Weekend Photographer ~ on White Balance

Most of us don’t even notice that light has different color characteristics because miraculously, the human eye automatically adjusts to different color temperatures.  It only takes milliseconds for the eye to do so.  Once upon a time, when color film ruled the world and there were no digital cameras, photographers would select which film to use depending on what their light source was going to be. Also, different lighting situations had to be handled by using color filters over the lens.  Luckily for us, our digital cameras have the ability to perform this same process automatically.  I decided to override the AUTO setting and set it manually because I’m all about maintaining control over everything that influences my final image.

Have you ever been shooting away and then put your photographs on your computer only to discover that they had a yellowish, greenish or blueish color cast?  That would be a white balance problem and happens most with indoor photography.  But first, let’s go outside for a bit.

I took my camera outside into a daylight environment and photographed the same scene using different white balance settings.  Auto White Balance works pretty well outdoors but generally doesn’t work very well indoors.  Most digital cameras, even point and shoots, have the following options to choose from:

  • Auto:  The default setting for your camera.
  • Daylight:  Most often used for general daylight/sun-lit shooting
  • Shade:  Used when working in shaded areas that are still using sunlight as the dominant light source.
  • Cloudy:  The choice for overcast or very cloudy days.  This and the Shade setting will eliminate the blue color cast from your photos


AUTO White Balance Setting


SUNNY White Balance Setting


SHADY White Balance Setting


CLOUDY White Balance Setting

This scene had direct sunlight hitting the prairie grass with some shaded areas in the background and around the grass.  My Auto Balance did pretty well with this scene but I think I prefer the Cloudy setting best.  The Cloudy setting took the blue out of the snow, kept the shadows and added warmth to the grass.

But the real beauty to taking control of your white balance settings is when you move indoors!  Look at the difference between the following two photographs and I think you will be able to see why it is worth it to investigate your White Balance settings on your camera.  These photos were taken in my kitchen under Tungsten lights.

My choices were:

  • Auto:  The default setting for your camera.
  • Tungsten:  Used for any occasion where you are using regular household-type bulbs for your light source.  Tungsten is a very warm light source and will result in a yellow/orange cast if you don’t correct for it.

AUTO White Balance Setting

TUNGSTEN White Balance Setting

Clearly the color and lighting in the second photograph looks more natural.  And my countertops look cleaner, too!

So there you have it, the Mum’s amateur tips on how to avoid white balance problems.  Outside?  Nominal, just a matter of preference perhaps.  Inside?  Absolutely, positively a must!  Go ahead and give it a try on your camera and be one step closer to having better photos!

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