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Friday, September 28, 2012

Photography 101 {setting your white balance}

White balance is the process of correcting or removing color casts in a photo so that colors appear true-to-life and accurate.  The human eye is very good at doing this naturally, so you may not even notice the colors that come off different light sources.  But digital cameras aren't as good at it.  If you don't correct for white balance, or if you have your camera's white balance incorrectly set, you may find your photos tinted yellow, blue, green, or orange. Not a good thing.

Keeping it simple, and in my opinion, I only change my camera's white balance if it's an obvious situation that has a strong color cast.
This photo is from a student I mentored.  The photo was taken indoors, under artificial light, and ended up tinted yellow-ish before correction.  After correction, the food is a much more accurate and realistic color.
For most situations, my camera's AWB (Auto-White-Balance) mode is good enough, and correcting during post-processing is usually pretty fast and easy. So I only change my white balance setting in my camera when it's a obvious issue. But occasionally I will find myself in a situation that has a strong color cast that will tint my photos an unnatural color. Keep in mind, sometimes this strong color cast is NOT visible with the human eye.

Examples of situations that I would change my color balance in camera before I took any photos are
---in a restaurant or office building
---in a school gymnasium
---in a classroom or cafeteria  
---a little league baseball or soccer game at night under those bright powerful lights  
---in our own home in the evening (no natural light coming in windows) but lamp and overhead lights 
---any indoor lighting that is either all incandescent (regular ol' light bulbs) or fluorescent light

Setting your color balance in camera is pretty quick and easy. So if you find yourself in a situation that you know has a strong color cast, here are the steps to setting the white balance in your camera before you take photos. (These steps are for a Canon camera. Depending on your model you might have to tweak these directions a bit. If you own a Nikon, it's a similar process, but you might want to get your manual out if you can't figure it out.) 

You can adjust your camera's white balance in manual or any of the semi-manual modes, (P, Tv, Av, M, or A-DEP modes)

First, press the "quick control" button on the back of your camera that displays and allows you to change your settings.  

Then select the "White Balance Icon."  This button will be showing whatever setting your white balance is currently on, so it may look different, but will be in the same place each time you look for it.  If your camera is set on auto white balance, it will read "AWB" on the LCD screen.
After you press the "quick control" button of the back of your camera, this is the screen that will appear.  Look for the place to select your white balance.  In this camera, a Canon Rebel T3i, it is almost in the middle of the screen.  
Several white balance options will pop up represented by little pictures, including sunshine, shade, cloudy, and florescent light.  Toggle through the options and select the one that matches your surroundings.
Your camera may have more or less choices for color balance. Personally, I use the AWB all most all the time.
If I change it, it is almost always only changed to  incandescent, (the light bulb) or florescent (the rectangular light thingy) settings.
Lastly, press "set." And that's it! After you get used to where everything is, it'll take you about about 5 seconds to set.  

Some Canons have a dedicated white balance button on the back that allow you to go directly to step #3.  

This is a Canon Rebel T3i.  If you have a dedicated white balance button, it may be in a different place. Look for a button that says "WB," or look through your camera's manual to find out if your camera has one.  
And just a little warning . . .  if you change the white balance in your camera be sure to change it back to AWB (Auto-White-Balance) mode when you are done! Or you will get some awfully tinted photos (and not in a good way) the next time you take photos.  
Been there, done that.

A short recap for easy-peasy setting the white balance in your camera-
1--press the "quick control" button 
2--select the "White Balance Icon"
3--select the proper white balance setting, and push "set"

Holler if you have any quesitons.  I'm glad to help you.  
The new poll is over there on the right.  Vote for the next topic.  You can even vote once per day if you really have something you want to see.  

Tune in Monday! A super-duper big announcement on October 1st! I'm gonna give 'er a go and never regret not trying.
(I can't believe I actually put that in print!  I'm committed now!)
I'm so amazingly excited!

Photography 101


  1. This is a great tutorial! I can't get past the fact that you used a sushi shot for your example; I'm totally craving it now :o)

  2. Great tutorial! Thanks for stopping by earlier today. Your blog is lovely and I'm following back.

    Kimberly @

  3. Thanks for the tutorial. I have been frustrated by pictures with odd tints. This will help so much.


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