How To Find The True White Balance Photography

By | 11/08/2022


White balance (WB) is the procedure of removing unrealistic color casts, then that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photograph. Proper camera white balance has to accept into account the “color temperature” of a low-cal source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white lite. Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under dissimilar light sources, but digital cameras oftentimes have bang-up difficulty with auto white balance (AWB) — and can create unsightly blueish, orange, or fifty-fifty green color casts. Understanding digital white balance can help you lot avert these color casts, thereby improving your photos under a wider range of lighting conditions.

Example of an incorrect white balance

Example with corrected white balance


Color temperature describes the spectrum of light which is radiated from a “blackbody” with that surface temperature. A blackbody is an object which absorbs all incident lite — neither reflecting it nor allowing information technology to laissez passer through. A rough counterpart of blackbody radiation in our twenty-four hour period to twenty-four hours experience might be in heating a metallic or stone: these are said to go “cherry-red hot” when they accomplish one temperature, and and then “white hot” for even college temperatures. Similarly, blackbodies at different temperatures also accept varying color temperatures of “white low-cal.” Despite its proper name, calorie-free which may appear white does not necessarily contain an even distribution of colors across the visible spectrum:

Relative intensity has been normalized for each temperature (in Kelvins).

Annotation how 5000 K produces roughly neutral calorie-free, whereas 3000 Thou and 9000 1000 produce light spectrums which shift to incorporate more orange and blue wavelengths, respectively. As the color temperature rises, the color distribution becomes cooler. This may not seem intuitive, simply results from the fact that shorter wavelengths comprise light of college energy.

Why is color temperature a useful description of light for photographers, if they never deal with true blackbodies? Fortunately, light sources such every bit daylight and tungsten bulbs closely mimic the distribution of light created by blackbodies, although others such as fluorescent and most commercial lighting depart from blackbodies significantly. Since photographers never use the term colour temperature to refer to a true blackbody light source, the term is implied to be a “correlated color temperature” with a similarly colored blackbody. The post-obit table is a rule-of-thumb guide to the correlated colour temperature of some common lite sources:

Color Temperature Lite Source
1000-2000 K  Candlelight
2500-3500 K  Tungsten Bulb (household diversity)
3000-4000 One thousand  Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 K  Fluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 Chiliad  Electronic Wink
5000-6500 Yard  Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 Thou  Moderately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K  Shade or Heavily Clouded Sky


Since some light sources practise non resemble blackbody radiators, white balance uses a 2nd variable in improver to colour temperature: the green-magenta shift. Adjusting the green-magenta shift is often unnecessary under ordinary daylight, however fluorescent and other artificial lighting may require significant green-magenta adjustments to the WB.

Fortunately, well-nigh digital cameras contain a multifariousness of preset white balances, and so yous practise not have to deal with colour temperature and green-magenta shift during the critical shot. Commonly used symbols for each of these are listed to the left.

The commencement three white balances allow for a range of colour temperatures.
Auto white residuum
is available in all digital cameras and uses a all-time guess algorithm within a limited range — usually between 3000/4000 K and 7000 K.
Custom white residue
allows you lot to take a flick of a known gray reference under the same lighting, and then set up that as the white balance for future photos. With “Kelvin” you can set the color temperature over a broad range.

The remaining half dozen white balances are listed in club of increasing color temperature, all the same many meaty cameras do not include a shade white balance. Some cameras as well include a “Fluorescent H” setting, which is designed to piece of work in newer daylight-calibrated fluorescents.

The clarification and symbol for the above white balances are just crude estimates for the bodily lighting they piece of work best under. In fact, cloudy could be used in place of daylight depending on the time of day, superlative, or degree of haziness. In general, if your paradigm appears too cool on your LCD screen preview (regardless of the setting), you lot tin quickly increase the color temperature past selecting a symbol farther downwardly on the list above. If the image is nonetheless too cool (or warm if going the other management), you lot can resort to manually entering a temperature in the Kelvin setting.

If all else fails and the paradigm still does not accept the right WB afterwards inspecting it on a computer later, you can adjust the color balance to remove boosted colour casts. Alternatively, one could click on a colorless reference (meet section on neutral references) with the “set gray point” dropper while using the “levels” tool in Photoshop. Either of these methods should exist avoided since they can severely reduce the fleck depth of your image.


By far the best white balance solution is to photograph using the RAW file format (if your camera supports them), as these allow y’all to fix the WB *after* the photo has been taken. RAW files too let one to set the WB based on a broader range of color temperature and green-magenta shifts.

Performing a white balance with a raw file is quick and piece of cake. Yous can either adjust the temperature and green-magenta sliders until color casts are removed, or you can but click on a neutral reference within the prototype (see side by side section). Even if merely one of your photos contains a neutral reference, you can click on it and then employ the resulting WB settings for the rest of your photos (assuming the same lighting).


A neutral reference is often used for colour-critical projects, or for situations where one anticipates auto white balance will encounter issues. Neutral references can either be parts of your scene (if you lot’re lucky), or can be a portable detail which you carry with you lot. Below is an example of a fortunate reference in an otherwise blueish twilight scene.

On the other mitt, pre-made portable references are almost ever more than accurate since one can hands exist tricked into thinking an object is neutral when it is not. Portable references can be expensive and specifically designed for photography, or may include less expensive household items. An ideal gray reference is one which reflects all colors in the spectrum equally, and can consistently practice so under a broad range of colour temperatures. An instance of a pre-fabricated gray reference is shown below:

Mutual household neutral references are the underside of a lid to a java or pringles container. These are both cheap and reasonably authentic, although custom-made photographic references are the best (such as the cards shown above). Custom-made devices can exist used to mensurate either the incident or reflected color temperature of the illuminant. Most neutral references measure reflected calorie-free, whereas a device such every bit a white residue meter or an “ExpoDisc” tin measure incident light (and can theoretically be more accurate).

Care should be taken when using a neutral reference with loftier image racket, since clicking on a seemingly grey region may actually select a colorful pixel acquired past color racket:

Low Noise
(Smooth Colorless Grey)

Loftier Dissonance
(Patches of Color)

If your software supports it, the all-time solution for white balancing with noisy images is to use the average of pixels with a noisy gray region every bit your reference. This can exist either a 3×3 or 5×5 pixel boilerplate if using Adobe Photoshop.


Sure subjects create bug for a digital camera’s auto white residual — even under normal daylight conditions. One example is if the image already has an overabundance of warmth or coolness due to unique subject matter. The image below illustrates a situation where the subject is predominantly scarlet, and and then the camera mistakes this for a color cast induced past a warm light source. The camera then tries to compensate for this so that the average colour of the image is closer to neutral, but in doing so it unknowingly creates a bluish color bandage on the stones. Some digital cameras are more susceptible to this than others.

(Custom white balance uses an xviii% gray bill of fare as a neutral reference.)

A digital photographic camera’south machine white balance is ofttimes more than effective when the photograph contains at least one white or bright colorless element. Of class, do non attempt to modify your composition to include a colorless object, but only be aware that its absenteeism may crusade problems with the automobile white residual. Without the white gunkhole in the paradigm below, the photographic camera’s automobile white balance mistakenly created an image with a slightly warmer colour temperature.


Multiple illuminants with dissimilar colour temperatures tin further complicate performing a white balance. Some lighting situations may not even have a truly “correct” white balance, and will depend upon where color accuracy is nigh important.

White Balance Example: Mixed Lighting
Reference: Moon Stone

Under mixed lighting, auto white balance usually calculates an average color temperature for the entire scene, and so uses this equally the white balance. This approach is usually acceptable, still auto white residue tends to exaggerate the difference in color temperature for each light source, as compared with what nosotros perceive with our optics.

Exaggerated differences in color temperature are often most apparent with mixed indoor and natural lighting. Critical images may even crave a different white remainder for each lighting region. On the other hand, some may adopt to get out the color temperatures as is.

Note how the building to the left is quite warm, whereas the heaven is somewhat absurd. This is because the white balance was prepare based on the moonlight — bringing out the warm color temperature of the artificial lighting below. White balancing based on the natural light often yields a more realistic photograph. Choose “stone” as the white balance reference and see how the sky becomes unrealistically blue.


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Originally posted 2022-02-12 12:40:01.