Digital Photography – Proper Colour Reproduction

Some months ago, I went to ISKCON Chowpatty temple to click pictures of deities. We wanted to put some special pictures on Deity Darshan. I mounted my Nikon Coolpix 5200 on my tripod and clicked a few pictures.

I clicked with flash and was highly dissatisfied with the colour reproduction. Colours in the photographs were very much different from what I could actually see. Then I switched off the flash and clicked a few more pictures. Once again, the result was not to my satisfaction. I was highly disappointed. If a camera worth 20K can’t reproduce the colours properly, whats the use of spending so much? But I hadn’t lost hopes and knew that I was missing out on something.

Then I shifted the tripod to the other end of the temple hall. Once again, I clicked a few pictures with and without flash and this time even switched on and off a few lights in the hall. But it didn’t work. After a struggle for about an hour, I left it there for the day.

I went home and flipped through the pages of the camera manual hoping to find something that will improve the colour reproduction. Then I came across something and I was over-joyed. I tried various available modes. Also switched on and off a few lights in my room and took over 20-25 pictures. (Would have I ever done that with a film camera?) I checked the colour reproduction of those pics and immediately realised what was wrong! Afterall my camera wasn’t faulty. I was relieved. 😀

To cut this long story short, that magical setting was White Balance. 😀

There are many variations in settings with only one of them being the correct one for a situation. Auto settings work most of the times, but not always. Its better to learn more about the settings your digital camera offers. Only then can one use to its full potential. Of course, Photoshop and GIMP can do lots of improvements to a bad photo. But its easier to spend half a minute on camera settings rather than spending hours manipulating images later.

Here are the recommended settings given in the Nikon Coolpix 5200 manual. In addition to the following settings, there is an “AUTO” setting and also one adjustment to actually “measure” the white balance in case of mixed light conditions or condition which doesn’t fall under any of these categories. I think most of today’s digital cameras will contain similar settings.

Option Description
This is the white balance adjusted for direct sunlight.
This setting is for use under incandescent lighting i.e. mainly bulb type or yellow lighting.
This is for use under most types of fluorescent lighting. Coolpix 5200 has FL1 and FL2 setting. FL1 is for white light and FL2 is for daylight white/natural light.
This is for taking pictures under overcast skies.
This is for taking pictures when the sky doesn’t have clouds but the subject is in a shade.
This is for use with flash.

Note: If your camera has less settings, then it is not a good camera; if it has more settings, they are useless. 😉 In short, my camera is the best! 😀

Just to demonstrate how white balance affects colour reproduction, here are 15 pictures of a fruit tray taken in hotel room at Chennai (when I went for BlogCamp). I could take these pics while Deep was busy snoring. If he would have been awake, all the pics would have been of the fruit tray minus the fruits. 😀

I have also mentioned various settings used for clicking each picture. All the pictures were clicked at about 4:45 pm with table lamp on and curtains open. Ideally, curtains should have been closed, but I deliberately left them open to get a mixture of natural light (white) and lamp (yellow). Close up setting was (usually a small flower on most cameras) was also switched on to get proper focus.

Sr. No. Photograph Flash Setting Whether
flash fired
White Balance
1 Auto
Yes Auto
2 Off
3 Off
4 Auto
Yes Incandescent (bulb)
5 Off
Incandescent (bulb)
6 Auto
Yes Flourscent I
7 Off
Flourscent I
8 Auto
Yes Flourscent II
9 Off
Flourscent II
10 Auto
Yes Flashlight
11 Off
12 Auto
Yes Cloudy
13 Off
14 Auto
Yes Shade
15 Off

After all this gyan, here is one picture taken with ideal settings in the temple hall. Click on the picture to get the wallpaper of this lovely photogpragh. This picture has been laminated in various sizes (maximum 2 ft. x 3 ft.) and is sold in the temple store. It makes me proud to say that this is one of the most demanded picture. 🙂

Categorised as Hobbies


  1. Thank you.

    I had been thinking about this write-up for quite some time. But didn’t find a right object to click. But in Chennai, I got the opportunity and also a ready-made object. 🙂

  2. Well those fruit baskets pics that you showed that day seem to make all the things clear really love those pics.
    Nice work on the write up

  3. Nice gyan, Speaking of digicams – I have finally decided to get one after my exams in a couple of weeks.

    The fruit tray really makes me hungry this evening!

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