White Balance – Learn a Mode Mode Monday

It's All About Balance

It’s All About Balance

What is White Balance?

The White Balance setting (WB) on our digital camera controls the overall color cast of the image.  The reason why there may be a color cast on our pictures is because this is the way that digital cameras react to light temperature.

Every light source- the sun, light filtered through clouds, a bulb inside or florescent all have a different light temperature.  And each temperature results in a different color hue.   Our eyes naturally filter out these color differences and in most cases all light appears the same.

Digital cameras however do see the differences in different light temperatures and hence different “colors” of light.  The White Balance setting adjusts to counteract these color casts.

Just use Auto White Balance?

In most cases our camera’s Auto White Balance does a pretty good job at setting this mode correctly, however in some scenarios we are going to have to adjust this setting manually.  This is especially true if we are shooting without flash and in a particularly unusual lighting situation.

Here are some pictures I took without flash to demonstrate.  My subject’s dress is supposed to be snowy white:

Auto White Balance

Auto White Balance

As you can see in the first picture, by leaving the camera’s White Balance setting to Auto, the light inside gives an overall yellow hue or cast to the picture.

White Balanced adjusted for Tungsten

White Balanced adjusted for Tungsten

In the second picture I changed my White Balance setting to compensate for this by changing the WB to Tungsten – Much better and definitely more realistic!

Experiment

You can experiment with the White Balance Setting on your camera.  Look for the WB symbol either on the back of your camera as a shortcut button or in the functions menu.

Most types of light are preset for you there

Daylight

Cloudy

Fluorescent

Tungsten (which just means a regular bulb)

Check your camera manual so that you can decipher the WB icons and play around with the settings to see the different effects that you get.  This works best if you take a series of the same shot, especially if your subject includes something white so that the effect is really obvious and shoot without flash.

You’ll see how by changing this one small setting on your camera you can achieve very different results.

Happy snapping!

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Comments

    • Katie Smith says

      Nice tip! I have been thinking how to fix my digital camera because I always see color cast on my pictures. Will surely try to experiment with the white balance feature of my digital camera. Thanks

      Katie Smith
      My Blog: iContact Discounts 

    • says

      I never thought white balance can make a difference. People would just take for granted the white balance setting because it’s not really that important. Thank you for this helpful tip. I’ll probably play with the WB setting in my cam.

      Nicole’s Last Blog: Perfect Light

  1. says

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  2. says

    White balance seemed to be much more difficult to get right for me with my Nikon D60. I just recently upgraded to a new D7000 and the pictures seem to be much better balanced. I’ve been practicing using the “K” settings to get a feel for what the differences are and the live view mode on the camera makes this especially helpful.

  3. says

    Hello …. I want to get CORRECT colors. I take purple flowers, for instance, inside and out …and I keep getting blue flowers. I also do not get fabric colors correctly. I learned where my white Balance is on my Cannon Powershoot and I was told to use a white board or 18% gray board first and it did not change anything. So exactly how do I use the White Balance? Do I put in on and click first and then go back to Manual or P or Av or some other again setting and shoot the photo? THANKS so much. I love close up with flowers and plants and their colors are often not ss I SEE them. THANKS so much!

    • says

      Hi Morgine,

      Thanks for your question. Which setting are you currently shooting in? Auto, Program, Tv or Av? There could be numerous factors at play here. Let’s see if we can figure it out!
      Ingrid

  4. says

    Hello! I am so sorry I missed you on Sheila’s call!! I did not know you would be there! I am practicing shooting mostly on Av and Manual. I don’t know how to use the P setting and how it is different than the C or Custom setting? My photography Meetup Group had someone explain about white balance and I thought I understood, however, in practice it did not work. So in either Av or Manual, how do I take close ups of flowers, for instance and get the colors correct. I have tried using the settings for the different kinds of light as you explained and that sometimes gets a little more purple than before, however the flower is still more dark blue than purple. The gold cloth I photographed something on for Sheila class outside, looked more orange and I had used the sunlight setting, being in sunlight and changed my angle. Still looked light orange instead of gold. THANKS SO MUCH!!

    HUGS, Morgine

    • says

      OK Morgine, first can you send me the link to one of the pics where you’re not getting the correct color? I had a peak through your Flickr stream but all colors appeared fine to me. We’ll have a look at one specific picture and see if we can figure out how you can improve on it.

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