Making the Most of Manual White Balance

Garibaldi in a Giant Californian Kelp Forest

If there’s one thing I’ve loved the most about getting started with underwater imagery is the ability to take beautiful, vibrant, colourful images without the need of external strobes.

So today I thought I’d share some tips with you (thanks Darren for the nudge) to help you hopefully understand it more.

So where is best to use it and how do you get the best results?

Boxfish at Cleaning Station

Custom White Balance is most effective where there is lots of ambient light, usually ranging up to 20 metres depending where you are. Whilst underwater our subjects appear blue, and by using a white card, or even the back of your hand (as long as you haven’t got a glove on it) to calibrate our camera, colours are easily replaced. You can also shoot in RAW format and edit them afterwards.

As you change depth by 5 metres or so, make sure that you recalibrate your camera to avoid extra pink pictures and remember to switch off your flash. Using both will result in very red subjects (strobes also replace colours, mainly red).

Diver using Custom White Balance and a Torch

If you are getting close to a close-up subject, a fish etc, remember to use your macro, close-up or microscope mode.

Custom white balance is super useful for larger subjects such as reef scenes, whale sharks, divers and turtles.

Always remember to stay level with your subject, as if you look up, you may end up with a pink area at the top of your image if there’s a lot of ambient light.

The vivid mode can also be used if you’re shooting the ocean to help make the blue background more vibrant.

Here I’ve taken two pictures of turtles. The first is taken using custom white balance and the second using one external flash which gives a very different feel to the photo.

Which one do you prefer?

Custom White Balance
Taken Using One External Flash

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