I remember when I was working on TV the photographers were always adjusting the white balance before shooting an interview. It is something that was drilled in to my head in college, the importance of white balance. You can have an awesome photo or video but if the white balance is off, then the subject will look blue or orange which damages the whole photo. So I decided today to talk a little about white balance.
All light has a color temperature (measured in Kelvin). This number refers to the warmth or coolness of white light. Different things emit light at different temperatures. The white balance setting on your camera, tells the camera which color represents white, allowing it to calculate all other colors correctly.
Knowing the color temperature of things can get pretty technical and that is something I was tested on in college; like I had to know that something white outdoors at sunrise or sunset would emit a color temperature of about 3,500 Kelvin, so that means I would have to set my camera setting to more of a tungsten light. But that's not important for the average photographer to know... unless you really want to impress someone... but for everyone else, I will keep this pretty basic.
On a normal SLR camera, you have the option to change the white balance. Below is what the white balance option looks like on your display screen. Check your owner's manual to find out how to change the white balance, it can be a dial or a settings button, or arrows you move over to select from the different white balance options.
This is a chart showing what the different white balance options are and when you would use the different options.
Here are some examples of the difference that the white balance settings can have on a photo. I took four pictures of each of the below objects, and changed the white balance on my camera for each picture. I adjusted the white balance setting between Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, and Fluorescent.
This one of my white pitcher was taken indoors, so that means it was with tungsten light which is basically your standard lightbulb. Check out which one makes the pitcher look most like it naturally should. Personally I think the "auto" white balance looks the best.
This picture of my cupcake was taken in daylight outside. I think the "auto" and "daylight" are both pretty good, but the "daylight" looks a tad better because the frosting doesn't look as washed out.
These pictures were taken in my husband's workshop where there is a fluorescent light. I think with the "fluorescent" setting there is more detail as opposed to the "auto" setting.
Things to remember about white balance:
1. Consider adjusting your white balance for certain situations. You will generally be safe keeping it in the auto setting, but be brave to venture from auto if it makes the photo better.
2. If you start to play with your white balance setting, make sure you get in the habit of checking it each time you take a picture. You don't want to take a picture outdoors when you forgot and left your white balance on fluorescent or something.
3. You can edit the white balance in Lightroom, if you forget to do it on your camera.