31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Making White, White

Friday’s Topic was Get Low.

Today’s experiment might be a little more involved than its previous companion, Making Black, Black. This is because white objects will show color cast from an incorrect white balance better than black. You will need to be on your toes to work your way through today. Good luck!

As previously mentioned in Making Black, Black, the metering in your camera will not always expose properly scenes with a dominant black or white element. Read through the previous post if you haven’t already, because I’m not giving a lot of tips today to see how well you can reason through the steps needed.

Here’s the experiment you can run:

1) Set you camera on a table and switch it to any mode you like.

2) Set your ISO according to the amount of light and place a white object in front of your camera, about four feet away. Make sure the white object takes up the central area of the field of view. It can fill the whole screen if you like.

3) Take a photo. (Note: When there is lack of contrast in a scene, cameras have a hard time focusing. You may need to place something else in the focus area for the picture to take, or switch to manual focusing.)

4) Change the Exposure Bias/Exposure Compensation of your camera to +1.3. This is one and one third stops over-exposed.

5) Take another photo.

Done! With Shooting.

Now then, two things might have happened here. Likely, the white object became more white in the second photo, closer to its true color and brightness. This is good. You can fiddle around with the exact amount of over exposure you want depending on the lighting in a scene. +1.3 is just a starting point.

But you might have also seen a difference in the color of the white object, even if slight. This can happen as your camera is not always 100% consistent in figuring out the color temperature of a light source and may adjust from one shot to the next, even when the camera and subject don’t move.  Read up on White Balance to figure out how to adjust for that.

Things To Consider

  • Keep an eye on your camera’s Histogram to make sure white does not become blown out (if possible).
  • Don’t forget to change back your exposure compensation once done. Otherwise you may have blown out photos when next you use your camera.
  • Drinking 8 full glasses of water each day helps your body stay healthy.


I have one example for you today. While it is not truly white (there is a lot of blue cast in glaciers) it fits the bill as it’s actually the reflectiveness of the scene that you need to trick your camera into appreciating. White just happens to be the most reflective color.

In this case, I adjusted the exposure by +1.3 and the “After” image is closer to the dazzle I saw when there.

Tomorrow’s topic is going to be Shooting The Full Moon At Moonrise.

31+ Days Of Photography Experiments is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures through practical experiments on the material found in 31+ Days To Better Photography. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

6 Replies to “31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Making White, White”

  1. Larry Eiss

    The camera wants to make things like this 18% gray (or maybe 12% according to Thom Hogan: http://www.bythom.com/graycards.htm). This is why images that have a lot of snow or other white in them often appear under exposed. So there is actually science behind the idea that you need to overexpose such images. Just sayin’

    • Peter West Carey Post author

      Thanks Larry,
      I agree. And if you click through the link for “Making Black, Black” you’ll see the same thing explained. I just didn’t feel the need to type it twice for those following along.

  2. Gibran Ashraf

    For a long time, whenever I wanted to shoot stills or video of something white or even a scene in a room where I was unsure of exposure and nature of ambient lighting, I turned to another feature in the cameras – I took a sheet of white paper – put it over the object zoomed in so that it covered most of the frame and then opted to set the ‘white balance’ manually. Just wanted to know have you tried that or how has that worked for you?

    • Peter West Carey Post author

      You can certainly do that and they now make lens caps that do the same thing, but are a little more accurate. Here’s an example on Amazon (which I know doesn’t ship to Pakistan, but there are options there) http://amzn.to/VPi4L9 There are cheaper ones but these last long time and have the ability to have warming domes.

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