White Color Balance in Photography

Various lighting conditions will create color casts to a given shot, some of which will be undesirable. Shooting a subject indoors could create an overly yellow appearance, as indoor lighting will create a yellowish glow. The white balance setting in the camera (WB) can be used to counter such color imbalances

Color Balance of Photography

The ideal lighting for any given subject matter is one that contains all the colors of the rainbow. This can be found in bright, natural daylight. The camera is designed to ‘see’ natural daylight and therefore such shots will possess no unwanted color casts. However shooting under different lighting conditions could create a color imbalance. Photos shot under tungsten or candlelight will for instance, will appear jaundiced; shooting under shade will appear grey-blue. Most cameras have a white color balance function to correct these color casts. Such color casts can be seen in the 3 shots above. Each has a different color profile (from the left, reddish, natural and bluish).

Correct White Balance in Photos

White balance means that if you take a shot of a white piece of paper, it should come out looking white. If you take a photo of the same white sheet of paper under tungsten lighting, it will appear yellow. Shoot it under fluorescent lighting, and it will appear blue-white. We don’t notice these casts with the naked eye because our brains compensate for these imbalances.

Correct Color Casts to Photos

Now if you shoot the same subject matter in bright daylight and try out the different white balance functions on your camera, you will notice different results. Search in the camera’s menu function and you will find: auto, tungsten, fluorescent, cloudy, flash, shaded and sunny. Each function will alter the color profile of the shot. Shooting under tungsten mode will add blues to the color profile (designed to counter the yellows of a tungsten bulb).
Shooting under shady mode will add warmth to the shot (designed to add warmth to the blues of shaded conditions). Again, shooting with fluorescent mode will add a pinkish hue to the shot (designed to counter the blue-white cast of fluorescent lighting).



What is White Balance on Photography?

Auto light setting is the most commonly used, where the lighting is most ideal. Shooting in good, natural daylight will capture the colors of the object most accurately. Really white balance function simply alters the ‘color temperature’ of the shot, either warm or cool to correct the color cast. If unsure of which way to go, take a shot of a white piece of paper to see if it appears white, yellowy or bluish in cast. This will determine if the shot indeed possesses a color bias.

How to Alter Color Balance of Photos

If you cannot find the WB function on your camera or if you do not have one, don’t worry, you can still correct the color balance of the shot in image editing software on your computer. Simply open the image in MyPictures (after saving a copy in case things go wrong). Click ‘fix’ and ‘adjust color.’ You will see 3 functions: ‘color temperature,’ ‘tint’ and ‘saturation.’ The color temperature will alter the color balance of the shot from warm to cool. Toggle to the left to cool the colors down; toggle to the right to warm them up. The color saturation can be used to heighten the colors or tone them down.

How to Add Atmosphere to Photography

You may use the white balance function to add atmosphere to a shot. For instance, you may wish to preserve the warm glow of a candlelit scene, in such cases, white balance will not be necessary. You may also wish to preserve the cool colors seen under shade. Shooting under auto will preserve these color casts.

Color Bias in Photos

Certain lighting conditions will create unwanted color casts over a photograph. Tungsten light will add a yellowish glow. In such cases, using the WB mode on the camera can be used to counter such color imbalances. Basic photo editing software can also be used to achieve white color balance. Natural daylight provides the ideal lighting, as white contains all the colors. However the photographer may prefer to capture the actual color cast and not employ WB to emphases a particular mood.
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