Tutorial to learn how to adjust the White balance in photography, on a camera
In this photo tutorial we will see what the White balance in photography is and learn how to adjust it. “colour temperature”
What is the white balance?
The white balance is one of the adjustments you need to make if you want your photos to be as close as possible to the reality of the scene being photographed.
When we talk about white balance, we talk about colour temperature.
What is colour temperature?
To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to know that each source of light has a different colour. Thus a candle will produce a yellow-orange light while an electronic flash will produce a blue light.
The light outside changes colour depending on the time of the day and the weather. While at the beginning and end of the day with a clear sky the light will often have an orange hue, it will be warm light.
In the middle of the day with a cloudy sky the light will have a blue tint, so it will be cold light.
Each source of light therefore has a different colour temperature. In order to classify these lights we refer to a colour temperature scale measured in Kelvins (K).
Warm light has a low colour temperature (ºK for a candle), cold light has a high colour temperature (6,500 K for cloudy weather).
The light is made of three colours: red, green, and blue – RGB. Depending on the source, one colour will dominates the others. These three colours must be balanced for us to get white light.
This is why it is necessary to calibrate the White balance in photography.
The White balance in photography settings
1. Automatic white balance
Nikon: “AUTO” for “Automatic”
Panasonic and others: “AWB” for “Automatic WB”
The automatic white balance is the default setting on most cameras; so the camera will manage the white balance on its own according to the sources of light.
However, the automatic WB setting may be different from one shot to another depending on the frame used and the light of the scene.
If you want to have a stable colorimetry, in this case it will be better to choose a preset white balance setting.
2. The preset White balance in photography settings
…allow you to manually select a colour temperature that best matches the scene.
You will tell the camera what light conditions you are in at the time of taking the photo. Then the camera will apply a preset correction according to the chosen mode.
For example, if you choose the artificial light mode “Tungsten lighting”, the camera will expect warm light and cool the photograph by moving the temperature up into the blues.
However, if you change rooms or go outside and forget to change the setting, your next photos will be bluish.
It is therefore important to choose the correct setting for each colour temperature when shooting.
3. Setting it in kelvins
On many cameras it is possible to adjust the white balance in Kelvins.
The operation remains the same:
If you choose a high value, say 7,000°K, in addition you will tell the camera that the light source is cold. The camera will compensate by warming up the photo so that the blanks appear white.
Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.]
4. Adjusting the white balance in manual mode
The white sheet method:
- Place a blank sheet of paper in front of your subject.
- Switch to manual focus.
- Set your camera to “custom White balance in photography”.
- Photograph the blank sheet with a frame containing only the sheet.
- Congratulations, your white balance has been set.
This setting is valid as long as you are working with the same lighting conditions. If these conditions change, you will have to do it again.
Adjustment in RAW and postprocessing
If you shoot in JPEG, you can make some adjustments in a retouching software such as Lightroom, but you will not have much leeway because it will degrade the quality of your photos.
You can correct the white balance at will and without any loss of quality if you shoot in the RAW format. Besides this is one of the many advantages of this format. See more in this tutorial.
By working in the RAW format you will never have to worry about setting the White balance in photography when shooting again.
Photo editing software, such as Photoshop or Lightroom, has high-performance colour management tools. By using them correctly you can easily correct the white balance when shooting.
To find the original colours in your retouching software select the Eyedropper tool then click on a neutral white dot in the image. Your photo will regain colours.
Adjustment of the White balance in photography is a relatively important element which should not be neglected.
The easiest way is to use the Auto mode and let the camera decide. You will be guaranteed to have the most neutral photos that will suit you in most cases.
Take your photos in the RAW format, and you will have full freedom to choose the settings that best suit you in postprocessing.
Also: How to adjust the WB in Lightroom?
You now know how to adjust the White balance in photography!
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Have a nice photoshoot!