Friday, September 11, 2015

White on White - A Photography tutorial

How to shoot white objects on a white surface. 





Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography


This post has been long overdue. Some of my friends have been asking me to do a post on high-key photography, especially white on white. It is about understanding your exposure and that is all there is to it. Once you get the hang of it, you will agree with me. This is the real reason for the procrastination - it’s really that simple. 

Before I get into the ‘how-to’ of it, let me explain the technical details. First let us understand what we define as WHITE.  If you walk into a paint store, you will probably see ‘50 shades of white’ (no pun intended), so what is white ? The dictionary defines white aof the color of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of most wavelengths of visible light; the opposite of black. How does photography define pure white ? 

RGB stands for RED, GREEN and BLUE, that can be mixed together to create any color. When each hue of these three is set to zero - it is black. When the highest intensity of each color is mixed it is white. Technically, the number is 255, 255, 255 for RGB to create pure white.  This color system is used in computer screens. You might wonder, why you need to know this, but stay with me. So when you see an image with seamless edges, melting into the screen and you wonder how the photographer achieved it - you know what it mean - it is pure white with RGB = 255, 255, 255. If you take the eye dropper tool in PS and measure the color value of the pixel, if it is pure white, it is going to read 255 for all three - as shown in the image below.
With me so far, now let us find out how we can achieve this. 


Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography


Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography



Now let us understand exposure. When you are photographing snow and you expose the image perfectly according to your camera light-meter. You will still notice a not so vibrant image. Probably even a tad bit of gray…why? If the exposure meter shows a perfect exposure, then why does the image look like it is underexposed. 

This is how the light meter of the camera works - it always measures the reflected light. Not every color reflects the same amount of lightNowwhite can reflect 90% of the light falling on the scene, while black may only reflect 5% of the light falling on the scene. How does the camera meter a scene having whites or black. Since the camera cannot  know what the subject is, all camera meters are calibrated to a standard normal" setting.

This normal setting used to calibrate meters is sometimes called “18% Grey, "Neutral Grey" or "Middle Grey". Most situation have a good mix of dark, light and middle toned areas, and metering system works fine. However, if the subject is brighter or darker than the normal (snow or dark black shade) the camera will still try to expose to make the image middle grey in tone. So a dark black color will be overexposed and look gray and white (snow) will look underexposed and gray. 

So that is why, even when the exposure meter shows a perfect exposure - the image is underexposed  in case of whites and overexposed in case of black - making it grayish in both cases. 

Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography


So one way of getting the perfect exposure is simply overexposing your image. Use the histogram to measure the correct exposure so that you do not have any clipped edges.

Always shoot in RAW, so you have more options when you edit.

When I photograph a white bowl on a white surface I make sure every bit of the white background has good light on it, when using natural light, use reflectors, mirrors and every tool you have to fill light to the background.  ‘Shoot’ we start ?

You need 

white background - poster board
white prop - mugs, cups, plate
reflectors - poster board or for more light, wrap the poster board with aluminum foil
mirror
camera

My camera : Nikon D610, 50mm lens

A mug of coffee - so you sip, work and enjoy. I have used the manual mode, you can use Aperture-Priority mode and increase the exposure by increasing exposure compensation.

The images below are self explanatory
Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography


Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography

Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography

Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography



Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography

Final Image : Post edit includes adding light in levels and using dodge tool. Now was that rocket science ? Not really !! :) When one more tip about WB - scroll below.

Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography

Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography
Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography
This is the last part and I promise. Now even if the whites look great, if the WB is off, it can break an image. Using custom WB for whites is preferable, but if not try with different settings. Remember WB can easily be corrected in post. Below is an image with three different white balance. Each has a different hue. It’s also your artistic expression, there is no right or wrong.

Hope this tutorial was useful. Do let me know what kind of tutorial you would like in the future. Have a wonderful weekend.



Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography
Photography Tutorial, White on white , How to shoot white on White, Simi Jois Photography



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