Although I always recommend setting your white balance in camera (and here's my favourite way to do it!) it's relatively easy to correct your white balance in processing, in either Photoshop / Elements and Lightroom. If you have a neutral tone in your image, then you can literally fix it in a matter of minutes (if you don't, it's a little bit more tricky, but still do-able!))
Checking and fixing your white balance should be the first thing you do in editing to an image, but if you are not sure of the steps AFTER it, then make sure you download my free Lightroom Starter Kit- in it is an editing checklist that walks you through EVERYTHING you should be doing to your images! You'll also get some more goodies like an guide to importing, an export cheat sheet and some presets. And it's totally, 100% free!
OK, now let's get started with how to adjust that white balance :)
Step One: Grab Your White Balance Tool
The first thing you need to do is grab your white balance tool - this looks like a big dropper. They look a little bit different in ACR and Lightroom, so I've taken a screenshot of each below so you can see what they look like.
Step Two: Check Your Neutral
Below is an image that I took where I didn’t set the correct white balance in camera (tsk, tsk) and I’ll use this today to demonstrate a couple of different ways to set your white balance in processing.
You can probably tell just by looking at it that it is too cool (all that blue!) so we need to check and change the white balance on this one for sure!
However, if you weren't so sure whether the white balance is correct, you can check it - by hovering your white balance tool over a neutral area.
In this particular image, there isn't a whole lot of neutrals we can use (neutrals being anything white, black or grey) but having even one neutral in your image makes setting the correct white balance much easier. In this case, we could use the small area of white vest we can see peeking out under her cardigan as our neutral.
All you need to do is take the white balance tool and hover over your known neutral. If the RGB numbers aren’t all almost equal (it doesn’t matter what the numbers are, just that they are all the same or nearly the same) then your white balance is off!
Step Three - Click on The Neutral Area
Changing your WB super easy, simply click with your dropper on your chosen neutral area - in this case I’m clicking on the concrete on the sidewalk - and your image will change to the correct white balance by making the RGB numbers of that area the same. (told you it was easy!)
As you click around the neutral area you will find that your will get a slightly different color to your image. All you need to do is choose a white balance that is most pleasing to you, or what looks the most like the scene really did. Get it as close as you can at this stage.
(Psst, don't forget to download your Lightroom Starter Kit so you know what steps to take after you have fixed your white balance!)
Step Four - Fine Tune with The Sliders
From here, you might need to fine tune by moving the sliders that are just underneath your dropper tool in Lightroom (or at the top of the basic panel on the right in ACR)
If you think it is still too cool / blue move the temperature slider to the right toward yellow, too warm and you move it move it towards blue. You might also need to adjust your tint sliders - again if the image is looking too pink overall then move it toward green, and if it is too green slide it over by a few notches toward the magenta slide. If you are unsure, move the sliders individually - you’ll begin to see a difference and see if it is better or worse than before!
Help! There Isn't A Neutral (or it gives you a wonky looking image)
Assuming you shot in RAW (and if you don’t this is a pretty good reason to do so!) you will have a list of white balance options from the drop menu right on the right. Simply choose the white balance that was closest to the conditions you shot in. For this particular image, the day was very overcast, so I would choose Cloudy or Shade from the drop down menu.
From there, again, you will probably need to move your sliders to get the right white balance.
If you are a JPEG shooter you won't have these drop down options, your only option is to move the temperature and tint sliders to get it right (and make a note to find out how to make the switch to RAW)
Here's the same image with the white balance corrected.
It can take a little while to get your eye trained into seeing the correct white balance - the most common problem is that most of us think the image is too warm when we see the correct white balance (myself included) so it does take a while to get used to that. However, some may prefer a cooler look to their images, others warmer, so there is some leeway with regard to how YOU want your image to look too. To avoid any confusion, I do normally try to set white balance in camera using my ExpoDisc and then all i need to do is tweak to taste.
If you want a step by step program to follow that details all the editing steps you need to take in Lightroom to get your images looking amazing, then check out my Launch Into Lightroom course. This walks you through how to edit - from what to look for in your image, how to decide how much to editing steps to take, and of course, how to use the tools to do it!