white balance

Man, human eyes are so impressive. Light shifts around them all the time, from cool blue to sunny orange depending on the time of day, naturalness of the light source, etc. Our human eyes adjust automatically to changing light, so we don’t usually notice the difference in light color (also called ‘temperature’). However, your digital camera just can’t compete with the biological splendor of human eyes. Instead, you’ll need a few tricks to help your camera see the light – er, correctly.

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If you’re new to photography, or if you’re just not in the mood to toggle, then feel free to use the white balance modes built into your digital camera. While the details may change, most digital cameras feature some form of the following:

  • AWB: Auto White Balance puts the camera in control on a shot by shot basis. It’s a good starting place, but you can get a better image with more nuanced modes.
  • Daylight: This setting creates a very subtle warming effect to counteract any blue light. Not all cameras feature it since sunlight is considered ‘normal’ within white balance settings.
  • Fluorescent: Like mid-day sun, fluorescent light is very cool. This setting warms it up.
  • Tungsten: Tungsten refers to bulb and incandescent light, which is typically warm. The tungsten setting is for shooting indoors, and cools down the colors.
  • Shade and Cloudy: Both of these settings counteract cooler light from the blocked sun.
  • Flash: Flash also produces a pop of blue light, and this setting warms up your image.

white color adjsutment


If you can’t get what you need from presets, then it’s time to giddy up into manual country. Not all digital cameras let you manually adjust the white balance, but for those that do, there’s a pretty easy trick to get what you need.

First, set the camera to manual white balance. Then, get a white or grey card, and take a picture of it. The idea is to show your camera what ‘normal’ white looks like. Shooting the white card in your current light will set it as the reference point for white balance. That’s it! Your next shots will show a much truer color contrast than the first image.

See, that wasn’t so bad. Digital settings are intimidating, but once you figure out your options, then the payoff is huge!


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