And How to Set a Correct White Balance Every Time
White balance is something that new photographer’s frequently miss. Some may think that nowadays cameras are so smart on capturing the correct color, that getting the appropriate white balance is not that important.
The fact is, you are going to be panicking about some color shifts when shooting purple, blue, yellow, red or other vivid color subjects.
Learning what is white balance and how to set it correctly is definitely worth your time.
What you are going to learn in this post:
- What is color temperature?
- What is white balance?
- The different camera presets
- The power of custom white balance
- Using a grey card to achieve correct white balance
- Using a lens cap to achieve correct white balance
Before talking about white balance, let’s take a quick look on the definition of color temperature. Different light sources gives color temperatures; a match is ~1700K, fluorescent lamps are ~5000K.
The human brain is so smart that it compensates for color and tint. Therefore, you see the subject in the same color no matter what the light source is.
White Balance in Camera
Light is generated from a light source, then travels to the subject, reflects and refracts into a camera lens and finally hits the camera sensor.
Since different light sources are giving different color temperatures, white balance compensates these color shifts.
To balance for the color shift, the camera is adding more blue to colder color temperatures in order to bring a blue image back to normal while adding yellow to warmer color temperatures.
Simply said, the lower K setting’s will make an image bluer and the higher K setting’s will make an image yellower.
Different Camera Presets
DSLRs have a bunch of white balance presets for you to choose from.
Here is the list of the presets:
- Auto - Works well in most conditions. Causes problems when shooting in tricky conditions, such as purple subjects.
- Tungsten - For shooting under tungsten, incandescent light as shown by the icon.
- Fluorescent - For shooting under florescent strips. Balance off the green tint as well.
- Daylight - Use this for a sunny day.
- Flash - Warm up the image for flash photography.
- Cloudy - Good for working under overcast sun or indoors.
- Shade - Results in a warmer image than daylight setting.
- Kelvin - Adjust color temperatures manually.
- Custom - Tells the camera what is “white” by the setting shoot.
This informational graphic from BoostYourPhotography has illustrated the differences with different WB modes.
Custom / Manual White Balance
Custom, or manual, white balance settings allow you to set the white balance manually. By telling the camera what a “white color” looks like, it will know how to balance the color temperature for you.
The camera looks at 18% grey as the reference to set color balance. In order to achieve perfect white balance, you need to tell the camera what 18% grey looks like under the environment you are shooting.
How to Use a Grey Card
A grey card is a card having 18% grey-ness. You can purchase it here. It is very simple to use a grey card. Here are the steps:
- Set WB to custom and focusing to manual focus
- Place the grey card exactly where you want to shoot
- Shoot the grey card out of focus
- Assign that picture to custom white balance
This video from Marlene Hielema shows you detail of using a grey card together with a WB lens cap.
The result of this technique is superior compared to using the auto white balance.
Using a White Balance Lens Cap
Truthfully, I seldom use a grey card but I have used a WB lens cap frequently. Using a WB lens cap provides the same results as using a grey card.
WB lens cap’s come in different sizes. You need to get one that will fit onto your lens.
A WB lens cap is so much more convenient than a grey card, in my opinion. A lens cap protects the lens. Every time before you shoot, you can simply switch to custom white balance and take a picture before taking off the cap.
Doing this will give you perfect color every time. No more yellowish and blueish shots!