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White Balance

Your camera offers a variety of white balance modes providing you with the opportunity to neutralise the color of the light under which you’re shooting and, thereby, produce more accurate (neutral) rendition of color.

Auto White Balance (AWB) empowers the camera to determine both the color of light under which you’re shooting and to select what it thinks is the correct white balance setting to achieve accurate color rendition. AWB is a relatively unsophisticated judge and, as a consequence, either does a good or a bad job.

Your camera also allows you to manually set the white balance to one of a range of options including the following:

  • Daylight/Sunny
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent
  •  Flash

For those shooting with their camera set to RAW, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s you or the camera that makes the decision as to the correct White Balance, or indeed how accurate that decision is. White Balance is easily re-set on the desktop in one of a variety of RAW Converters (e.g. Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW, etc).

However, if you’re shooting with your camera set to JPEG it’s essential that white balance be correctly achieved during picture taking, as it’s almost impossible to correct a JPEG with really poor white balance on the desktop.

There is an argument that JPEG capture is well suited to amateurs who don’t want to spend time refining their images on the computer. If you’re the type of person who simply is not in a position to work your images on the desktop (you may be time, money or equipment poor), then JPEG may well be the right option for your needs. It’s not the best quality, but it does provide a solution for making prints that may be appropriate to your needs. You take the photos and pass the card onto a local lab or kiosk for printing. It’s a simple solution that’s, probably, good enough most of the time.

The irony is that, to produce great images from JPEG captures, the photographer really has to know what they’re doing both in relation to exposure and white balance. Remember that if the camera’s AWB does a poor job your local lab will have a very hard time making prints with accurate color.

The good news is that, in theory, when shooting with your camera set to RAW, it doesn’t matter where your white balance is set, whether AWB or anyone of the manually selected white balance options. If either you or the camera get it wrong you can easily reset the white balance during RAW processing in applications like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.

The following group of images are based on one, single RAW exposure made with a Canon 5D camera. I’ve produced different versions of the image, each with a different white balance, in Adobe Lightroom for the purpose of comparison. Kelvin temperatures listed relate to the Canon 5D camera and may vary slightly between brands and models.

White Balance set to As Shot. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical lens

'As Shot'. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical lens

 

As Shot provides an accurate rendition of the color temperature under which you shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Daylight' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical lens

'Daylight' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 Aspherical lens

 

Daylight is designed for a color temperature of 5,200 degrees Kelvin, approximately the same color temperature as Daylight film (5,500 degrees Kelvin).

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Cloudy' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

'Cloudy' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

 

Cloudy is designed for a color temperature of 6,000 degrees Kelvin, producing a warmer rendition than would otherwise be the case with the camera set to Daylight

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Shade' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

'Shade' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

 

Shade is designed for a color temperature of 7,000 degrees Kelvin, producing an even warmer rendition than would otherwise be the case with the camera set to Daylight

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Fluorescent' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens.

'Fluorescent' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens.

 

Fluorescent, designed for a color temperature of 4,000 degrees Kelvin, would go some way towards neutralizing the warmth from such a light source. In this case the Fluorescent setting has further cooled an already cool (bluish) scene. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Tungsten' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

'Tungsten' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

Tungsten, designed for a color temperature of 3200 degrees Kelvin, would significantly neutralize the very warm colored light emitted from a Tungsten/Incandescent light source (e.g. ordinary household bulb). In this case the Tungsten setting has further cooled an already cool (bluish) scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Flash' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

'Flash' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

 

Flash is designed for a color temperature of 6,000 degrees Kelvin, the same as the ‘Cloudy’ white balance setting. Electronic Flash/Strobe emits a slightly bluish light, so the Flash setting is designed to neutralize the color from the Flash/Strobe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Auto' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

'Auto' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens

Auto is the result of, in this case, Adobe Lightroom determining what it thinks is the optimal white balance for the scene. If you were to set your camera to Auto White Balance (AWB) it would determine the color temperature of the light and, should that be either side of 5,200 degrees Kelvin, do its best to neutralize that color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Custom' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens.

'Custom' White Balance. Canon 5D camera with Canon 85mm f1.2 L series Aspherical lens.

I utilized the  Custom White Balance setting within Adobe Lightroom to adjust both the Color Temperature (yellow/blue) and Tint (magenta/green) to achieve what I consider to be the optimal White Balance for the scene. This may not translate onto your computer as well as I’d like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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