White Balance in Photography: The Essential Guide

The essential guide to white balance in photography

What is white balance in photography? And how can it improve your photos?

In this article, I will share All you need to know about white balanceIncluding:

  • Which white balance camera settings to use to get consistently good results
  • How white balance can instantly improve your shots
  • How you can use white balance to get great creative effects in your photos

I will also explain related key terms, such as color temperatureAnd White balance presetsand more.

Fortunately, although white balance may seem like a tricky topic, it’s actually quite easy to understand. So I promise you: by the time you finish this article, you will be an absolute WB expert!

Let’s get started.

What is white balance in photography?

White balance refers to the process Removal or neutralize Cast color in your photos.

It’s about taking a picture like this, full of distorted colors and very blue:

Blue pear without white balance

And add even warm colors to you Balance Out of color, so you get an end result like this:

Pear with proper white balance

You see, most light sources produce an unreal color. And although our eyes are very good at correcting this in real time, the camera captures the subject as it appears in life: sometimes neutral, yes, but sometimes very blue (as in the pear photo above) and sometimes very yellow (as in the photo below ). In each of the blue and the yellow White balancing is necessary to create a neutral image.

Here is a picture of a very yellow pear that requires great white balancing:

Pear with a warm color blossom

Note that during the white balancing process, you technically adjust colors to two spectrums:

  • Blue-yellow spectrum, also known as color temperature
  • Purple green spectrum, also known as light color

In general, natural light only requires correction along the blue and yellow spectrum, but some types of artificial lighting may produce a noticeable tint, in which case you will need to correct that as well.

Color temperature explained

The bulk of white balancing in photography consists of color temperature revision. You are correcting a mold caused by the color temperature of the light, which lies along the blue-yellow spectrum.

Photographers indicate different color temperatures using the . extension Kelvin size. Warmer color temperatures, such as those produced by a candle flame or sunset, have a lower Kelvin value, such as 3000 K. Temperatures, resulting from clouds or shadows, have a high Kelvin value of 6000 K and beyond.

Cooler light has a higher Kelvin value? Warmer light has a lower Kelvin value?

Yes, you read this correctly, and it can be confusing, especially if you have not come across a color temperature scale before. But you’ll get used to it over time (and it might help to think of color temperatures as just a file against what you would expect).

Why is white balance important?

Color casts cause two problems in photography.

First, they prevent you from taking over preciseAnd correct colors in the scene. If you want to portray a beautiful red sunset just as it appears to your eye, you will need to neutralize any color variations; Otherwise, your photo will not match the real-life conditions you experienced.

This can also be a problem if you are doing product or real estate photography, where the goal is to portray the subject as as real as possible.

Second, colorful templates tend to pop out bad. They can mess with skin tones, they can create muddy shadows and grumpy highlights, and they can create unwanted moods in your photos.

As I explain later in this article, you can use a color combination for creative effect – but it’s important to do so carefully And Deliberately, not as a failure to properly white balance in a scene. Logical?

Two methods of white balancing

You can adjust the white balance of your photos in two broad ways:

  1. In camera, Before Take a snapshot
  2. Then, post-processing

Both approaches can work, but there are some important caveats to keep in mind:

In-camera white balance

Most cameras allow you to adjust the white balance settings before you take a picture.

For example, you can select the white balance prepared in advance (such as Tungsten, Flash, Cloudy, etc.), allowing the camera to roughly understand and compensate for lighting conditions.

Some cameras also allow custom white balance. Here, you simply dial a Kelvin value (remember the color temperature scale I shared above?). A higher Kelvin value will balance out cooler light and a lower Kelvin value will balance out warmer light.

The camera may be able to balance white with a gray card. Put the gray card in front of the camera, select the appropriate function in the list, take a picture, and – voila! – The camera will create an accurate color temperature profile of the scene.

But while these white balance options let you manipulate color variations in the field, they do come with some drawbacks:

  1. Unless you are in an enclosed environment, the light will likely change during the course of shooting. You will need to periodically refresh the white balance preset or redo the gray card process as the sun passes behind the clouds, at sunset, etc.
  2. White balance presets, while easy to use, are approximate. Often they will not produce a perfect result.
  3. If you are shooting from a distance, reading a gray card is impossible.

That’s why some photographers prefer a different method of white balance:

White balance during editing

White balancing in post-processing is very simple:

Just set the camera to the automatic white balance function when shooting.

Then, when you get home, open your photos in the editing program of your choice.

Most editors offer a similar process, which involves using a white balance dropper to select a neutral tone and fine-tuning via the temperature and hue sliders. (Below, I give a step-by-step process for balancing white photos in Lightroom.)

You can balance the whites for each photo individually, or you can create a white balance adjustment for a single photo (or small group) of photos, then sync the adjustment across the entire batch.

White balancing after the fact is great, but like in-camera white balancing, there are a few points you should keep in mind.

  1. You will need to devote additional time in post-processing to do the white balancing. And while you can save time with batch processing and presets, if you take a lot of photos under different lighting conditions, you may prefer the relative ease of in-camera white balance.
  2. Unless you take pictures with a gray card in the frame, you may have a hard time getting a file perfect White balance result with editing. In many cases, that’s OK – the hue may be barely perceptible – but if you’re photographing products, your customer may be asking for literally perfect colors.
  3. For complete white balance flexibility in editing, you should shoot in RAW format. While JPEGs allow some white balance adjustments, an unacceptable amount will often be restricted – while RAW files allow you to adjust and reset the white balance entirely.

So while both the post-processing balancing and the in-camera white balance can be maintained, you will ultimately need to choose the option that works best for You are.

How to white balance using presets

While white balance presets aren’t the most accurate way to correct color, they’re an easy way to get started (and if you’re taking pictures to share on social media, they might be all you need).

Simply drag the white balance menu into the camera. You should see several presets, such as:

  • Sunny, working in the mid-morning and afternoon sun
  • Shade, which works for scenarios with heavy shadows (for example, pictures under a tree)
  • Cloudy, which works with outdoor scenes featuring overcast lighting
  • Flash, which works with scenes lit with standard off-camera Speedlights and pop-up flash
  • Incandescent, works in indoor scenes lit by standard warm lamps
  • Fluorescent, which operates in indoor scenes lit by fluorescent lamps

Then choose the most suitable preset for the lighting conditions you are facing and start taking pictures! You will need to pay close attention to the light while you continue to photograph; If it changes drastically, you should switch the presets to reflect the new conditions.

How to white balance your photos in Lightroom

Color correction in Lightroom is a quick and painless process.

First, open an image in the development module, then find a file WB Section on the right side:

Adjust white balance in Lightroom

Next, select the dropper icon:

Eyedropper tool in Lightroom

Then click on a part of your photo that should look like an extension neutral gray or white; (Don’t be afraid to click on a few different places, especially if you’re not sure what counts as “neutral.”)

Move the eyedropper tool over the subject

If you can’t find a neutral area to sample, or you don’t like the results, you can always head over to Temperature And color sliders:

White balance temperature and color

You probably won’t need to adjust the hue slider much, but feel free to drag the Temp slider back and forth until you get a neutral image.

White balanced image of a pear in Lightroom

How to creatively use white balance for different effects

While it’s always important to start with color correction for your photos, you can sometimes improve photos by intentionally pushing the white balance in the wrong direction. This generally works best when implemented in a post-processing program, Not In the camera (although you can technically do it either way).

The idea here is simple:

By applying super cool white balance to your photos, you can create a moody moody effect.

And by applying a very warm white balance to your photos, you can create a welcoming and attractive image Nostalgia impact.

I wouldn’t recommend pushing the white balance too far – at some point, your photos may look unnatural – but a cool or warm color is often nice when added with care.

Note that you can also use an “incorrect” white balance to exaggerate scene conditions. Adding cool tones will give the photos a dark or night effect, while adding warm tones will give the photos a sunrise or sunset effect. Again, use this technique carefully. It’s easy to overeat and end up with flashy and unpleasant results.

White balance in photography: the last words

Now that you’re done with this article, you’re ready to start adjusting the white balance in your photos – and you can even hit the white balance for artistic results.

So get out with your camera. Practice working with white balance. And make your photos shine!

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