Digital Photography Tip: An Introduction to White Balance – Part II

March 15, 2013

Digital Photography Tip: An Introduction to White Balance – Part II

In our Part I post, we described what white balance is. But again, quickly, white balance is the system in your camera that ensures that colors, and especially whites, are rendered correctly in your images.

But now that we know what it is, how exactly do we use the camera’s white balance settings? How do we know which preset to use? That’s what we’ll talk about in this post.

Most cameras feature a number of different white balance setting to choose from. The tricky part comes in picking the right one.

The three photos below were taken at different white balance settings. The white balance settings are, from top to bottom: incandescent, fluorescent bulb and shade.

white balance

 

The good news is that the automatic white balance setting (AWB) does a good job of getting the colors in your photos correct most of the time. AWB is usually the default setting, but if it isn’t on your camera, switch it there. It will serve you well in many situations.

But, like all automatic setting, AWB can be fooled. That’s why camera manufactures have also provided you with some preset options. The number of presets available varies from camera to camera. Here are some of the common ones. But keep in mind, as you are reading these descriptions and the intended purpose of each mode that it’s up to you. There are no rules here, so experiment and play and see what looks good to you.

Automatic: In automatic white balance (AWB), the camera chooses the best white balance for the scene in the viewfinder. It does a good job most of the time, but isn’t foolproof.

Incandescent/Tungsten: This mode is usually denoted with a small light bulb. This mode is for use when shooting indoors under light from a standard household light bulb.

Fluorescent: This mode is usually represented by a small rectangular fluorescent tube. This mode is for use when shooting in the lighting from fluorescent tubes and bulbs. Since fluorescent light is ‘cool’, this mode adds orange or magenta to the scene to warm up your shots.

Sun/Daylight: This setting is denoted by a small sun. This setting is intended for shooting outdoors in the open sunlight where the sun is your primary light source.

Cloudy: This mode is represented as a small bunch of clouds and is for use when you are shooting under a cloudy sky, when your light source is the sun, but it’s being diffused through clouds. BTW, I also like using this mode in direct sunlight because it casts a warmer color than the Sun/Daylight mode.

Shade: This mode is usually represented by an icon that shows a house casting a shadow. This mode is for use when you are shooting in a shaded area, where the sunlight is not direct. Indirect sunlight tends to be very cool and blue, so this mode warms up your shots.

Okay, so now we can see how the different presets are supposed to be used. And, that’s great, but sometimes it can be fun to set the white balance wrong and see what happens. Using the white balance setting creatively allows you to selectively add warmth or coolness to an scene. It’s up to you.

But, what if you just get it wrong? What if you or the camera mess it up and your image ends up with a distinct blue or orange cast? Well, the good news is that you can usually fix that in image editing software. We’ll talk about that mode in our Part III post…

For Further Reading…

What is White Balance?

Choosing the Best White Balance

Color by Kelvin: A Better Approach to White Balance

How To Get The Perfect White Balance Every Time

Photos Too Blue? Your White Balance Might Be To Blame




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Our Blog

Creative Exposure Part Three: Shutter Speed
Creative Exposure Part Three: Shutter Speed

May 23, 2017

In our last post, we talked about exposure reciprocity and how there are many combinations of the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings that can yield a properly exposed photo. And with that, we saw how this idea of equivalent exposures gives us creative flexibility when choosing a combination of these exposure controls.

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part Two: Exposure Reciprocity
Creative Exposure Part Two: Exposure Reciprocity

May 13, 2017

In our last post, we talked about the exposure triangle. There we saw that exposure is a function of three components:

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part One: The Exposure Triangle
Creative Exposure Part One: The Exposure Triangle

May 03, 2017

f you are just getting started in photography, exposure is one of the first things you need learn.

But even beyond that, getting a good handle on exposure and how the different components of exposure work together is essential if you want to take control of your photography and the images that you are creating.

Continue Reading