Basic Intro To White Balance

Words by Scott Bourne - A Platypod Pro
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

"CC BY-SA 4.0 Dencoba"

White balance is a crucial aspect of photography that ensures accurate and natural color reproduction in your images. It refers to the process of adjusting the colors in a photo to appear as neutral and balanced as possible, despite the varying color temperatures of different light sources.

In photography, different light sources, such as sunlight, fluorescent bulbs, incandescent bulbs, and flash, emit light with varying color temperatures. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) and refers to the warmth or coolness of the light. Lower Kelvin values, such as 2000K-4000K, result in warmer tones with a reddish/yellowish cast, while higher Kelvin values, such as 5000K-8000K, produce cooler tones with a bluish cast.

The human eye automatically adjusts to these color temperature differences, so we perceive white as white regardless of the light source. However, cameras need to be calibrated to capture accurate colors under different lighting conditions, which is where white balance comes into play.

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Most digital cameras offer various white balance settings, such as Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom. These settings allow you to correct the color temperature in your images to make them look more natural.

Here's a quick guide on how to use white balance in photography:

Understand the White Balance Presets: Most cameras come with pre-set white balance options, which are designed to correct for common lighting conditions. These presets are usually labeled with icons or names that represent different light sources, such as a sun for daylight, a cloud for cloudy conditions, a lightbulb for tungsten lighting, etc.

Use Auto White Balance (AWB): AWB is the default setting on most cameras and is designed to automatically adjust the white balance based on the lighting conditions. It can be a convenient option when you are shooting in changing lighting conditions or when you are not sure which white balance setting to use.

Use Custom White Balance: Custom white balance allows you to manually calibrate your camera to a specific lighting condition. To use this option, you need a neutral-colored reference target, such as a white or gray card. Take a photo of the reference target under the same lighting conditions as your subject, and then set it as the custom white balance in your camera settings. This will ensure accurate color reproduction in your images.

Adjust White Balance in Post-Processing: If you shoot in RAW format, you can adjust the white balance during post-processing using software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. These programs offer powerful tools to fine-tune the white balance by adjusting the color temperature and tint sliders, or by using the eyedropper tool to select a neutral area in the image.

Consider Creative White Balance: While white balance is typically used to achieve accurate color reproduction, you can also use it creatively to create mood or artistic effects in your images. For example, using a cooler white balance setting in a portrait can make the subject's skin appear more porcelain-like, while a warmer white balance setting can create a cozy and nostalgic mood in a landscape photo.


Understanding and using white balance correctly is essential in photography to ensure accurate color reproduction and create visually appealing images. Whether you adjust it in-camera using presets or custom settings, or during post-processing, mastering white balance can greatly enhance the overall quality and impact of your photos.


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