on a bigger plain background use the magic wand tool to select the out line of the image so you can add the faint shadow effect.

Add a stroke – or two

Select image for strokeTo create this first grey layer, that will look almost like a shadow in the final image, we’ll use the ‘stroke’ feature of Photoshop. With the whole image selected head to Edit>Stroke. The box offers several options, one of which is width/colour. The width of the stroke you will need at any point depends on the size of the picture you are working on. Obviously a 20 pixel stroke is proportionally bigger on a 600×800 pixel image than it is on a 2000×4000 pixel image, so you may have to try a few different settings before you find the right width for the picture in question. Picking a colour is comes down to your own personal choice, but I find shades of grey most effective and the least offensive to the majority of people. Also in this position, between the picture and the white ‘card’ the effect is supposed to be shadow rather than anything that has a colour.

Stroke colour pickerThe box below the width/colour options asks you to determine where the stroke goes. ‘Center’ places the stroke on the selection line, so half of the stroke’s width covers part of the image, and half falls outside of the image, while ‘Inside’ places the stroke entirely on the picture area, and ‘outside’ places the strokes thickness on the ‘card’. If you want to avoid losing any picture area select the ‘outside’ option.

Once that’s done deselect the image and reselect it to include the new much wider stroke, and then add the extra stroke to create the white area shown in my example. I didn’t actually use white, but a very light yellow/grey instead.

Colour the ‘card’

Then you need to add a colour or tone to the rest of the ‘card’. To do this use the rectangular selection tool to draw a box around your picture leaving the amount of white showing that you want. Go to the top bar and click on Selection>Invert to select everything other than your picture and the amount of white you want showing. You now need to add the colour or tone to the card. You can pick any colour you want to compliment your image, but I tend to stick with neutral shades to grey. Dull perhaps, and to everyone’s taste, but grey has the benefit of working with every picture. Select your colour using the colour picker, and then use the paint bucket tool to flood the colour onto the card

Add text to record the details

I like to write on these frames, especially for portraits, so the picture can have a name or so we can all remember when the picture was taken and who is in it. I’ve been doing a series of birthday pictures of my family, so I use this space to record the date, name and age of the subject so the piece becomes more of a historical record.

I create a text box and write whatever I want to in white. I then align the text with the picture, usually in that bottom right hand corner,Fade text layer and then fade the text layer so reduce the text to a grey rather than a bright white. White tends to stand out too much and can take away from the picture. Obviously you want people to be able to read the text, but it shouldn’t be the first thing they see.

Although really designed for web use, these frames, if done neatly, work well in print too. I saves actually cutting window mounts (or matts) and is a quick and effective way of presenting your images in an album or portfolio.

If you don’t have Photoshop you can create these effects in a wide range of other programs. I have used the simple application Paint to do the same thing just by creating backgrounds that the image is pasted onto, as well as Gimp – which offers for free much of what you pay for in Photoshop.

Sony Alpha 700 DSLR

Sony Alpha 700 with DT 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA set to 50mm (75mm on 35mm) 1/5sec @ f/4.5 ISO 1600, tungsten white balance.

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The original image, in colour and unframed

Creating a virtual photoframeHut on the Blackwater navigation
Another example of how this technique can be used. In this case
I printed the image with the frame and text together. The text adds a formality to the shot, making it more of a record or postcard.

Create new canvas
Create a new canvas size that’s bigger than the image. Here the image
is just under 7in square, so I made the canvas 10in to allow a 3in border.

Select image for stroke

Select the image area with the magic wand tool ready
to apply a ‘stroke’

Stroke colour picker

The stroke size you need depends on the image size, so experiment
to find what is right for your picture. Choose the ‘outside’ option and
then pick the colour you want to use. I tend to stick with neutrals

Select the outside of the first stroke to create the second. Make this a
big one, as you can crop it away when you create the
background ‘card’ colour later.

Fade text layer

Write your text, and then fade the layer to create a
more subtle effect

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A sense of depth – The Boathole

Using layers in your compositon • low angles to show the foreground • selective focusing for emphasis

Boat on Loch Foyle, at the Boathole, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. By Damien DemolderIt’s hard to create a sense of depth in a photograph, as we are trying to convey our impressions of a three dimensional scene using a flat piece of paper. To get the message over to the viewer we have to choose carefully what we show, as well as how we show it.

We are told that a 50mm lens gives the same angle of view as our eyes, when it’s mounted on a 35mm camera or full frame sensor (it’s about 35mm for APS-C sensors). Really, though, this only represents what we can concentrate on, rather than what we can actually see. There is a big difference between what we take in when we look directly at something, such as when we are talking to another person a few feet away, and what we experience when we are taking in a view or enjoying a pleasant scene. We build a profile in our heads of the atmosphere of a place not by looking in one direction or by concentrating on any single element, but by looking around ourselves, at our surroundings and the sky, and combining all the elements to create a whole and complete impression. We analyse the details, notice what is at our feet and what is in the distance, what is to the side of us, and how the place is made up.

The layers
On this morning I was enjoying the high grasses and plants as I pushed my way through their rain-wet leaves to get to the shore. Before I got to the water’s edge I stopped and took in the scene. What I was struck by was the combination of the flowers up to my waist, the stillness of the water and its gently turning boat, and the pale colours in the pre-sunrise sky. The horizon was almost out of sight in the mist, but before it was a splendid foreground, a high-contrast attention-seeking middle ground, and the shapes of the other side of the loch against the pale blue sky.

Lens choice
To get a sense of realism rather than sheer impact I used the 35mm end of a 16-35mm zoom lens, and, fitted to a tripod, dropped the camera to below the level of the flower tops. Rather than stopping down and focusing a third of the way into the scene for maximum depth of field, I focused on the flowers just a few feet in front of me. I wanted them to get the attention, as even when soft the sky, the boat, the loch and the distance could look after themselves. Viewers are going to look into the distance anyway, but by pulling the focus to the foreground it ensures they pay attention there too.

Brightness balancing
Obviously, with such a range of brightness values I wasn’t going to get the correct exposure for the flowers while still showing the colours of the sky, so I used a 0.9 (3EV) neutral density graduated filter to hold back the illumination levels of the sky and its reflection. This balanced the exposure enough so I could show all the elements within the camera’s dynamic range.

With white balance set for daylight I was able to capture the cool tones of the morning without the camera attempting to turn the scene into a Caribbean dreamscape.

I think that what I have created is a picture that has a real sense of depth that allows the viewer to place him or herself there at the scene, on that morning and see and enjoy the things I experienced too. And if you get yourself up at 4am to look at it the experience will become even more real again!

Canon EOS 1Ds III, with EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens set to 35mm, 1.6sec and f/16 at ISO 100. I used a HiTech filter system 0.9 ND graduated filter to reduce the brightness of the sky. TeamWork sells them

Shot at The Boathole on Loch Foyle, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. Click to see a map.

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Boat on Loch Foyle, at the Boathole, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. By Damien Demolder

Picture element relationships – skinheads and eyeballs

Seeing relationships • using humour • the importance of straight edges • catching a moment

Hair dressers window in Warsaw, Poland. By Damien Demolder. Pentax K10D DSLRThere is nothing new in street photography about targeting how the world of advertising compares with reality, but it remains a rich stream of original-looking and visually exciting images. It is not just the contrast of the advertiser’s dream world with that of the everyday existence of those these adverts are intended to influence, but this type of picture often has some significance as a document of social trends, wants and aspirations of the time.

Adverts and posters have a very short shelf life and can often really tie a picture down to a specific period in our history.

I spotted this scene in Warsaw, Poland, through the window of a hairstylist shop in the city’s smartest shopping street, Nowy Swiat. I couldn’t tell for sure what the young lad was thinking, or what his motivation was for having a haircut, but obviously he was shelling out a bit of extra cash for this upmarket treatment and I’d say he was expecting to get more than just shorter hair. The ad in the window says it all really – get your hair cut here and you’ll score with a hot chick like this.

I love the way it appears as though the stylist is giving the lad a haircut just like his own, and that the haircuts are so extreme. A skinhead is a proper teen statement, a sign of rebellion – as though shaving your head demonstrates that you have taken full control of your own destiny. Shaving your head is the first step to becoming a man, and attracting a beautiful woman with that strong sense of your own identity. Of course, we can all see that there is no strong identity at all, only a passage of conforming to a series of stereotypes that starts with the beautiful girl aspiration, as though that is what we all want, and ends with the idea that a hairstyle can define a personality.

Bizarrely, there is a certain amount of sexual suggestiveness in the curly bamboo canes as well. The way in which they twist around the girl’s nipples somehow demonstrates what the lad will want to be doing once his hair-do is completed. The look in her eyes suggests that we could all get a slice of the action – so long as we get that all important haircut.

When I took the picture I couldn’t possibly have identified all of these elements, but in a glance I could see there was something quite funny going on. It’s the same with composition – you don’t have to sit and analyse the leading lines to know you are seeing something powerful. On these occasions we need to go with our instincts and analyse later – shoot first, ask questions after.

I know I go on about keeping the camera straight and upright, and not allowing sloping lines or drunk horizons, but in this picture the viewer is allowed on concentrate on the subject because there is nothing to distract the attention away from it. The picture elements are in their own neat boxes and the lines are all parallel. Had that central poster edge been slanted I’m certain the picture would have lost some of its impact.

Although I usually keep my white balance settings to ‘daylight’, whatever the conditions, on this occasion the tungsten balance proved to be a better choice. Again, this is because by neutralising the colours they become less of a distraction, so we can concentrate on the people and their relationships. In fact, I shot the picture in raw and converted it using the tungsten setting, but if you are a jpeg shooter you’d need to be thinking about white balance at the time of the shoot.

Pentax K10D, 135mm manual focus f/3.5 lens, ISO 1600 and f/5.6 @ 1/125sec.

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Hair dressers window in Warsaw, Poland. By Damien Demolder. Pentax K10D DSLR

White balance for atmosphere – Dubai friends

Recognise the importance of colour • Use ambient colour casts to demonstrate atmosphere • communicate emotions to your viewers

Daylight white balance setting brings out the atmosphere in this street scene from Dubai, by Damien DemolderWhat we see and what the camera sees is not always the same thing. Our eyes adjust indoors to the yellow warmth of domestic light bulbs, so we hardly notice they’re light is not daylight, but film can only record what is there. Thus if you shoot with film indoors at night you get very yellow pictures.

Digital cameras have a way of compensating for the colour of different light sources, so you can take the yellow out of the tungsten bulbs in your dinning room, and the green out of the fluorescent strips under the kitchen cabinets. The light on an overcast day can have some warmth applied to compensate for its blue-ness, and there is even a custom setting that can be used to deal with the oddest coloured light you could come across.

White balance control is a brilliant thing, especially the custom setting, and is, I’d say, one of the best features digital photography has given us. Being able to record colours accurately under different light sources is a dream for professionals and amateurs alike.

There are times, though, when the colour of the light provides atmosphere, and we should not forget how important this is to us. We turn the lights down low, or light candles, to create a romantic atmosphere at home because we like the warmth of this kind of light. The blue haze of a cold day lets us know it’s cold before we’ve even gone outside, so removing the cast with white balance settings can actually produce a false idea of what the day was like.

In the shot shown here I wanted to keep all the colours of the street in the picture, as they are half of the attraction. In any case, no single setting could have compensated for such a wide range of light sources. I set the camera to the daylight setting – the one I use almost all the time – and let the colours live.

Street scene from Dubai, shot with the tungsten white balance setting. Much of the atmosphere has been lost. By Damien DemolderIn the second example you can see what the shot would have looked like had I used the tungsten setting. The composition is still there, and there are hints of the warmth of the light, but the blues and greens have cooled the atmosphere too much, and I can’t feel the heat of the Dubai night any more.

Colours play a massive part in our life – we all have strong reactions to colours and we associate meanings to all of them. Would you drive a pink car, wear a bright blue shirt to a funeral or feel cosy in a fluorescent green room? Appreciate how much of a part colour plays in our responses and our emotions, and use it in your photography. Don’t automatically kill colour casts from artificial light, or that which is created by certain weather conditions unless colour accuracy is important to what you are trying to do. When atmosphere is important use those colours, so those who look at your pictures have double the chance of understanding what it was like to be there.

Nikon D80, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 set at about 70mm.
ISO 3200 1/20sec @ f/4.5

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

A load of rubbish?
I won’t know whether this post is any good unless you leave a comment. Is there anything else you would like to know? Should I be adding anything, or leaving out?

Daylight white balance setting brings out the atmosphere in this street scene from Dubai, by Damien Demolder

Daylight white balance

Street scene from Dubai, shot with the tungsten white balance setting. Much of the atmosphere has been lost. By Damien Demolder

Tungsten white balance

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