White Balance

So I’m new at this photography thing. I admit I have so much to learn. It’s actually fun to me to learn about photography and photo editing.

If there was one thing that I wish that I had known from the beginning, it would be white balance. You know how most photography tutorials and classes start off with shutter speed, ISO and aperture value? It’s called the Exposure Triangle. Well, that’s all very important, but if your white balance is off, it won’t matter how perfect your exposure is or how much post editing you do with your exposure. Your photos will still lack something. Colors will be slightly “off.”  So today I want to share what I’ve learned about white balance.

  • The first thing is shoot in RAW if you can. You will have way more control over post editing and specifically white balance. You can actually reset the white balance if you have all the data associated with shooting in RAW.
  • Next, set your white balance to custom, not auto (especiallly if you are shooting indoors or without natural daylight, as you will see below). Canon has a super cool feature to set a custom white balance by going into settings, selecting “Custom,” filling your lens with an all white view and pressing the menu button. There are actually cards for this! Different companies like Kodak make these cards that are the perfect balance of 90% white. I have just been using white card stock and/or my studio backdrop cloth. It seems to work very well for me.
  • Last, you can always adjust the white balance in the RAW editor if you feel it is still “off” (assuming that you shot in RAW, of course).

I’m leaving you with some examples of auto vs custom white balance. All photos were shot with a Canon EOS 10D. I left the settings the same for each comparison except the white balance. The post editing was done to save them as JPEGs so that you could view them here. The white balance was not changed in post editing.


Ah, here’s a lovely pic of my ink pen. This is in the studio with one softbox quartz light and one halogen spotlight. The Custom white balance is beautiful! You can also see all the  dirt spots on the drop cloth that I usually spend time editing out, lol!


And here it is again, this time with auto white balance. Not so great. Where did all that orangeness come from?!?!?! I swear this drop cloth is white!


Now here is where it got interesting. This is on the table in the breakroom. Lovely tablecloth and all…There is a huge window that was letting in a lot of light. This is the custom white balance…


….and the auto white balance. Not a huge difference. That really doesn’t surprise me since this is mostly natural light. I did move the pen slightly here, because I was in a hurry and forgot to take this second pick!!! However, it was only moments later so the sunlight is the same. Also, you can see all the colors of the tablecloth to make a comparison.


This is in the kitchen. It is in an adjacent room to the break room with the big window. The main lighting here is a few tungsten bulbs. This is the custom white balance. I think it looks really good here.


Here is the auto white balance. I think it over compensated slightly here and is just on the blue side.


This was an interesting experiment for me and I encourage you to do the same with your camera. I would also like to thank my wonderful subject, Mr Pen. He was very patient and never complained once!


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