Correcting white balance in-camera
Most of us tend to leave our cameras on the Auto white balance (AWB) setting, and while this will produce excellent results most of the time, it can struggle if there are no neutral tones in a scene.
If you shoot a sunset with AWB selected, for example, you’re likely to find that all the warmth and colour is washed out, because the camera will try to ‘cool down’ the image.
Auto white balance is also prone to failure under artificial lighting, when it may overcompensate and produce images with the ‘opposite’ cast.
Digital cameras also have white balance presets that are designed to produce natural-looking colours under specific lighting conditions.
However, you need to ensure that you change the preset when the lighting changes, otherwise the camera will try to compensate for a colour cast that isn’t there, and will add a cast to images.
How to make a custom white balance setting
Most cameras enable you to configure a custom or manual white balance setting, so that you can get accurate results under particular lighting conditions.
You may need to refer to your camera’s manual to find out exactly how to set this, but it usually involves photographing a white or neutral grey subject (a piece of card is ideal) and then using this image as a reference for the white balance system.
To override Auto White Balance, you need to move beyond the camera’s auto exposure modes – try Program or Aperture Priority to begin with.
Press the WB (White Balance) button on the top or the back of your camera. You’ll be able to change the setting on the rear screen or top-plate LCD.
The camera will be set to AWB (Auto White Balance) mode by default. Turn the dial to move through the various menu options and make a selection.
In many cameras you’ll find a separate menu option that enables you to bracket the white balance around the setting you’ve chosen.
Shoot a grey card
If you’re shooting a subject in the studio, or outdoors under constant lighting, an easy way to get the white balance spot-on at the editing stage is to shoot an image with a light-grey card in the frame, then, in Adobe Camera Raw, click on the grey card with the White Balance tool and note the Temperature and Tint values; you can then apply those settings to all the images from the shoot.
Why you should shoot in raw
Where it’s important to get exactly the right white balance, there’s a significant advantage to shooting in raw. This is because you can adjust the white balance across the entire range, as well as making adjustments, at the editing stage before converting the final image to either a JPEG or a TIFF.
PAGE 1: What is white balance?
PAGE 2: Correcting white balance in-camera
PAGE 3: Using white balance in mixed lighting
PAGE 4: Correcting white balance in Photoshop & Adobe Camera Raw
PAGE 5: Why it’s OK to use the ‘wrong’ white balance setting
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