Friday Photo Tip: White Balance

by Reads (214)

Have you ever looked at one of your images and thought, “Wow! This picture looks blue”? Or, more commonly, “My image looks a bit yellow. That’s not what I saw when I looked through the viewfinder”? If so, you are not alone.

The problem with these images is that they were not properly white balanced. Although cameras generally do a good job of auto white balancing the images in-camera (before you ever see them), sometimes you will need to make some adjustments yourself.

Most cameras have an option to adjust their white balance (WB). White balance refers to the adjustment of color temperature in your image. Adjusting the color temperature or white balance in your camera will change the color cast of your image. Here is a breakdown of the white balance settings:

  • Auto-The camera does the work for you. It analyzes the scene and chooses what it deems as the best setting for that image.
  • Tungsten-Also known as incandescent lighting, this mode works well when shooting indoors as it “cools down” the image.
  • Fluorescent- Fluorescent lighting radiates a cool color cast to images. Using this white balance setting will “warm up” your image.
  • Sunny-This setting is basically a neutral white.
  • Flash- Flashes can give off a slightly cool cast. This setting helps counteract that by adding a hint of warmth to the image.
  • Cloudy-This setting will add just a bit of warmth to the image as a cloudy sky gives a slightly cool cast.
  • Shade-Shade produces even more cool tones than does a cloudy sky. Using this white balance setting uses more warmth than the cloudy setting.
  • Kelvin (K)-If your camera has this option it will allow you to manually adjust the Kelvin temperature setting. You can use this setting if you are familiar with the Kelvin scale of color temperature. It’s not hard to grasp and this setting will allow you to adjust to your precise needs. I have even used this setting when adding a cool mood to a well-lit wedding venue or warming up a shady family session at the park.

Below is a sample of white balance settings done inside near a window with indirect sunlight.


Auto                                                                     Tungsten


Fluorescent                                                         Sunny


Flash                                                                  Cloudy


My main piece of advice with changing your white balance is to do it carefully and after much practice. Auto white balance has come a long way since the beginning of digital cameras and in most situations you will most likely not need to change it. But when you do you will be glad you have an understanding of color temperatures. As always, have a great weekend and go grab that shot! 

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