What About White Balance?
White balance is often ignored by most amateur photographers and just left on automatic. The reason we adjust white balance is to get the colors in your images as accurate as possible. Often the auto mode is good enough, but it can commonly get it wrong. You can set white balance manually, usually to:
Tungsten – For indoor lighting, which cools down your photo.
Fluorescent – For warming up your photo if under cool lighting.
Cloudy – Tends to warm everything up.
Flash – Warms up the cool light from your flash.
Shade – This will warm things up slightly due to the cooler light of the shade.
To the average “point and shoot” photographer, the auto mode is good enough, but keep in mind the other modes if your photos seem to have incorrect color tints under different environments.
I took each of these photos from the same position and same settings apart from the white balance. I didn’t use a flash (other than on the flash setting)
Ever wondered why your subjects turn out yellow when photographing them in indoor environments? Or why your camera flash can make them appear blue? Thoroughly understanding the concept of white balance and how it works is very important in digital photography, because setting it incorrectly could ruin a picture, adding all kinds of unwanted color casts and causing skin tones to look very unnatural. In this article, I will explain how you can adjust it on your camera or post-production to get accurate colors.
Simply put, white balance in digital photography means adjusting colors so that the image looks more natural. We go through the process of adjusting colors to primarily get rid of color casts, in order to match the picture with what we saw when we took it. Why do we have to do this? Because most light sources (the sun, light bulbs, flashlights, etc) do not emit purely white color and have a certain “color temperature“. The human brain processes the information that comes from our eyes and automatically adjusts the color temperature, so we normally see the colors correctly. If you took a white sheet of paper and looked at it outside, it would most likely look as white as if you were to look at it indoors. What most people do not realize, however, is that there is a huge difference in color temperature between bright sunlight and indoors tungsten light.
If you are a skier or a snowboarder, try this quick experiment: put on your ski goggles and look at the snow – it should change in color tone. If you have ski goggles with a yellow tint, the snow will look yellowish. However, after you ski for a little bit, your eyes and your brain will adjust for the color and the snow should look white again. When you take off your ski goggles after skiing, the snow will look bluish in color rather than pure white for a little bit, until your brain adjusts the colors back to normal again. This example proves the fact that we are equipped with a very sophisticated color system that automatically adjusts colors in different lighting situations.
While our brains automatically process the colors for us in such a smart way, digital cameras can only guess what the color temperature is by watching the ambient light. In most cases, modern digital cameras can guess pretty well, however, in some situations they make errors. Because of these errors, some of the pictures might appear to be bluish or yellowish in color and the skin tones might not look natural.