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  • Writer's pictureAnn Gilbert

Capturing True Colors: A Guide to Getting Accurate Colors on Your DSLR Camera

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only if the colors tell the correct story. Colors can greatly affect the mood and overall perception of a photograph, and capturing them accurately is of paramount importance for professional and amateur photographers alike. When it comes to DSLR cameras, the task of achieving true-to-life colors might seem a bit daunting, but with a few tips and tricks, you can certainly master the art. This article will guide you on how to capture accurate colors on your DSLR camera.

Understanding Color Temperature

The first step towards capturing accurate colors is understanding the concept of color temperature. Color temperature, measured in Kelvins (K), is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in photography. Different light sources emit light at different color temperatures. For instance, incandescent bulbs emit a warm, yellowish light with a lower color temperature, while a cloudy sky emits a cooler, bluish light with a higher color temperature.

Your DSLR camera has a setting known as White Balance (WB) that allows you to adjust the color temperature in your images. Choosing the correct WB setting is crucial because it will tell your camera what “true white” looks like in different lighting situations, and accordingly, your camera will adjust all the other colors.

Adjusting White Balance

DSLR cameras typically come with preset WB options that include settings such as daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten light, and fluorescent light. These presets are designed to match the color temperature of the light source. However, for more accurate control, you may use the manual or custom white balance setting.

To set a custom white balance, you need to photograph a neutral (white or gray) subject in the same lighting conditions as your final image. Then, select this image in your camera's custom white balance menu, and your camera will adjust the colors based on this "reference" image.

Shooting in RAW

While JPG is a popular file format, it might not be the best choice when your goal is to capture accurate colors. JPG files are processed within the camera, and this processing includes color balance and saturation adjustments which may not always align with the actual scene.

On the other hand, RAW files are unprocessed, capturing all the image data as seen by the camera's sensor. This gives you much more flexibility in post-processing, allowing you to adjust the white balance and tweak colors without loss of quality. If color accuracy is your priority, shooting in RAW is the way to go.

Using Color Checker or Gray Card

Color checkers and gray cards are tools used to achieve correct color balance and exposure in photography. A color checker is a chart containing swatches of colors that represent common colors such as skin tones, sky blue, foliage green, and others. By including a shot of the color checker under the same light as your subject, you can use it as a reference in post-processing to ensure color accuracy.

A gray card, on the other hand, is used to provide a standard reference object for exposure determination in photography. It helps in setting the white and color balance of the camera.


Capturing accurate colors with your DSLR camera involves understanding color temperature, properly adjusting your white balance, shooting in RAW, and using tools like color checkers or gray cards. While these steps may require some practice and extra time in post-processing, the result will be vibrant, true-to-life colors in your photographs. Remember, in photography, color is not just a component of the final image but a powerful storytelling tool. Mastering color accuracy will elevate your photography and allow your images to tell richer, more compelling stories.

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