Making White Tones, White – Photography Experiments

Photography Experiments - Making White, WhiteToday’s experiment might be a little more involved than its previous companion, Making Black Tones, 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!

Making White Tones, White

As previously mentioned in Making Black Tones, Black, the metering in your camera will not always expose properly. Scenes with a dominant black or white element might come out gray. 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, except Manual.

2) Set your ISO according to the amount of light available 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 camera’s 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. It 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 your exposure compensation back once finished. Otherwise you may have blown out photos when next you use your camera.
  • Drinking 8 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. 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. It could probably be bumped up even more. Making White Tones , White

Questions?  Pop ’em like Pez in the comments section below. or email me at

Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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