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White Balance

Color Temperature Chart
White Balance Button The wrong white balance can destroy a good picture. It is very important to understand the white balance setting in your camera. All cameras have a convenient Auto White Balance (AWB) setting but like many of the camera's automatic options, it is a guess. It is impossible for the camera to know what you are photographing. And sometimes the camera gets it wrong. One of the most problematic automatic settings on a digital camera is the auto white balance setting. It is always best to use the presets available under the white balance (WB) menu. Choose the preset that best matches the lighting condition you are shooting under and your whites will become more white.

Both of these photos were taken under an incandescent (Tungsten) household light bulb.

White Balance set to automatic (AWB)White Balance set to Tungsten
White Balance Before White Balance After

White Balance Settings Refer to the graph at the top of the page. This is a color graph of the kelvin temperature scale. Color temperature is based on the kelvin scale. You might say the color cast or hue in your photograph is based on degrees kelvin. The most pure white light comes from the sun. You can see this in the scale. Look at the sun symbol on the scale. The color under it is pure white. That means that when you set your camera's white balance to 'sun', all the white objects in your photograph will be white if you take the photograph under the sun.

Now, leaving your camera's white balance set to 'sun', take a photograph under a household incandescent light. Notice that every white object in your photograph will be yellow. This can be seen on the scale. Pure white is under the sun symbol. Look under the tungsten symbol. It is yellow.

Leaving your camera's white balance set to 'sun', find a shady spot outdoors and take a photograph. White objects will now be blue.

This color discrepancy is adjusted by selecting the correct white balance from your white balance presets shown in the chart to the left.

Now examine the graph below. Here we set the camera's white balance to tungsten. Now all white objects under tungsten (incandescent household bulbs) will become white. But what will happen if we leave the white balance set to tungsten and go outside under the bright sun and take some photographs? You can see from the graph below that all those photos will become blue. White Balance Scale