Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements

In my last post, I showed you the difference between auto white balance and custom white balance.  I’m totally on the custom white balance train, but as I said, I rarely use it when I’m just taking snapshots of my kids.  If I’m quickly taking a few shots of my kids, I’m using auto white balance.

I did just that the other night.  It was raining and since it so rarely rains here, we go out and stand in it.  My daughter was standing in the sprinkles and I quickly took a snapshot of her watching it rain.  It was dusk, but it wasn’t too dark yet.  I was using my Nikon D3100 with the 35mm lens.  My settings were ISO 400, F2.8, SS 1/200.  Auto White Balance!

It’s not a great photo, but it’s a lovely memory.  The original photo is rather cool looking.  I prefer warmer photos, but that’s just me.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

So I quickly brought the photo into my PSE 11 to see if I could quickly change the white balance.  I only shot this in JPEG and not RAW.  You can also change this in Adobe RAW, but I tend to only shoot JPEG with family stuff.  I’ll shoot RAW for portraits.

So, I brought the photo into PSE and used a levels layer adjustment to change the white balance. I thought I would show you the difference in using the dropper tools to select different colors and objects.  I’m only going to show you three, but if you get a chance to try this….play with it and go crazy with lots of different tries.  Use that handy reset button to get back to your original and try a new one.  Here’s my original opened up in PSE.

I’ve opened up a new levels adjustment layer, but I haven’t done anything with it yet.  I’ve circled the gray/grey (however you spell it) dropper and I’ve circled where I’m going to sample from.  That red circle is around a gray rock I’m going to use for my sample.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

Here’s after I selected that rock.  See the difference?  The photo is warmer and looks more true to life to me.  The kids were ecstatic that we had “water front property” for an evening.  I grew up on lakes.  That’s a mud hole, but whatever, it brings the desert children joy.  Now the mud they track into my house, that’s another story on the opposite of joy, but we deal with it….cause it brings them joy.  Moving on.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

I reset and tried the white dropper.  I selected my girl’s shirt near the collar.  Now, in real life, her shirt is a cream color.  It’s not white, but this is just for demonstration and playing purposes.  That photo has got some contrast to it now.  If you like heavy contrast.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

Reset button again.  Sometimes don’t you wish you had that in life?  Any hoo…I used the black dropper this time and selected a portion of the landscape up at the top of the photo that looked black.  This was the result.  It’s not hugely different from the original.  Still cool looking.  And my baby is cool.  Actually, she’s was watching the rain and her Daddy who was removing vermin from a trap under the ground.  Huge vermin.  I’ll spare you that story.  Our driveway won’t be collapsing in any more.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

So, after my many diverging tales and making this post twice as long as it could be….this is the end result.  The photo below is only changed by using that grey dropper to sample a rock.  Boom.  Done.  And I’ve spelled gray a couple of different ways.  Just because I can.  Grey.  I just Googled it, I can spell it both ways.  Though I should be consistent in one post.  But I’m not going to be in this one.  Gray.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

Take a look at the before and after.  Wow, a big difference with just one click of the mouse.  The vermin was not a mouse. Definitely not a mouse.  It was about the size of many, many mice.  It looked as if it may have eaten a few mice.

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

Because I can, I added some haze to the photo and cropped it a bit.  Nothing glamorous and I probably won’t print this one, but it sure was fun to play with.  You never know, it may eventually make in into our 2015 Family Yearbook.  Now if I could just get started on 2007!

Changing White Balance in Photoshop Elements | Chrissy Martin Photography

How are you playing with your photos?

The Difference a Custom White Balance Makes

Hey there!  What’s happening in your neck of the world?  As usual, it’s a busy one here.  I always seem to be running from one place to the next and my camera is collecting dust.  But that’s okay. I’ve been whipping one camera or another out on Saturdays for my boy’s soccer games.  I’m thinking I should whip it out just to capture the everyday mess I’ve got going on.  I did vacuum.  Check.  That’s one thing I’ve done.  It won’t happen again for a month.

I thought I’d quickly show the difference a custom white balance can make.  I’ve progressed in my white balance over the past couple of years.  I use to be a straight up auto white balance girl.  I still am for everyday stuff.  For portraits…I’ve been learning and changing.  I use to do a custom white balance on my Nikon D3100 with a grey card.  Then I got an ExpoDisc to custom white balance and I absolutely adore that thing.  It’s my favorite piece of equipment after my 35mm lens.  I use to just white balance with it at the beginning of a session.  Now I white balance numerous times in one session, especially outdoor sessions.  If I change locations and the lighting changes, I do another custom white balance. This has made a huge difference in my straight out of camera photos and has cut down my editing time by a lot!

Right now I’m just going to show the difference in some photos I took for my girl’s eighth birthday with my mirrorless camera.  But really, you’ll get a difference with any camera.  I’ll show you the difference with my Nikon DSLR another time.


I had never shot a portrait session with my mirrorless camera before and decided to try it out on my daughter.  I don’t feel so bad failing if it’s with my family!  I have a Canon EOS M and I was using my 22mm prime lens.  I wasn’t quite sure how to custom white balance with the camera, but I thought I could figure it out.  I wanted to use the ExpoDisc, but I couldn’t figure that out.  When I was playing with the custom white balance feature, it wanted me to choose a photo to white balance from.  So, I ended up taking a photo of my daughter with the gray/white card in the auto white balance setting. Then I went in and pushed to set a custom white balance and selected that photo with the white card to use for the camera to custom white balance off of.  The next photo in the series was spectacularly different from the previous auto white balancing photo.  Apparently the custom white balancing worked!  Take a look below…these were shot in a sequence.  One right after the other.  No photos in between.  The only difference is the white balancing.


The auto white balance photo (on the left) is cool and the backdrop looks grayish white.  The second photo is the one with the card that I used for white balance.  The third photo (on the right) is the next photo taken with the custom white balance.  You can see it is warmer and the backdrop is more creamy.  The seamless backdrop is not white in real life, it’s a creamy white called Bone by Savage.  The custom white balance photo best reflects what I saw out of my eye.  Seriously, isn’t there a huge difference between the auto and the custom white balance?  Look at the color difference in the backdrop!  Even my girl’s skin tone is different in the photos.  And just for reference, all my settings were exactly the same for all shots you see here.  F2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/320.

I did a quick edit to my girl’s liking on the photos.  You can view some of her photos in this preview post.


There, short and sweet.  Kinda.  What do you think about white balance?  Do you custom white balance?  If you haven’t and you’re doing portraits, I’d suggest giving it a try.  You might like it.

How I Shot & Edited a Girl Senior Session

I had a couple of questions on this beautiful girl’s senior mini-session.  So I’ll do my best to answer them in this post.

Senior Girl

A mini-session is shorter and doesn’t include outfits changes.  We spent 45 minutes at an outdoor location and that was it.  Oh, except it was horribly windy.  Super windy.  Extremely windy.  Windy-windy.  Blow Dorothy and Toto away kind of windy.  This lovely senior was a trooper with dealing with the wind and I tried my best to find spots that weren’t too windy and tried to time my shots.  Not super easy when the wind is swirling in every direction.  But that’s springtime for ya!

Camera details: I used my Nikon D3100 with the 35mm lens.  My ISO was 100 because it was a sunny late morning.  My aperture was F2.2.  My shutter speed varied depending on the areas I moved her to.  It ranged from 1/640 to 1/1250.  Remember…your settings depend on the exposure you have and your exposure triangle.  I shot in manual mode and RAW.  I used spot metering and single-point focusing, since I didn’t have a subject moving on me (other than her hair).  I used all natural light.  I brought my reflector with me, but ended up not using it due to the fact that it was about flying away in the wind.  I used my Expodisc to set a custom white balance each time I moved her to a different location.

For editing: I’m not going to show you screen shots for these edits, because I don’t have any.  You can look at how I edited these senior’s photos if you want screen shots.  It’s similar.  His photos were taken the same week.


I used Dsisk Photography’s Make Me Wonderful Action set for Elements to help me edit these photos.  I use Photoshop Elements 11.


Here are my steps:

1) Opened my RAW file up and adjusted anything I needed to in Adobe RAW.  I mostly played with the highlights and shadows until they were pleasing to my eye.  That’s how I get the photos to be the lighter and brighter look that I prefer if I don’t totally get it in camera.

2) I started with zooming in on the face and editing there.  I edited the eyes with the Eye Enhancer action using a soft white brush at 30%.  I then used the Sharpen the Details with a soft white brush at 30% to sharpen the eyes and lashes.

3) I made a copy of the background to touch up any non-permanent skin & hair issues and background issues using the clone tool and spot healing brush.  I didn’t spend a long time trying to deal with the wind-blown look.  Sometimes it’s just best to leave it.

4) I used the Mouth Makeover to add some polish with a soft white brush set at 60%.

5) I used the Perfect Complexion Action with a soft white brush set at 30% and ran it over her skin.  I used the reduce reds layer and set it at 25% opacity and also the flawless glow layer at an opacity of 15%.

6) I used the Enrichen action and painted it on the background with a soft white brush set at 30%.

7)  I ran the A Little Punch action and set the opacity of it to 15%.

8) I then color matched an area on her cheek, put in a solid color layer in the soft light blending mode and put the opacity to 15%.

9) I cropped and was done.

That was it.  I did play with a few photos.  I added some sun flare to some and another I totally changed the background.  But those were some extra ones I threw in there because I wanted to play with them!  You can see the difference in the Before and After photo below.


There’s the quick version of how I edited those photos.  If you don’t understand all of it, I apologize.  It takes practice with Photoshop and I probably speak my own Photoshop language.  I’m all self-taught. Are you a Photoshop lover too?

How I Edited the Urban Senior Photos

How was your weekend?  Filled with stuff?  Mine was, but it was great.  I got to learn how to make chocolate truffles.  Anything with chocolate and girlfriends is a great time!

Today I’m going to quickly show you how I edited a photo from this senior’s session.  Here’s the before and after:


It’s not a huge difference.  Some people might like the before better, but I’m the one playing with the photos and I like the after better!  I prefer a brighter, lighter photo….almost nearing a little overexposed.  Personal opinion, it’s a great thing.  Sometimes.  You just gotta know when to keep it to yourself!  I do have to say…using an ExpoDisc to white balance has made a huge difference in my straight out of camera shots.  I have got to do a post on that in the next year.

For editing I used Photoshop Elements 11.  You can use real Photoshop or get by with a different version of Elements, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 13.  I also used the Make Me Wonderful set of actions for Elements from Dsisk Photography.  They’re $2 and so worth it to speed things up in your workflow.  Every action mentioned is from that set.

For this session I used my Nikon D3100 with the 35mm lens.  It was taken at around 12:30PM.  I used my Expodisc to set a custom white balance and I shot in RAW and in manual mode.

I’ll give you my camera settings for this photo, but remember that your camera settings will not be the same as mine.  It depends on your light and what is going on with your exposure triangle.  My camera settings for this shot were: F2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/1000.

I opened my RAW file in Photoshop Elements 11 and it brought it to Adobe Camera RAW.  I only tweaked the shadows a bit to -10.  I then opened the file into Photoshop Elements 11.

Here are my editing steps:

1) I made a copy of the background using the short cut Ctrl-J.  I put that in the blending mode of screen and set my opacity to 20%.  Sorry, I didn’t realize how hard it was to see these screen shots.  Something for me to improve on.  Isn’t there something to always improve on?


2) I did a levels adjustment.  I moved the black slider to the right to 5 and the gray slider to the right to 1.08.  This makes the photo a wee bit brighter to my liking.  I just go by my eye.


3) I did another levels layer adjustment to give some contrast.  I pushed the black slider to the right to 13 and the white slider to the left to 245.


4) I now make a copy of the background and do minor touch-ups.  I use the cloning tool for anything in the background (I don’t think I did on this photo).  I use the spot healing brush tool (Band-Aid) on any facial marks that will eventually go away.  I try not to get rid of anything that is permanent.  I do edit faces, but I try to use a soft touch and not alter the look of a person.  I didn’t do any softening on these photos, but I often will on females.  Just cause I’m a female and I like my face softened, so I do it to the other girls a bit.


5) Instead of my usual eye edits, I opted to use the Make Me Wonderful Set from Dsisk Photography for these photos.  I used the Eye Enhancer first.  I set my brush to a soft white brush at 30% and ran over the whites and color of the eye. In this screenshot, I’ve only painted the white brush over the eye on the left of the screen (his right eye).  It’s a subtle difference.  You don’t want alien eyes.  You can barely tell I did anything.


6) I then used the Sharpen the Details action to sharpen the eyes.  I had a soft white brush set at 30% opacity. I ran the brush over the whites, color, and eyelashes of the eyes.  That’s my preference, to always sharpen the eyes a bit more.


7) I decided I wanted a little more contrast or punch to the photo.  I used the A Little Punch action and decreased the opacity to 10%.


8) I use the Deepen the Background action to well, deepen the background.  I use a soft white brush at 30% opacity and run it over the background, avoiding the subject.  I want the subject to stand out a bit more.


9) In some photos I burn (darken) parts and in some photos I dodge (lighten) parts.  I tended to burn these photos more in the background or around the edges.  Kind of like a light vignette.


10) Then I would straighten and crop the photo, if needed.  I did it a bit to this one.  Then I sharpen the photo and save it.  Done.

Senior Guy

That’s it.  It’s more than some people do on photos and less than some.  I just enjoy playing around with photos.  How about you?

Portrait Preview: Lovely Senior Girl Mini-Session

This beautiful young lady and I were both hoping for a non-windy day for her senior mini-session.  Alas, this state can have horrendous winds in the spring and we didn’t get lucky on the wind front.  She gets the honorable recognition of being my “windiest session” ever.  With no option of rescheduling due to busy schedules, we dealt with the circumstances.  We may not have been lucky in the wind department, but I think we did get lucky in being able to get this girl some gorgeous photos.  She even looks great with the wind blown look.  This lovely lady definitely gets all the credit for being gracious with a not-so-perfect portrait day.  This is one of those sessions where I realize that God has His hand on it all.  It’s not in my ability to take great portraits, I work hard at photography, but I’m not naturally talented at it.  But it is God’s ability to use whatever measure of talent He gave me to deliver something special and show the people in the photos how truly beautiful they are.

Pastel Senior Girl Mini Session


It’s truly an honor to meet such wonderful people as this young lady and her mother through photography.  It’s even more humbling when I have past clients refer me. Thank you!!

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