📸 What Is White Balance In Photography? – Guide (2024)

Jan 13, 2024 | Photography Tutorials

Have you ever wondered why some of your photos have an unusual blue or yellow tint?

Why does a snow-covered landscape look a bit gray?

The answer lies in understanding a crucial photography concept: white balance.

But don’t fret! This guide is here to demystify white balance photography for you.

white balance in photography

By the end, you’ll not only know what it is, but you’ll also grasp how to use it to elevate your photography game.

Dive in with us as we venture into the world of colors and how they affect the memories we capture!

Color temperature scale from warm to cool light

When we talk about color temperature, we aren’t referring to how “hot” or “cold” an object physically feels. Instead, in photography, color temperature describes the hue and warmth of a light source.

What is color temperature?

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). Imagine a scale with warmer (yellow/red) colors on the lower end and cooler (blue) colors on the higher end. The value in Kelvin tells us where the light source’s color falls on this scale.

Color Temperature of Different Light Sources and Conditions

Candlelight: Around 1,500K – this light appears very warm or orange.
Tungsten Bulb (typical household bulb): About 2,500 to 3,500K – it leans towards the more generous, yellow side.
Daylight (average noon daylight): Roughly 5,000 to 6,500K – a balanced, neutral light.
Overcast Sky: Closer to 7,000K – the light can appear slightly blue.
Shade or Deep Blue Sky: Can exceed 9,000K – this is a cooler, blue light.

Recognizing the color temperature of light sources can help you set the white balance accurately, ensuring that whites appear as they should in your photos and avoiding unwanted color casts. It’s like ensuring your camera sees the world with the same color accuracy as your eyes!

Knowing the Kelvin values is only sometimes necessary. Modern cameras offer presets that cover white balance based on typical scenarios, like daylight or shade. We’ll delve deeper into this in the next section.

 Diving Deep into White Balance

Two images that represent the different settings of white balance in photography

Let’s explore the intricate world of white balance in photography. Understanding and controlling it can dramatically enhance your photos’ visual appeal and accurately convey the scene’s ambiance.

White Balance Defined

At its core, white balance ensures that predominantly white colors appear valid to their nature in photographs. In simple terms, it corrects the color casts that different light sources might introduce, ensuring that what’s white in real life appears white in your photo.

Why White Balance Matters

Imagine photographing a bride in her pristine white gown during sunset. Without adjusting the white balance, the gown might appear with an orange or yellow tint, not capturing the pure, snowy white of the actual dress. This visual discrepancy highlights the importance of understanding white balance.

Real-world scenarios demonstrating its importance:

A snow-covered landscape can look gray or bluish if not appropriately balanced.

Indoor photos under artificial lighting might have a yellow or green tint if the white balance isn’t adjusted.

Photographing in mixed lighting conditions (e.g., indoors with natural light from windows and artificial lights) can be tricky without the correct white balance settings.

In-Camera White Balance Techniques

Your camera is equipped with several tools and settings to aid you in achieving the perfect white balance:

White balance presets: Most cameras have settings such as “Daylight,” “Cloudy,” “Tungsten,” and “Fluorescent.” These are designed for specific lighting conditions and can quickly adjust the white balance without entering manual mode.

How to set white balance manually in your camera: Dive into your camera’s menu and look for a setting labeled “White Balance” or “WB.” Here, you’ll be able to adjust based on Kelvin’s values. Use a white or gray card as a reference point, and adjust the setting until the card appears neutral in your image.

Auto white balance (AWB): It’s like having an assistant in your camera, making real-time decisions to adjust the white balance. While often helpful, it could be more accurate and can sometimes be misled by the scene.

Post-Shot White Balance Adjustments

Even with the best in-camera settings, there might be times when you need to tweak the white balance during post-processing. Software like Adobe Lightroom offers powerful tools for this:

Here is a quick guide on setting white balance in software like Lightroom:

Import your photo: Start by importing your image into Lightroom.

Navigate to the Develop module: All your editing tools are housed here.

Find the WB (White Balance) section: Usually, it’s at the top of the panel.

Use the Eyedropper tool: Click on the Eyedropper icon and then click on a neutral gray or white area in your photo. Lightroom will adjust the white balance based on that reference point.

Adjust Temp and Tint sliders: For finer control, manually move the “Temp” slider to adjust the temperature (blue-yellow) and the “Tint” slider for the green-magenta balance.

Finalize and export: Save and export your image once you’re satisfied with the adjustments.

Post-processing is a valuable skill for photographers, offering flexibility and creative control beyond the camera’s capabilities.

The following section will discuss tint, an overlooked but vital component in achieving the perfect white balance. So, stay tuned!

Tint and Its Role in Photography

Though less discussed than white balance, tint is equally pivotal in achieving the perfect shot. The secret sauce complements white balance, ensuring our images are color-accurate and resonate with the emotion we wish to convey.

What is tint?

While white balance corrects the blue-yellow axis of colors, tint works on the green-magenta axis. But, adjusting the white balance alone compensates for color imbalances that are not addressed.

Imagine you’ve perfectly balanced the coolness and warmth of a photo, but it still looks off, perhaps a bit too green from the fluorescent lights or a tad too magenta during a serene sunset. That’s where adjusting the tint comes into play!

The interplay between tint and white balance

You can think of white balance and tint as a dynamic duo. They work hand in hand to neutralize unwanted color casts, ensuring that the colors in your photos are as true to life as possible.

Spotting the Need: Often, in environments with mixed lighting or specific artificial lights, you might notice that, despite setting the white balance right, the colors are still skewed. This is the cue to adjust the tint.

Adjusting Tint in-Camera: While white balance adjustments are standard, specific in-camera tint adjustments are rarer. But fear not; most post-processing software provides tools to change both.

Tint in Post-Processing: Just like you adjusted the white balance in Lightroom, you can also play with the tint. The “Tint” slider, usually near the white balance controls, lets you adjust the balance between green and magenta.

But here’s the catchy part:

Achieving the perfect balance between white balance and tint is more art than science. It requires practice, a keen eye, and the understanding that sometimes, the most accurate colors are only the most aesthetically pleasing. So, don’t shy away from experimenting a bit to get the mood just right!

Next, ensure consistency in our white balance across different camera models. Because, let’s face it, we all want our Instagram feeds to look cohesive.

Camera Calibration and Consistency

While every camera promises to capture the world’s beauty, they might not all see the world in the same colors. Even from the same manufacturer, different camera models can produce slightly varying colors under the same conditions.

But here’s the good news:

With proper calibration and understanding, you can achieve a consistent look across all your shots, irrespective of the camera.

How to ensure consistent white balance across different camera models

Understand Your Camera: Every camera has its unique quirks. By understanding how your camera interprets colors, you’ll be better equipped to anticipate and adjust for its tendencies.

Use Custom White Balance: Many cameras allow you to set a custom white balance using a reference image. Using a white or gray card as a reference, you can calibrate different cameras to the same standard.

Shoot in RAW: RAW images retain more information than JPEGs, allowing for more nuanced adjustments during post-processing. This can be especially handy in aligning the colors from different cameras.

The importance of camera white balance calibration

Calibration ensures that your camera interprets colors accurately and consistently. It’s like tuning a musical instrument; by ensuring it’s calibrated, you guarantee that the notes (or, in this case, colors) it produces are as intended.

Here’s a real-world scenario to drive home the importance:

Imagine you’re covering an event using two different cameras. Without proper calibration, the photos from one camera might appear more relaxed while the other produces warmer images. This inconsistency can be jarring when viewed side by side, making post-processing more time-consuming.

Calibrating for white balance isn’t just about consistency. It’s also about authenticity, ensuring your images reflect the world as you see and feel it. By giving importance to camera white balance calibration, you confirm that your photos aren’t just visually appealing and tell a consistent and honest story.

Coming up, we’ll explore the more artistic side of white balance. Curious about intentionally bending the rules for creative outcomes? Keep reading!

Creativity Unleashed: Using White Balance Innovatively

White balance isn’t just about accuracy; it’s also a canvas for Creativity. While ensuring true-to-life colors is often the goal, photography has moments when breaking the rules can lead to spellbinding results. Let’s explore the enchanting world of imaginative white balance.

Going beyond the natural: When to deliberately misbalance

Setting the Mood: Ever wanted to capture the chill of a winter morning or the warmth of a cozy evening by the fireplace? Intentionally shifting your white balance can evoke feelings and emotions, giving your photos a moody touch.

Stylized Portraits: For portraits, playing with white balance can lend a unique look, setting your work apart. A cooler white balance can emphasize a model’s pale skin or a sad mood, while a warmer tone might bring out the golden hour’s magic.

Abstract Art: Photography can be a medium for abstract expression. Exaggerated white-balance settings can transform everyday scenes into surreal landscapes, pushing the boundaries of reality.

Creative scenarios with altered white balance settings

Blue Hour Landscapes: While the blue hour naturally has a calm tone, amplifying this by setting a cooler white balance can make the scene feel even more ethereal.

Golden Portraits: Shooting during the golden hour? Intensify the warmth by adjusting your white balance, making your subjects appear as if they’re bathed in liquid gold.

Night Cityscapes: Cities illuminated at night can become a playground for white balance adjustments. Emphasize the neon lights with a more relaxed setting or bring out the warmth of street lamps with a shift towards warmth.

However, there’s one vital point to remember:

While it’s exciting to experiment, it’s equally crucial to understand the basics first. A solid foundational knowledge of white balance ensures that your creative deviations are intentional, not accidental.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the ongoing debate in the photography community: auto vs. manual white balance. What’s best for your shots? Stay tuned to find out!

Auto vs. Manual: The Ongoing Debate

Three key differences between auto and manual white balance in photography

Two opposing camps often emerge in white balance: those who swear by the convenience of auto-white balance and those who staunchly believe in the precision of manual settings. Each approach has its merits, but understanding their strengths and weaknesses can help you decide what’s best for your shots.

Benefits and pitfalls of auto white balance:


  • Efficiency: For those constantly on the move or capturing fleeting moments, auto white balance quickly adjusts to changing lighting conditions.
  • Ease of Use: Especially for beginners, it’s a hassle-free option, allowing them to focus on composition and other camera settings.


  • Inconsistency: In fluctuating light or mixed lighting conditions, auto white balance can sometimes produce varying results, leading to a lack of cohesion in a series of photos.
  • Less Control: Relying solely on the camera’s judgment might only sometimes align with the photographer’s creative vision.

Situations where manual settings triumph:

Studio Photography: When you control the lighting, setting a precise white balance ensures consistent results across shots.

Landscapes at Dawn or Dusk: The nuanced colors of these magical hours often confuse auto settings. Manual adjustments let you capture the scene’s true essence.

Artistic Intent: As discussed in the previous section, manual control offers the flexibility to execute your vision if you’re going for a specific mood or effect.

But here’s the catchy part:

It’s not always an “either-or” situation. Many seasoned photographers use a combination of both. They might start with auto settings to get a baseline and then tweak manually as needed. Remember, the ultimate goal is to produce an image that resonates with your vision and tells your story. Whether you achieve that with auto, manual, or a mix of both, the choice is yours!

Next, we’ll tackle some burning questions beginners often have about white balance. Have we got a query in mind? We’ll answer it in our FAQ section!

White Balance FAQs

Navigating the intricate maze of white balance can raise numerous questions. Don’t worry! We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions to help clear the haze.

What is white balance?

White balance in photography refers to ensuring colors in your photos appear accurate and natural by compensating for the light source’s color temperature. It helps neutralize color casts, ensuring whites appear white and other colors are rendered faithfully.

How do you set a white balance?

Setting white balance can be done in two primary ways:

In-Camera: Most cameras have preset white balance options like ‘Daylight,’ ‘Cloudy,’ ‘Tungsten,’ etc. For more control, many cameras also offer a manual or custom white balance setting, allowing you to use a reference (often a white or gray card) to set the balance.

Post-Processing: Using software like Lightroom or Photoshop, you can adjust the white balance of an image during the editing process, mainly if you’ve shot in RAW format.

What does white balance do?

White balance adjusts the colors of an image to make them appear more natural to the human eye. Compensating for the light source’s color temperature ensures that whites are rendered as white, eliminating unsightly color casts.

How do you use white balance?

To use white balance effectively:

Evaluate the Scene: Determine the primary light source and its color temperature.

Choose the Right Setting: Based on the light source, select the appropriate preset on your camera or manually adjust using a reference.

Review & Adjust: After taking a shot, review it. If the colors seem off, adjust the white balance and reshoot.

Fine-Tune in Post: You can refine the white balance to get the desired look during post-processing.

Why does the white color look so soft in old pictures?

The softness or yellowing of whites in old photos can be attributed to a few reasons:

Aging of Photo Paper: Over time, the chemicals in photo paper can degrade, leading to color shifts.

Exposure to UV Light: Prolonged exposure to sunlight or UV light can cause photos to fade or discolor.

Historical Processing Techniques: Earlier photography methods and materials had a different color stability than today’s techniques.

What is the color balance on a digital camera known as?

The color balance on a digital camera is commonly called “white balance.” It’s the mechanism that adjusts the color temperature of a light source, ensuring accurate color representation in the images captured.


Though a technical aspect of photography, white balance profoundly affects the final image. A simple tweak can transport viewers to a chilly winter day or a warm summer evening. As with many elements in photography, understanding the basics is the key. Once grasped, it becomes a tool in your arsenal to portray the world as it is or as you envision it.

If you’re hungry for more insights into the world of photography, don’t hesitate to explore our other articles. They’re crafted with care, just like this one, to help you on your journey.

Got more questions or need clarification? Drop a comment below! I’m quick to respond and eager to assist. Remember, every great photographer starts as a beginner, and every question is a stepping stone to mastery. Keep shooting, keep learning, and let’s create magic together!

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Stacy WItten

Stacy WItten

Owner, Writer & Photographer

Stacy Witten, owner and creative force behind LensesPro, delivers expertly crafted content with precision and professional insight. Her extensive background in writing and photography guarantees quality and trust in every review and tutorial.






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