How To: Emulate a Filter By Tweaking White Balance

Glass or gel filters aren’t the only way to change the tone of an image

Faux Filters

Faux Filters

Mike Vraneza shot with a Canon 28–200mm f/3.5–5.6 EF lens on a tripodmounted EOS 5D; exposure, 1.6 sec at f/8, ISO 50. For more of his work, go to mgvphoto.com.Mike Vraneza

The character of a landscape is conveyed, in part, by tonality. Rosy-hued sunsets, for instance, suggest an inviting world of warmth and intimacy. As Portland, OR, pro photographer Mike Vraneza discovered along the banks of the Potomac in Washington, DC, a cool blue scene communicates something else.

“In the eerie morning light,” he says, “the Memorial Bridge seemed perfectly serene, quiet, almost remorseful, which seemed right, because it leads off toward the Arlington National Cemetery.”

To obtain the mournful blues of Vraneza’s photo here, you could thread a cooling filter over your lens. Or you could apply the exact tonality you want, after the fact, by adjusting the white balance in an image editor. Vraneza does this during the RAW conversion process. Setting a high Kelvin temperature (e.g. 6000K) will warm a scene, while a low Kelvin number (2800K) will cool it down.