Tips & Tricks: Understanding White Balance

Understanding White Balance

By Hermis Haridas

A self-confessed nature lover and travel enthusiast, he became deeply involved in nature and bird photography and found himself traveling around, hunting for and trying to capture moments hitherto uncaptured. His trips to Russia, Sri Lanka, India and African continent gave him the opportunity to understand the nuances of wildlife photography. Hermis believes in the adage that “practice makes perfect” and there isn’t a day in his life without peeping at the world through his “third eye”. He holds his passion closest to his heart and dreams of making it big as a nature photographer.

The color of all light are not created equal. The color of a subject is affected due to different lighting conditions. Color temperature of a light source is measured in Kelvin (K). Once framing is done the camera has to understand the color temperature of the light source of that scene and then correct the colors so that white appears white. If the proper white balance is not chosen there will be a visible color cast in the picture taken.

White balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so as to make the photograph look exactly same as what the eye saw. Our eye is very good at judging what is white under different light sources, but digital cameras often have great difficulty in recognizing this. That is why we need to set the proper white balance in our camera to get the real color of a picture. Understanding and using the custom white balance in your camera can have a real impact on the pictures you capture.

In photography balance is categorized under two portions, warmer and cooler. The color temperature over 5400K is referred to as warmer which is more orange color. The lower color temperature ranging from 2700- 3900 are referred to as cooler which is bluer than the standard light, which we refer to as the sunlight.

Flash Shade

Generally we use Auto white balance to be on the safer side. This is the most convenient and easy way to gain a perfect white balance. Still with auto white balance, your results may vary depending on the available lighting conditions. Mixed lighting conditions can cause difficulties to auto white balance. Even standard daylight can fool auto white balance.

As long as you shoot in RAW, knowing the white balance is not that important. A basic understanding of color temperature would be enough for most of the photographers. The important thing is knowing how to adjust white balance either in the camera or while processing the RAW file. Once you understand how to control white balance, then you can start to use it creatively in your images and can change the entire feel of the image.

I always try to follow a graph when I am out in the field for shoot - keep the K value 6,000 and above during low light condition and bring down to 4,800 K when the light is harsh say at mid noon. At the end whatever settings you use, always review the photos in the camera’s LCD monitor and try to correct the white balance accordingly in the field.

Warmer is more orange color and cooler is more blue than the standard light which we refer to as the sunlight.




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