White Balance can be a source of huge frustration in photography! I've written quite a few posts on white balance previously, showcasing some different ways to set it and so on, but I felt it might be useful if these were all together in one place, so you could learn all about white balance from start to finish in one single post. Let's start with a quick recap on white balance actually is.
What is White Balance?
Throughout the day, the color of light keeps changing. From sunrise to high noon to early evening, all have a different color and tint. Artificial light also emits a different color - for example tungsten (lightbulb) light is different from the light produced by a flash. Our eyes can automatically adjust for these changes in temperature, so we don't often don't see these changes in color. If you look at the image above you'll see white balance in action - each copy of that same image has a different white balance applied. It makes a huge difference doesn't it?
Broadly speaking, our goal in photography is to get the correct color tone for the conditions we are photographing in. We want our camera to compensate for these changes in color, so that the color tone is neutral - in other words where white is white and black is black. This is called White Balance, because we are balancing the colors in camera to get a correct tone. If we get the white balance wrong, then we will have a color cast on an entire image - where white would look slightly (or very!) yellow, or blue. Although there are times when we may want to embrace an incorrect white balance for artistic reasons, for example, warming up a sunset or really hitting home how cold it was outside by making it more blue, for the most part, we want the white balance to be correct in camera.
How Do I Change White Balance?
Our cameras can adjust for these different lighting conditions. They can do so all on their very own by choosing AUTO white balance. For many times, AUTO will get the white balance correct. In scenes with normal daylight lighting for example, it's usually pretty spot on. However, in shady / cloudy conditions, or worse artificial lighting (in fact anything away from normal!) it tends to get all confused and give us the wrong white balance. This is why by far the easiest way to make sure you get a correct white balance is to set it yourself - that way you don't have to try and figure out whether your camera got it right or wrong!
So, here are some posts about the difference ways you can set this in camera, along with a comparison of a few of the different methods, plus a step by step guide to how you can change this in post processing.
This post is an overview of the 6 ways to set your white balance - AWB, Grey Card, White Balance Filter, Expodisc, and Kelvin.
The Expodisc is my favorite method of setting white balance. It's just so quick, easy and accurate that it makes life much, much easier all round. You can find out all about what the Expodisc is AND how to use it in this post.
This color of light is determined by the temperature of light, and this is measured in something called Kelvin. This post looks at the color temperatures of light (useful to know anyway) and how to set white balance using Kelvin.
You may prefer to use a grey card to set your white balance. This post breaks down how to use one step by step.
This post compares all the above methods, and sees which one is the most accurate in different lighting conditions.
Of course there are times when you just don't get around to setting white balance in camera, or the light or your subject moved and therefore the white balance changed. That's why it is always useful to know how to change white balance in processing.