How to Nail White Balance and Exposure

Education

1/24/2020

Do you ever feel like the colors on your photos are somewhat off even after endless hours of editing? I’ve been there too. I’m happy to share that I’ve found a solution that has led to consistent images and saved me a lot of time and frustration. I’m excited to share it with you!

The ExpoDisc

This ExpoDisc is very reasonably priced and has been a game changer for me. The ExpoDisc takes care of the legwork of determining both the appropriate white balance as well as exposure. While there are other options for improving white balance, such as a gray card or manually adjusting Kelvin temperature, the ExpoDisc seems to be the simplest solution.

Today, I’m going to walk you through how to use this magical device. It’s going to sound a little bit confusing the first time you read this, but please trust me. Just try it once. After that, you’ll understand and it will make your whole shooting and editing process SO much easier. Here is a link if you’d like to purchase one. I recommend purchasing the 82mm size so that you can use it on all of your lenses. 

How to use the ExpoDisc

For Nikon Cameras:

  1.  Make sure your camera is in matrix metering mode. 
  2. Click “Menu”, go to the “Photo Shooting Mode” and click on “White Balance”. From there, place the camera in “PRE Preset Manual” mode (there will be categories of d-1 through d-6 but you can just use d-1 for now). 
  3. Set up your camera settings in manual like normal.
    • Note: This is just to get you in the right direction, these settings will be tweaked in the next steps.            
  4. Place yourself next to your subject with the camera viewfinder up to your eye and facing the location where you plan to take the picture.
  5. Press the down the button that looks like a “?/key” on the left side of the back of the camera. Look in the viewfinder. You should see “PrE” flashing on the right side.
  6. Hold the ExpoDisc in front the lens so no light can enter from the sides (white side in front of camera). Look into the viewfinder and tweak your settings (aperture, shutter, ISO) so that the light meter dial falls on the O mark.
  7. Press down on the shutter-release button. Note: If the camera took a picture, you most likely took too long changing your camera settings and need to click the “?/key” button again (it only flashes for about 20 seconds). 
  8. Look in the viewfinder. It should say “Gd” (meaning Good).
    • If it says, “Nt Gd”, repeat the steps above and try again.
  9. Go back to where you were originally going to take the picture and click the shutter-release button.
    • Do not change your exposure or white balance settings from your new angle (e.g. the light meter may tell you that you need to change your exposure settings, but just ignore it). You already perfected these settings when you were standing in the other location.
  10. Check your image and tweak your settings as needed!

For Canon Cameras:

  1. Make sure your white balance is set to “Custom” and your metering is set to “evaluative”.
  2. Set up your camera settings in manual like normal.
    • Note: This is just to get you in the right direction, these settings will be tweaked in the next steps.       
  3. Place yourself next to your subject with the camera viewfinder up to your eye. Face the location where you plan to take the picture.
  4. Hold the ExpoDisc over your lens.
  5. Set your exposure to 0 on the dial you see in the viewfinder. 
  6. Take the shot. 
  7. Return to where you plan to take your picture.
  8. Navigate to Custom White Balance on your camera, hit “Set”.
  9. The camera will pull up that last image that you took, (which will be grey), click “Set”.
  10. Go back to where you were originally going to take the picture and click the shutter-release button.
    • Do not change your exposure or white balance settings from your new angle (e.g. the light meter may tell you that you need to change your exposure settings, but just ignore it). You already perfected these settings when you were standing in the other location.
  11. Check your image and tweak your settings as needed!

How the ExpoDisc Works

The ExpoDisc is calibrated for 18% light transmission. As a result, the camera is able to judge all other colors accordingly as well as capture true white. Without this device (or a gray card), the camera doesn’t always make accurate decisions about temperature and tint of the light (causing some images to look too blue, orange, pink, green, etc.).

For exposure, the camera’s light meter is finicky and often provides inaccurate readings. When you face the subject you want to capture, the light meter measures reflected light (e.g. light bouncing off the person or image onto the camera) rather than incident light (light falling directly on the person or image), which isn’t ideal. However, if you use incident light for your reading (by facing where you plan to take the picture), you will end up with a much more accurate light reading and better image!

The ExpoDisc in Action

Here are a couple of before and after images to show you what I mean. I took the first image using Auto White Balance. The second image was taken using the ExpoDisc. No other edits were made to these images. The first image looks dull and gray. The colors are off and lack vibrance. In the second image, the colors are accurate, vibrant, and warm. 

After using this tool, I think you’ll be really happy with how much time you save editing and how consistent your images look :). Have you used an ExpoDisc before? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts below! Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a reply or shoot me an email!

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