White Balance

color temperature Color temperature

Light can actually be expressed as a Kelvin temperature; the temperature of the light can make it appear bluer or redder (see scale). Think of a reddish-yellow sky at sunset, while at noon the sky appears mostly blue. The white balance setting in your camera controls how the color temperature of the light source you are shooting under will be recorded either "cooler" (towards blue) or "warmer" (towards red"). Auto White Balance uses information from the scene and calibrates how a white object should appear under different light sources. While Auto White Balance works well for most situations, sometimes using one of the white balance presets — or if your camera supports it, setting white balance manually (One-touch) — will provide more accurate results.

Using your camera's White Balance Presets:

The white balance presets let you tell the camera precisely what type of light source you are shooting under. The presets are tied into a specific color temperature, and they give the camera a precise method to determine what white — as well as other colors — should look like under certain lighting conditions.

Adjusting white balance is typically done through the camera menus under WB. There are four common presets you will see, while some cameras may offer more settings for a closer match.

Typical settings under WB:

autoThe white balance is adjusted automatically so that colors look natural irrespective of the light source.
sunnyFor natural colors under a clear sky.
cloudyFor natural colors under a cloudy sky.
tungstenFor natural colors under tungsten lighting.
fluorescentFor natural colors under fluorescent lighting.
Outdoors, use the sunny setting for bright sunny days and the cloudy setting for overcast days. Indoors, use the tungsten setting for shooting under regular household bulbs and the fluorescent setting for shooting under fluorescent lighting.

Your camera may offer some additional presets:

evening sunlightFor shooting in evening sunlight.
6,700KFor shooting under a daylight fluorescent lamp (6,700K). This type of lamp is used mainly in homes.
5,000KFor shooting under a neutral white fluorescent lamp (5,000K). This type of lamp is generally used in desk lamps, etc.
4,200KFor shooting under a white fluorescent lamp (4,200K). This type of lamp is generally used in offices, etc.

Outdoors, use the evening sunlight setting for sunsets. Indoors, you may encounter different types of fluorescent light where one of the fluorescent settings may be better suited than the others.

Note: When shooting indoors with flash, set the camera to Auto White Balance unless your camera provides the ability to set a manual white balance (One-touch).

The image below, on the left, was shot using Auto White Balance. The image on the right was shot using the evening sunlight preset. If your camera doesn't have this white balance preset but has scene modes, use the sunset mode, which applies a white balance setting more appropriate for late afternoon sun or sunsets.

auto white balance evening sunlight
Manual White Balance (One-touch):manual white balance

When there is no near-white color in the image area, it is more difficult for the camera to determine correct white balance when set to Auto White Balance. In these situations, One-touch white balance lets you "tell" the camera what white looks like under the light your shooting.

To the right is a studio shot of a cologne bottle using Auto White Balance under tungsten lights. bottle photo 1
Next, using One-touch white balance we fill the frame with white under the same lighting as our subject. The setting is locked following the One-touch white balance instructions. wb card
Next, we take a shot using the One-touch white balance setting we just locked into place. The image now represents the cologne bottle's true colors.

The One-touch white balance setting will remain locked until a new one is set. If the results are still not quite right, check if your camera has white balance compensation, this will permit you to fine-tune the white balance towards more blue or red.

Remember to set your camera back to Auto White Balance when you are finished.

bottle photo 2

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