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  • Writer's pictureChris Carlson

Striking the Right Balance: Mastering White Balance in Photography

White balance is a critical component of photography that can often make the difference between an average photo and an exceptional one. This aspect of photography affects the overall color tone of your images, and when mastered, can vastly improve your work's quality. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of white balance, equipping you with the knowledge to accurately capture colors in any lighting situation.

Understanding White Balance

At its core, white balance is the process of correcting color casts in your images so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photos. This adjustment ensures that all the other colors in the image are displayed accurately.

Different light sources emit different color temperatures, measured in Kelvin (K). For instance, incandescent bulbs produce a warm, yellowish light, while a cloudy sky emits a cooler, bluish light. Our eyes automatically adjust to these changes in color temperature, but cameras need to be told how to deal with them - that's where white balance comes in.

Auto White Balance and Presets

Most cameras come with an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting, where the camera makes its best guess to correct the color temperature. While this feature often does a decent job, it can sometimes misinterpret the scene, leading to inaccurate colors.

To counter this, cameras also offer a range of white balance presets corresponding to different lighting situations, such as Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Flash. These presets give you more control over your image's color temperature than AWB.

Custom White Balance

For even greater accuracy, you can set a custom white balance. This process involves taking a photo of a white or grey card in the same light as your subject, and then setting this photo as a reference point for 'white' in your camera's white balance settings. This method ensures the colors in your images are as accurate as possible.

Post-Processing White Balance Adjustments

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we might not get the white balance right in-camera. Fortunately, shooting in RAW format allows for significant white balance adjustments in post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

These software tools offer a temperature slider to adjust the overall color temperature of your image. You can also use an eyedropper tool to select a neutral grey area in your photo, and the software will automatically adjust the white balance based on your selection.

Creative Use of White Balance

While the primary aim of white balance is to achieve accurate colors, it can also be used creatively. By deliberately setting an 'incorrect' white balance, you can evoke different moods or atmospheres in your images. For instance, a cooler white balance can make an image feel calm or somber, while a warmer white balance can create a sense of warmth or nostalgia.


Understanding and mastering white balance is an essential step towards elevating your photography skills. Whether you're chasing accuracy or experimenting with creative color casts, the control of white balance can add depth and emotion to your images. Remember, while technical precision is important, photography is a form of art - don't be afraid to break the rules and create images that resonate with you. Happy shooting!

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