Photographically Speaking: Why White Balance Is Important

kevin-thumbnailKevin Bradshaw –

So what is it with all this talk about “White Balance” anyways?  The easiest way to explain what White Balance is, is by explaining what happens if you don’t have it right!

Have you ever taken indoor shots where the image has a yellowish or orange tint to the picture?  That is because your white balance is not set correctly.  Most cameras are set to AWB or Automatic White Balance and used that way.  Normally that works quite fine, but there are occasions where good old automatic, is just not good enough. The reason for adjusting the White Balance is to compensate for the many different colours of lighting that we encounter.  The human eye automatically adjusts for the various types and colour of light that we encounter on a daily basis but the camera does not equal the human eye in its ability to adapt.  Evening daylight has an orange tinge to it, as does most indoor lighting in homes.  Midday sun has stronger blue tones to it where fluorescent lighting produces a different quality of light again.

The colour of light is measured in Kelvin or K, with 2500K being very orange and 10,000 being very blue.  Normal midday light is 5200K which is quite white.  As we increase our K value from 5200 we get a more blue tone and as we decrease our light from 5200K we get a more orange tone.  When in an environment where we are experiencing strong orange tones, we need to compensate by adding blue to the image by increasing our colour temperature to say around 6500K for example.  In an environment where we are getting strong blue tones in our lighting then we need to compensate by reducing our color temperature to around 4000K for example.  But wait! There is an easier way.

Our cameras have White Balance settings for Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten,(also labelled Incandescent or Indoors), Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom.  The Custom setting will allow us to set the Color Temperature manually to the Kelvin temperature that we desire, but the pre set labels can save us a lot of work and improve those otherwise disappointing pictures.

So remember the next time you take a pic and look on the back of your camera to find a photo with a strong orange or yellow color tone to it, set your white balance to correct the problem.

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