3 Tricks to Correct White Balance

White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the "color temperature" of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light.  Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, however digital cameras often have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB).

An incorrect WB can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts, which are unrealistic and particularly damaging to portraits.  Performing WB in traditional film photography requires attaching a different cast-removing filter for each lighting condition, whereas with digital this is no longer required.  Understanding digital white balance can help you avoid color casts created by your camera's AWB, thereby improving your photos under a wider range of lighting conditions.

Color TemperatureLight Source
1000-2000 KCandlelight
2500-3500 KTungsten Bulb (household variety)
3000-4000 KSunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 KFluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 KElectronic Flash
5000-6500 KDaylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 KModerately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 KShade or Heavily Overcast Sky

Photo by dear Edward

  • Most digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances, so you do not have to deal with color temperature and green-magenta shift during the critical shot.

  • If you shoot in RAW you can always change the white balance in post processing of your image in Adobe Camera Raw for istance.

  • There is an option to use a so called gray card. You place a piece of photocopy paper for example where your subject will be located. It is important because you need the card to receive the same quality of light as will your subject. Then you shoot the card, focussing is of no importance here, and then go to your camera menu and instruct it to sample the color temperature from this image. So your custom whitebalance is set and all your next shots will have right color temperature.

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