Today I Learned About White Balance: Phase 1

You know when your digital camera seems to automatically make your pictures tinted a little bit blue or a little bit green instead of the way the scene actually looked? A lot of times that’s due to your camera’s white balance.

It’s a term I’ve heard before and sort-of understand, but I’m not going to pretend I fully understand all the ins and outs of white balance. There are plenty of websites out there, like this one and this one that will do a much better job explaining than I ever could.

Instead, I wanted to explore the white balance settings on my Canon Rebel to see what happened.

I took seven different photos of the exact same subject: my laptop keyboard while sitting on my couch in my living room, which was lit by one tungsten 3-way bulb. Each of the photos was taken using the same manual setting (Yep! I was brave enough to try manual!), and the only thing that different was the white balance setting.

Below lists the setting of each photo from left to right, top to bottom.

  1. Auto White Balance
  2. Daylight
  3. Shade
  4. Cloudy
  5. Tungsten
  6. White Fluorescent
  7. Custom
  8. Auto White Balance*
  9. Daylight*

*The last two photos are repeats, just for the sake of the collage.

Note: There was absolutely no Photoshopping involved here. All images are straight from the camera.

I thought this was a fun way to get to know my camera better, and it also makes for a neat little collage. I may experiment again soon with other settings (aperture, shutter speed, etc.), so stay tuned.

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4 thoughts on “Today I Learned About White Balance: Phase 1

  1. It’s possible to tweak white balance in Photoshop after you take the shot if it’s not right, but it usually comes out better if it’s at least approximately right when you take the shot. Unfortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to forget to change… It really sucks when you take the perfect picture of something in broad daylight, but you forgot to change it off of Fluorescent or whatever. That’s actually one of the biggest reasons I started shooting in RAW format — you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

    Also, you have a really nice eye for things — I like a lot of your earlier shots (the corks and the police car in front of the donut shop come to mind)

  2. Thank you for your kind words!

    I don’t know much about shooting in RAW yet, other than that it takes more memory and you have to use your computer to view the photos. (Is that even right?) I didn’t realize that it makes the white balance a non-issue. Once I master the basics of my camera, I want to start to learn more about RAW.

    • Yea — it’s good to not shoot in RAW for a while until you learn your way around, I think. Then you will have a much better appreciation for how much wasted effort it saves you 😛

      Basically, RAW format is just a way of storing exactly the information that hits the sensor on your camera, whereas JPGs are compressed — they’re much smaller in size, but you lose a *lot* of information. So the huge, huge advantage of RAW is that you can do all of your postprocessing (white balance, brightness, contrast, etc) with no loss of image quality.

  3. I agree with david that you have a good eye for photography. Work on it you’ll make amazing pictures.

    When it comes to white balance, I mostly use the Auto White Balance. but if i am under an incandescent light or yellow light I use kelvin or the custom white balance
    For color temperature or kelvin, I just set my camera to live view, select the K white Balance and dial the temperature until I find the most pleasing colors and after that, fire away..
    for custom white balance, i always carry a grey card, it’s a credit card sized plain 18-20% color of grey (oh, google it, 😉 ) prior to shooting, set the white balance to Custom and place the grey card where our object is going to be photograph, and frame the grey card to fill the viewfinder and photograph. go to menu and select custom WB and set grey card photo. fire away.

    I find it very accurate using custom white balance, but the downside is that if change location or lighting you have to reset it all over again.

    well, i hope it helps.. cheers.. pssst, we are using the same theme.. d’oh.. 😉

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