Photography Fun Friday- White Balance

Okay, I won’t be posting photography tips every single Friday, but I liked the alliteration!

Master White Balance Like A Pro!

The world of photography has always been something I’ve been interested in, though it’s something I’ve only done professionally for about 2 1/2 years. It was a huge leap for me, and it’s often still something I can’t believe is real. There is something I love about capturing a moment forever on film. It’s magical to me.

The first point I’m going to make, because I think it’s important, is that photography is subjective. What I think is beautiful, someone else might think is ordinary or boring. What strikes one person may not do anything for another. So, whatever ‘tips’ you find here – use them in your own way to create beautiful photographs to YOU, because after all, that’s what truly matters!

Where to start?? Well, I guess I’d have to start with light. Light is what photography is all about – I mean, Photography comes from the two Greek words, photo– meaning light and graphy – meaning draw. So, in other words, Photography means to draw with light! I guess you can say light, in relation to photography, is kind of important, am I right?

There are all kinds of light out there, and that light will affect so many things – the color, the depth, the speed of your shutter, everything. Today, let’s focus on how light affects the color in your photos.

White Balance is essentially how your camera reads the color white. A “correct” white balance is getting what you see as white in real life appear as white on film. Different kinds (or temperatures) of light will affect how white appears to your camera. For instance, if you are in a shady place, your whites might look bluer (or cooler). If you are in a sunset, your whites might appear yellower or orange (or warmer). If you are indoors under fluorescent light, your whites might look TERRIBLE! (ew. I hate fluorescent lights. Ew. ew. ew.) If your whites are looking all of these different colors – just image what the rest of your image is doing! Am I right? Right.

The trick is, telling your camera what light you are shooting in so it can make the necessary adjustments. There are a few ways you can go about it. I’ll talk about a couple of them here.

Most digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances, making your life a lot easier! Commonly used symbols for each of these can be seen below:

Do some of these symbols look familiar to you? Take a look at your camera and find how to access your White Balance settings. (Did I mention that you should KNOW your manual and have it ready to access at ALL TIMES? Seriously. Go get it. I’ll wait here. Ho hum.. Got it? Great).

Most of us shoot in the default mode of AWB (can you guess what that stands for? You got it – Automatic White Balance). This is letting the camera judge for itself what the lighting is like and it decides the best color. It works okay most of the time. By looking at the other symbols, though, you can probably guess what they represent. Why not try changing the White Balance settings to coordinate with where you are shooting and see if it makes a difference? Try using the Sunshine setting (daylight) when shooting in the daytime outdoors? Or use the Cloudy setting on those overcast days to add a touch of warmth back into your photos. Try the shade setting for even more warmth. The fluorescent setting – well, give it a go if you want, but it’s never great in my books (no fluorescent love here). See what happens when you play with some of the presets in your camera.

If you are super duper brave (and if your camera allows for it) try creating a CUSTOM white balance! It’s not that hard to do – all you need is a gray card (bought for a couple of bucks at a camera store) or an equally neutral gray ( I know it’s called white balance, not gray balance, but your camera sees everything in terms of neutral gray – another lesson for another time). You snap a pic of the gray card (be sure it fills the frame). Then, select the Custom White Balance preset (the one that looks like the two triangular ramps with the filled in square above them). Now go into your camera’s menu and scroll through to find something like “Custom WB” and select it. It will prompt you to choose an image. Select the picture of the gray card you just took. Now your camera will judge the light landing on that gray card and adjust the settings so your colors look right. Just remember that when you change lighting – your custom WB is out the window.
Shot with automatic White Balance:

It was indoors with regular tungsten lighting, so the colors ended up be super duper red. Last time I checked I didn’t have this sunburn 🙂

With a custom white balance, this is what you’d get:

What is your challenge? Play with your White Balance settings. Try using different settings while shooting in the same light. Can you see the difference in colors? You should find your photo colors improving as you use the proper White Balance settings while shooting. Good luck!

10 thoughts on “Photography Fun Friday- White Balance

  1. Thank you so much! No wonder my layouts look so awful when I take picture of them – I do it in my kitchen with … fluorescent light. Right. I’ll do that grey balance trick and set up another location for those layouts. Thanks again!!! :)))


  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this in real easy to understand terms. I have been fighting with our camera settings for a while and now I know exactly what to do!


  3. congrats on getting a career going its one of my dreams and I hope to get there one day. Soon as these rotten kids go to school. I have two more yrs before the baby starts.


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