Over the days leading up to the 25th of December I’d like to give something to everyone who stops by my blog. These tips cover camera settings, flash, lighting, software and gear. I’ll be providing a pair of tips each day until 25th December.

#23 – Custom white balance

Custom white balance is a feature of every EOS camera to ensure that colours are accurate, regardless of the lighting on the subject. Custom white balance works by taking a photo of a neutral test target, and then having the camera apply that specific balance to subsequent pictures or video.

custom white balance

The camera manuals describe how to using a white sheet of paper, but also mentions that a grey card can be more effective. If you think about it, a white sheet of paper may be easily overexposed so the relative amount of red, green, and blue light is not easy to measure. A grey card with neutral tones is usually the best in my experience. The photo above shows a Lastolite Ezybalance (Amazon) foldable grey card held by the model. In locations such as woodlands you might see poor colours due to the green leaves, a custom white balance is one way to get good colours.

custom white balance

In a studio the grey card, here a Lastolite Expobalance (Amazon), helps to give consistent results. It’s ideal to take a shot of the grey card each time you change the lights. You can either take the custom white balance with the camera, or read the neutral grey when processing the images and apply it to the ones taken in the same lighting.

How to set a custom white balance in your camera

To set the custom white balance take a normal exposure shot of the chart, then select Custom White Balance from the camera menu, and select your grey card shot. Press set and the camera will examine the reference image to set the white balance. Then you need to make sure your camera is set to custom white balance. If the cart is too small, or the colours are unsuitable – too bright with white for example – the camera will show an error that it cannot set the white balance from the selected image. Screens from an EOS 5D Mark IV are shown below, but other models are very similar.

custom white balance custom white balance custom white balance custom white balance custom white balance

If you work in a studio, and shoot tethered with EOS Utility, you can take the white balance reference image from the computer and apply the setting directly to the camera inside the Canon software.


#24 – Orientation linked AF points

orientation linked AF
EOS cameras have a sensor that detects the camera’s orientation, and it recognises three different positions. These are landscape, vertical with the grip at the top, and vertical with the grip at the bottom. Several advanced models since the EOS 7D have included a setting that changes the position of the AF point for each orientation.

The key is that you need to set the required AF point in the specific orientation. If you are confident to set AF points while looking through the viewfinder then you’ll have no problem. If not, then maybe orientation linked AF is not for you.

orientation linked AF

Looking at this portrait example, I took some shots where I need to place the model to the left of the frame for landscape orientation. So the AF point is on the left of the frame, as above.

orientation linked AF

For the vertical shots, I turn the camera so that the handgrip is at the top – I call this “grip up” orientation – and for this I need the AF point at the top, which would have been the right side of the frame in the landscape orientation. Setting my camera with the required AF points for each orientation, need to be done only once. Then it is easy to switch between the two formats, the AF point will follow automatically, no more buttons to press, just turn the camera.

orientation linked AF

Some cameras have a third setting that will switch both the position of the point, but all the AF area selection too. You could have a single AF point at the top of the frame for portraits, and the camera switch to zone AF in the centre of the frame when it’s in the landscape orientation. Generally I find that this is not needed for the subjects I shoot.

If you use registered AF points, then there will be a different registered AF point for each orientation too.

Here’s a few more festive fifty tips

Festive fifty – day #9
Festive fifty – day #24
Festive fifty – day #2
ISO safety shift and Image Stabilizer

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag