Help me photograph California’s orange sky
September 9, 2020 8:56 AM   Subscribe

The sky here looks orange because of the wildfires, but my iPhone camera somehow is having trouble capturing the full feeling of the color. The orange in the pictures looks subtle and doesn’t pop the way it does IRL. Are there different settings I should be using to capture the look?
posted by johngoren to Technology (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
White balance will affect how vivid oranges tones are. You can try correcting it with post-processing. I don't believe the iOS camera lets you set it manually before you take a photo, but 3rd party apps do allow you to do so.
posted by Candleman at 9:15 AM on September 9

a camera app with manual white balance would help considerably.

because the daylight itself has an orange cast, a white sheet of paper will look slightly orange to the eye, but the camera app will automatically adjust it back to white, leaching the orange out of the sky and everything else.

Turning the flash on will generally override the auto-white-balance, and if you're taking photos of the sky or more distant features, sometimes the flash isn't a problem.

If you can find a gently illuminated white object (like a laptop screen or illuminated sign), you can also focus the camera app on that first, which will reset the WB, then shoot the picture without refocusing, but of course the focus is likely to be off.
posted by wreckingball at 9:17 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

IDK about iPhones but my Huawei allows me to shift the darkness/lightness of an image by dragging my finger across the screen, I probably use it with most images I take.
posted by unearthed at 9:50 AM on September 9

Many advanced camera apps such as Manual and VSCO Cam allow you to set the white balance manually, or lock/target the white balance separate from the focus. Might take some playing around with--also, you can capture images in RAW format and they'll be better suited to postprocessing.
posted by Maecenas at 9:54 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

If you really want the ability to experiment with post-processing to make it look like it does to your eye, something that will shoot in RAW is a good idea.
posted by Candleman at 10:00 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]

my kid just managed to do this by using the flash and taking a screenshot rather than a photo.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:24 PM on September 9

Changing the white balance is the correct answer here. Specifically, you need to change it to "Daylight" to capture what we're seeing right now. When set to "Auto" cameras will try to neutralize the tones in the scene, which is why it's correcting it to look like a normal gray sky.

As others have said, shooting raw images will let you change this after the fact. But it's simple to just do it in camera, if you have the option to change the setting yourself.
posted by bradbane at 12:32 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]

Ah, yes! I had this exact issue yesterday with my iPhone 11 Pro. A friend recommended an app called ProShot (for iOS); it costs $6.99 but IMO is worth it. Allows for custom white balance configuration and is very streamlined/intuitive to use.
posted by aecorwin at 2:03 PM on September 10

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