Color photography: using white balance settings to get the tones you want

Color photography: using white balance settings that work every time

In the second part of our series exploring color photography in depth we take a look at the best white balance settings to use to get the tones you want.

Color photography: using white balance settings that work every time

Film users had no control over white balance. You bought a film balanced for typical daylight and the only other option was to switch to a special ‘tungsten-balanced’ film for shooting under studio tungsten lighting.

Digital cameras, though, can compensate for different-colored lighting by altering the ratios of red, green and blue as the image is processed and saved.

Alternatively, if you have a camera that can save raw format files, you can choose the white balance setting when processing the image on your computer. By default, digital cameras adjust the white balance automatically.

There will be situations, though, where you might want to override this automatic setting and choose the white balance manually in order to preserve the colors of the scene, or make sure the color compensation is correct.

White balance color quality issues

Although you can change the white balance of your images later in your image-editor it’s not necessarily the best time to do it.

If you save your images as JPEG files when you shoot, the camera processes the sensor information before saving the file, and this processing includes white balance adjustment – the camera applies whatever white balance value is currently set.

If you then go on to alter the color balance on your computer, you are in effect processing the image a second time, which introduces a degree of quality loss.

It’s best to do one of two things: either (a) choose the correct white balance setting at the time of shooting or (b) shoot raw (unprocessed) files and process them on your computer, choosing the white balance setting at that point.

PAGE 1: White balance color quality issues
PAGE 2: Best white balance settings for color photography – Auto vs Preset
PAGE 3: Using white balance to warm up your color photography
PAGE 4: Getting creative with white balance settings


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