Intro to the Digital Camera: Part Three - White Balance

April 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

Intro to the Digital Camera: White Balance

In the past few weeks, you've been reading all about the parts of the camera and how to use them to take awesome photos - or if you havent, you should do so before you read this week's blog.  :)

This week, we're going to take a look at white balance (WB).  We've all taken photos that have a strange tint to them when we look at them on the LCD.  This is your WB.

In the photo below, the bride and groom chose lots of colorful lighting.  It looked amazing, but didnt look quite right in all of the photos if the camera wasnt properly white balanced.  In this case, I thought the white balance looked cool and left it, but it's always better to have your camera correctly white balanced when taking photos.  It cuts out a lot of work in the end!  (I was a guest at this wedding, so I didnt take many photos and wasnt particularly concerned with my WB; I try not to feel like a photographer at my friend's weddings because it distracts me from enjoying myself.) 

We control the camera's white balance to remove any unnatural color casts in the photograph.  Our eyes are good at adjusting to the changes in color temperature around us, but each type of lighting has a different color cast, as well as a different value on the Kelvin Scale.  

Kelvin Scale
Color Temperature Light Source
1000-2000 K  Candlelight
2500-3500 K  Tungsten Bulb (household variety)
3000-4000 K  Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 K  Fluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 K  Electronic Flash
5000-6500 K  Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 K  Moderately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K  Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

Sometimes, the camera has a tough time deciding which WB to choose when set to automatic.  This is why it's important to know what WB is and how to use it.

Most cameras allow you to control your WB.  There are a variety of settings in the table below with the common icon associated with them to their left.

Typical White Balance Camera Presets
Automatic White Balance The camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis.
Tungsten This mode is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.
Fluorescent Compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
Daylight/Sunny Not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
Flash The flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
Cloudy This setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode.
Shade The light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little
Custom You can set your custom white balance when you're in unique lighting (like when you're at a wedding with purple LCD lighting everywhere).  
Kelvin You can select your Kelvin temperature on your camera based on the lighting you are in (see values above).

Fixing your WB in post (editing) is never ideal.  It almost never looks 100% correct and it can take a lot of work.  Knowing how to use your camera is always better than trying to fix mistakes in editing.


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Photos from the Harty, a team of lifestyle, wedding, and event photographers. We love capturing moments and telling your stories! If you like what you read and like what you see, please reach out to us.  We look forward to meeting you!

xo,

Sara, Katie + the Photos from the Harty team

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