Photographing an indoor car show: Set your white balance

Simon Hastelow / Photography / / 0 Comments / Like this

I’ll start by stating clearly that when it comes to photography I can take a good picture but there are plenty of snappers out there with more skill than me. However, there is something that bugs me more than it should when it comes to looking at other people’s photography, and that is YELLOW photos of cars, usually at the Birmingham NEC.

The lighting, garish exhibition carpets and dull walls all combine to create the worst lighting conditions possible. But you’ll see magazine reports in their dozens covering shows like Autosport, The Classic Car Show and the Caravan & Motorhome showwhere every single photo has a dark yellow tint to it.

There are two issues here: Firstly, the photographer didn’t set up their camera properly and, secondly, the repro guys at the magazine/newspaper or the web editor at the online publication didn’t even attempt to get rid of it with the simple click of the ‘auto-levels’ button in Photoshop.

After one particularly disastrous Autosport show a few years ago I was so annoyed with my own photos that I spent some time that night Googling for a solution and even asked a couple of pro-photographers. Then went back and did the photos again. With great – for me – results. that were published in two magazines.

All it takes is a couple of minutes setting your White Balance before shooting your first image, don’t rely on the ‘Auto WB’ setting, even if your camera has it. All you need is a bit of plain white card, even a business card will do.

Here’s what I did using my trusty old workhorse Nikon:

Ensure your card or other neutral object is in the same sort of light as your subject. Changing the angle of the object often will favor one kind of a light or another in mixed light, which will greatly affect your result.

  • Hold WB and spin the rear dial to get to PRE.
  • Release WB.
  • Press and hold WB again for a few seconds.
  • PRE starts to blink.
  • Release the WB button.
  • Point your camera at the card and press the shutter.
  • If the display flashes “gd” (good) you’re all set.
  • If the display flashes “ng” then repeat from step 3

The photos below show you the difference you can expect when photographing the White Bugatti Veyron that once belonged to Jensen Button. I’m not using these to show my skills, or otherwise, at composing a good shot or even getting perfect results. These are purely to show the difference between relying on Auto WB (the yellow cast photos) and setting it properly (the crisp white images). I think it’s pretty obvious which is which!

If you are going to present photos to a magazine, newspaper or online publication, which do you think the Editor will choose? Even if your yellowish pictures are perfectly sharp and brilliantly composed the clean, colour-correct images from the other bloke will get used every time.

I know you could try and fix it in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop afterwards but it is so much easier to get it right in camera.

Please contact me if you would like copies of any of my images