Taking Better Photos

Who doesn't want to take better pictures of their cakes? If you're anything like me, most of the cakes that you deliver are in dimly-lit areas with lots of fluorescent lighting or lighting that comes from chandeliers far away from the cake. It doesn't make for optimal photo-taking conditions.

I took a "how to use your camera the right way" class recently and the instructor showed us a trick that made the entire class worthwhile for me, the custom white balance.

I'd been using the auto settings for different white balance situations, but setting a custom white balance is much more accurate. This is it in a nutshell:

-Light is different colors, but our eyes and brains compensate and tell us that certain things are white.

-Cameras just see light the color that it is, there's no mental adjustment.

-When you take photos in different lighting situations the camera will record the color of the light exactly as it is. Changing the white balance will compensate for that.

-To change the white balance you can use the WB button on a Canon camera for a quick adjustment, or tell the camera specifically what you think looks white by setting a custom white balance.

Sorry for anyone who doesn't have a Canon, but that's what I have. The principles will work the same way on other cameras, but you'll need to consult your user manual! 

Here's a photo of a white mixer. Notice the yellow tone to the color?
Start by taking a photo of something white in the same lighting situation that you're in.

Notice that this photo of paper also has a yellow tone to it? That's okay, you're going to tell the camera that it's really white. Hit the menu button, and scroll through to find the "custom WB" line.

Hit "set" (at the center of the wheel at the right) when the custom WB line is highlighted. This will open up the screen to show recent photos that you've taken. Choose the one that has the white item in it (it's not the same one in this photo, ignore that, I was using a camera to take a picture of the picture and I had the wrong picture...)

When you get to the picture of the white thing that you want to use, press "set" again. It will ask you if you want to use that picture as the custom white balance image. Choose OK and press "set" again.

It will tell you to set the white balance button to "custom," which looks like a circle and two triangles on the Canon.
Press the WB button to the right of the screen and scroll to the custom symbol, then press set. It should show up on the display screen at the center right, so you know it's set on custom.
Now you can take the photo again, and this time the camera will use the white balances that you told it to instead of the ones that it's sensing. This is how the white mixer looks now:
No more yellow tone.

So if you're stuck in a venue that's making everything look "off" you can use this to adjust the color of the light. There's also a menu item called "white balance shift" where you can adjust the color to be more of one color and less of another, which is helpful if you can get it almost right but not quite. Just adjust the button on the graph in one direction or another and it will change the color slightly. Between that and the white balance you should be able to improve the color of your photos a lot.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com