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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

QuikDisc®: White Balancing with the StarLite®

Lighting Equipment

With so many types of lighting sources on the market today, countless photographers find themselves challenged with keeping their images properly color balanced.

This lesson illustrates appropriate use and function of the QuikDisc® as a color-balancing tool with the StarLite® lighting system. With the QuikDisc®, making those spur-of-the-moment changes to your lighting setup no longer impacts the color of your final product.

(Click here to view our other white balance lessons using the StarFlash® and shoemount flashes.)

(Click on any thumbnail image below for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  •     Color Temperature
  •     White Balancing in Camera Raw
  •     White Balancing with the StarLite®

What is Color Temperature?

Color temperature is more or less the color of light, which is dependent on the source of the light. This is also known as the color of illumination. Our eyes can adapt to the changes of the dominant light source so that we always see the brightest tones in a scene as white.

The color of illumination is usually described as "color temperature". This is an explanation based on the actual physical temperature when a heated object gives off light. At low temperatures, the light is very red. At about 5,000 - 7,000 degrees Kelvin, the light is seen as white. As the color temperature goes higher, the light gets more blue. [figure 1]

Figure 1

Is It Magic?

It's important to realize there are several different ways to set the white balance in your camera. It is possible to change your custom white balance settings within your camera for every situation you might encounter. However, this method only works well when your lighting situations are consistent, for example your studio lighting.

We find the easiest and most efficient way to balance is to shoot utilizing the Raw file system in Photoshop. If you shoot in the Raw file format, you can make individual, non-destructive, color adjustments to your photos. You can even batch them all if your color adjustments are global, which can save considerable time.

To best use the QuikDisc®, simply place it within the frame of your shot when you’re ready to shoot. Turn the Disc so that the grey side is facing the camera. Then take one properly exposed shot. Now you can remove the QuikDisc and continue shooting.

Once you’ve uploaded all the images to your computer, open Camera Raw in Adobe Bridge and 'Select All' of the images within that particular lighting scenario. Using the white balance color picker, click on the QuikDisc, and POOF! All of your selected images will be properly color-balanced. [figure 2]

Figure 2

Before and After

Here are our examples of before and after this simple process. [figures 3 & 4]

Figure 3

Figure 4

This is the fastest and most accurate way to white balance your images. Now let’s see it in action!

StarLite® Setup

The Starlite was our first lighting setup of the day and uses tungsten lights, which emit a relatively warm color temperature, around 3200 degrees Kelvin.

For this portrait, we decided to construct a "clamshell" lighting setup. The clamshell here is made up of two 39x39 LitePanels. One Panel is mounted above another using HeavyDuty Swivels and GripJaws™. In this case, we decided to use a PVC frame on the top and an aluminum on the bottom, although both can be used in either place. We used the PVC frame on the top because it is a slightly lighter frame.

We started with a single StarLite in an XS SilverDome®. This single light setup helped us to decide how the rest of the lighting scenario would go. [figures 5 & 6]

Figure 5

Figure 6

Next, we placed a second layer of diffusion to the main light, a 39x39 PVC frame with translucent fabric, which helped with the exposure of the highlights. This became the top half of our clamshell. [figures 7 & 8]

Figure 7

Figure 8

Next, we added the second, lower half of the clamshell. This time we used an aluminum 39x39 frame with a White/Gold fabric, white side towards the subject. This bottom LitePanel helps to reflect light up into the shadow areas and tones down the overall contrast. [figures 9 & 10]

Figure 9

Figure 10

Finally we added a background light, which consisted of a StarLite® in a Small HalfDome® nxt. The background light acts to separate the subject and add depth to the scene. [figures 11 & 12]

Figure 11

Figure 12

At this point, we felt we were pretty close to the look we were going for. With all the lights in place and everything ready to go, we took a single shot with the QuikDisc® for the white balancing we would do later on in Camera Raw. [figure 13]

Figure 13

For a final touch, we decided to change the look slightly by turning the background light around and angling it at the subject. As you can see, this change gave us a slightly different look. It highlighted the subject, but also illuminated the background enough to add the depth we wanted. [figures 14 &15]

Figure 14

Figure 15

Let's take a look at our progression through this setup. [figure 16]

Figure 16

Final Shot

Figure 17

Continuing On

As we look back, we can see why white balancing is an important part of any photographer’s toolkit. It allows us to see the correct exposure and color of our subject. That said, keep in mind that “incorrectly” color-balanced images also have their place on occasion.

Remember, forward progression is important to your growth as an artist. So make sure to keep experimenting and trying new ideas!


Written and photographed by David Cross, contributing instructor for Photoflex.com®.

Lighting Equipment


On December 20, 2012 at 10:48 AM, Hamid said:

HELLO.How do I set white balance my camera in the studio?
then How do you white balance with grey card your camera in the studio.
Thank you.

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