Photo Tips

Understanding White Balance

Custom White Balance

It’s a simple thing to adjust in our cameras, but many people default to using Auto White Balance. While this seems like a great way to go, allow me to explain why you might want to take an extra moment and set your white balance according to the scene before you.

Way back when, in the film days the two major players for the every day photographer was Kodak or Fuji. It was known that Fuji tended to be best for landscapes as it was ‘colder’ and accentuated blues and greens while Kodak film tended to be ‘warmer’ and enhancing portraits and sunrises.

The White Balance menu on your camera offers you a number of choices that represent the temperature of light. From a lower Kelvin number which represents blues or ‘colder’ to a higher Kelvin number which is more natural toned or ‘warmer.’

Auto White Balance

In my experience I find that Canon cameras tend to run cold so it’s best to adjust white balance in field to get it more accurate. The image above was captured with Auto White Balance.

Colorful sunrise, sunsets and scenes where a color dominates, whether it be the green of a forest, the blue of the water or the orange of autumn color the camera tends to pick up that dominate color and saturate it overall.

Daylight White Balance

Adjusting my white balance to Daylight, the scene warmed up some more and removed some of the artificial cold tones that the camera picked up. It still wasn’t as close to accurate to the scene I was looking at though. So I decided to try my little trick of Shade White Balance to see how the colors would pop.

Shade White Balance

And yes ! The orange really did pop out, but it was too orange and still wasn’t quite what I was looking at. Getting warmer though. 🙂

So, knowing that Daylight White Balance is Kelvin 5200 and Shade White Balance is Kelvin 7000 I wanted to select something in between that might work. Neutral daylight is Kelvin 5500 and Neutral Cloudy is 6000.

Dialing in Kelvin 5700, I hit the white balance nearly dead on accurate.

Kelvin 5700

Taking a few moments in field saved me from trying to adjust it in Lightroom, which frequently is difficult to do to get it as it was in the field.

Note that all of these images had minimal edits in Lightroom. Only Camera/lens correction and the same shade, white, black sliders applied with each of them.

If you haven’t worked with changing your white balance, you can pull out your camera manual and find the easiest way to change it. Practice a little and see how the different choices look to you. Good luck!

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