Your camera’s Auto white balance setting is great for general subjects, but strong colours can fool it. It can also be difficult to match the white balance presets to the conditions you’re shooting in. In these situations, you can use a Preset Manual (Nikon) or Custom white balance (Canon) setting to get colour spot on.
Shoot an image of a white or grey subject (a piece of card or paper) in the same lighting as your subject and the camera then uses the colours in this image to get the white balance right (for more, see how to get spot on white balance using a colour chart).
Because this white balance is then fixed, this technique is only suitable for shooting in consistent light. If the light changes, you need to go through the whole process again.
Creating a custom white balance setting will save you time when you’re editing your shots, and also enables you to more accurately assess the colours when you review the images on your camera’s rear LCD screen.
How to set custom white balance
Step 1: Position the card
To get the most accurate colours, position a piece of white or neutral grey card or paper so that it is in the same lighting as your subject. For the best results, place the card where your subject will be, and make sure that it is facing where you are going to be shooting from.
Step 2: Shoot the card
Now fill the frame with the card and take a picture of it from the same direction as you will be taking your main shot. The exposure of this reference image isn’t critical, as long as the picture isn’t completely over- or under-exposed. You may need to switch to manual focus.
Step 3: Delve into the menu
Now you need to navigate to your camera’s shooting menu and find the list of white balance settings. To do this on a Nikon, scroll down to the white balance settings and then select Preset Manual; on a Canon, simply select Custom White Balance from the list of options that appears.
Step 4: Set the white balance
Select the picture of the card to set this as the white balance reference image. On a Nikon, press OK twice to set the white balance, while on a Canon you need to first press Set to select the image, then go back to the white balance settings and select Custom from the list.