Today I’m gonna talk all about white balance - the way our cameras see white and adjust colors.
One of the top questions I see people ask when becoming acquainted with their camera is “what is white balance and how do I change it?”, especially from fellow craft bloggers. We’re frequently taking snaps indoors, outdoors, under one lamp and next to a different window- meaning our white balance always changes. But you don’t need to worry too much because white balance is actually pretty easy to understand and get right. And you can also totally fake it after you already took the photo and you find out later that it looks blue or yellow!
White balance is the way your camera sees white and interprets it in pictures. This is kind of a hard concept to understand, because our brains are constantly adjusting to process color- but our cameras can’t always do that on their own- so they have settings that can help it find a true white.
First off, I want to tell you a tale about some sad blue pictures.
The first day of our honeymoon in Scotland, my husband and I were exhausted. We had been traveling for something like 48 hours in snow gear we needed leaving Denver, just to land in London and have to sprint across the entire airport (sidenote: Heathrow isn’t small, and their customs line for non-EU travelers stinks!!) to make our flight to Edinburgh. In snow gear. Sprinting to make a flight. We were loud, smelly, rushed Americans that day, who hand’t slept in a day.
When we landed, we were ready to start the trip off, but while adjusting to driving on the wrong side and just plain fatigue, we were totally fried.
So it’s no surprise my husband was totally exhausted from our drive up the coast and couldn’t remember how to set white balance while we were in St. Andrews.
He fiddled and couldn’t remember, and just took pictures anyways, hoping we could salvage them. I was heartbroken- St. Andrews was high on my list for our trip (if Kate and Wills could find love there, certainly it HAD to be a magical place, no?), and since we were just driving through, we didn’t really have time to take new pictures.
We were so glad that night when we downloaded the overly blue photos to see a few tiny adjustments were all we needed to make them look great- and a few minutes in our user manual had us on top of white balance the rest of the trip.
So if you’re upset that you keep getting pictures with the wrong colors, don’t worry. Changing your white balance is really easy- and if you don’t get it right, we can always process it afterwards! No worrying precious photos are ruined!
Here’s some of our shots, all sad and blue- and after quickly adjusting them:
So how can you adjust your white balance? In the video below, I am showing you on my canon, but you should check your user manual just in case our settings are different.
How easy is that?! To better understand each setting, here are the settings you will likely find on your camera:
- Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. You’ll find it works in many situations but it’s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting.
- Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.
- Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
- Daylight/Sunny – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
- Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode.
- Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
- Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.
Of course, you can set your white balance to what you think is correct, and still have the photo come out all funky. This happens to me pretty much every time I photograph anything in my kitchen, thanks to harsh overhead lights. My photos always come out too yellow- making food look super unappetizing and almost curry-hued.
So now even if you end up with an oddly hued shot, you can always fix it fairly easily. I am going to show how I use Adobe Lightroom to adjust white balance- but you can use the edits I am showing in almost any photo editing software (in PicMonkey, for example, you can adjust the blues and yellows easily). They might not be labeled white balance but it will work!
If you want the BEST software for quickly editing photos though, I strongly recommend Adobe Lightroom. Here is how easy it is to adjust the photos in lightroom:
First, open your photo and be sure you’re in the Develop tab. Right up top you’ll see the White Balance menu.
If you want to use the preset dropdown, click on it and select the option you’d like to use. If you shoot in JPEG, you’ll only see Auto, Custom and As Shot. If you shoot in RAW, you’ll have a wide variety.
I like to click Auto, see what the computer suggests, and then make my own adjustments with the sliders from there.
If your photo looks too blue, add a little yellow in the slider. If it is too yellow, move the slider towards blue. IT’s THAT EASY! Of course, finding the right hue requires a little time fiddling, but the slider (in lightroom or any editing software) makes it pretty easy.
You can then go ahead and add any other Lightroom edits or presets you’d like to make your photos shine!