WHITE BALANCE DOES NOT MAKE SENSE
Welcome to a beginner’s guide on white balance. When I first started photography and heard about white balance, it was one of those things that totally did not make any sense. How do you balance white? How do you balance color? What is there to balance?
As things turn out, everything about it does make sense, and it is important if you want color accurate photos. So if you want to make better photos, read on. Don’t worry, this is going to be a very short one.
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WARM & COLD COLORS
This is a quick rewind for those who might have missed it, and remember color temperature? Of how colors can be “hot and cold”?
- Color temperature is measured in Kelvins.
- The lower the color temperature, the more red / orange it is.
- These shades of red and orange are called warm colors.
- The higher the color temperature, the more blue it is.
- These shades of blue are called cold colors.
This is an important step to understanding white balance, because this is the root of the problem. The sun will have an orange color cast during sunrise/sunset, and blue color cast during the day. Even while you are indoors, you are not spared of the color cast from the artificial lights.
WHITE BALANCE TO THE RESCUE
This is where white balance steps in to correct the color cast. No, it does not turn an orange sunset into white daylight, but it does so that you don’t get an overwhelming orange photo. Just how do we do white balance then? Nothing. Since auto white balance is already “built into” nearly every modern camera.
Yes, you can manually override the auto white balance if you want to… Probably for some creative effect or stuff. I will not go into the tiny setting details since every camera is different. But in general, cameras should already have some preset modes you can use. For example :
Alternatively, you can also manually set the color temperature on your camera.
GREY CARD METHOD
What if you want super accurate white balance? There should be a “custom white balance” mode on most DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Not going into tiny details again, but in general :
- Switch to the custom white balance mode.
- Place a white balance grey card in the frame, or put on a more convenient white balance lens cap.
- Take a photo.
- The camera should automatically evaluate and adjust accordingly.
That’s it, but please do check the exact details on how to do this on your camera.
IS WHITE BALANCE REALLY IMPORTANT?
Yes it is, but it is also a factor that we easily overlook because automatic correction is already doing such a good job. But a word of advice for those of you who are still shooting in JPG – Switch to RAW, or you will have to get the white balance accurate on the spot.
The reason is very simple. RAW files contain a lot of data, and you can easily remove a color cast without quality loss. As for JPG files, they don’t have as much data, and removing a color cast can also mean losing even more image quality.
Here’s the end of the tutorial, and told you it’s going to be a short one. There’s really not much to fuss about in white balance, but do try the manual adjustments to get a gist of it. If you have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below.