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Understanding White Balance

Posted by Leigh Diprose

Understanding_White_Balance_Featured_Image

Having the correct white balance in your photos is essential for perfect colour rendition. White Balance refers to the ‘correct’ colour of white, in other words it’s making sure the colour white’s temperature is not too warm or not too cool. If you set the white point at the right temperature then all of the other colours will fall into place.

How is White Balance Measured?

Each type of light emits a different colour temperature and this can be measured in Kelvins (K). Knowing the colour temperature of certain types of light will make a big difference to your photography.

Here’s a basic guide explaining the most common lighting types you’ll most likely be photographing and their different colour temperatures.  If you follow this guide and change your cameras white balance (explained in the next step) before you start taking photographs you’ll be sure to get correct colour without having to edit your images at a later stage.

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Where do you control your cameras’ White Balance?

White balance is found on all digital cameras. It’s always found in the camera’s menu or normally listed as ‘WB’ on an accessible button on the back of the camera. Depending on the file you’re photographing format (Jpeg or RAW)  you will be able to access different White Balance presents. These presets will have different colour temperatures which will change the colour of ‘white’ depending on the colour temperature of the light source.

Here’s some example of the same photo with different white balance presets applied.

Indoor_White_Balance_Sample_001

Indoor_White_Balance_Sample_002

Do you see a big difference in the colour temperatures?

Here’s a little secret for those landscape photographers out there, whenever you’re photographing a sunrise or sunset try taking one photo with a cloudy or shade white balance present. Choosing either of these presets will give you a warmer tone to your images, enhancing the natural colours.

Outdoor_White_Balance_Sample_001

Outdoor_White_Balance_Sample_002

Real World White Balance Challenges You May Face.

One of the most common types of white balance mistakes people make is when they photograph their children or friends playing sports in an indoor sporting complex. I’m sure you’ve all see those photos? They’re the ones that stand out due to the horrible colour overcast (normally orange) which overwhelms your eyesight! They can be ghastly photos to look at due to the camera incorrectly reading the scene, so what can you do about it?

There are a number of things you could do to prevent this from happening, the most obvious one is to capture your photographs using RAW mode.  The advantage of this is you can change you camera’s White Balance when it comes time to edit, ensuring you recreate the correct colour you remember.

The second option is changing your white balance to a manual preset (see How To Set Your White Balance Manually below). Lastly if you require a fast solution I would recommend converting your photos to black and white to hide the colour cast. TIP: Be sure to add some contrast back into the photo once you have converted it as black and white photos look great with more contrast.

How to Set Your White Balance Manually.

All high end cameras, like the Fujifilm X-T1 will allow you to manually set your white balance. This setting is there to handle the tricky lighting situations which contain multiple light sources.

To set your custom white balance, simply navigate to your white balance menu and select the custom symbol. There should be a few white balance options displayed. Now all you will need to do is frame a white object (like a white piece of paper) so that it fills the display and then press the shutter button all the way down (TIP: turn your camera to manual focus when photographing the white paper). This will then ‘reset’ the custom white balance to suit the white object you photographed. Now the correct colour temperature will be set under the current lighting. Just remember to change your white balance if your lighting situation changes again.

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