Digital Camera White Balance
How to Set White Balance
The human eye can effortlessly adapt to contrasting light conditions so that objects preserve their 'true'
color. If we observe at a blue ball, for instance, we see the exact shade of blue indoors and outdoors and under
cloudy or cloudless conditions.
In actuality, each kind of light amplifies a certain color in the spectrum. What we consider to be 'white' light
only occurs during the midday hours of a cloudless day. Sunlight in the early evening or late afternoon gives all
things a reddish hint, and cloudy days bring out the blue end of the spectrum.
Each class of artificial light also has a particular color cast. Incandescent lighting gives a very definite
yellowish cast whilst fluorescent lights tend to give off a bluish green tint. All of these contrasting lighting
conditions affect the color balance in photographs.
The majority of digital cameras let you adjust the color balance for varying types of light. This can be carried
out either manually or automatically, although the automatic settings can produce unpredictable results from one
photograph to another.
Manual settings can be done by choosing a preset such as 'sunlight' or 'cloudy', but these settings can be fine
tuned to match very definite lighting conditions.
Color balance is achieved by adjusting the camera so that white is true white. Once the camera is set to
correctly reproduce white, the other colors will appear to be their natural shade.
Correct white balance can easily be checked by looking through the viewfinder of your digital camera and holding
up a piece of white paper in front of the lens. This little tip will allow you to see whether the shade is correct
Some cameras possess an auto correct function and this same tip can be used - hold a piece of white paper in front
of the lens and then select Auto Correct.
Bear in mind that the presets are general guidelines and may not be appropriate for every type of lighting
condition. If your camera has a setting for florescent lights, for instance, it may still need additional
adjustment to get the right colour balance.
Although it is advisable to try to get the correct color balance at the time that you are taking photographs,
the color of an image can also be adjusted using software. This should not be regarded of as a substitute to proper
color balancing, but it can be utilised to good effect on many digital images.
Various computer software programmes can automatically adjust color as well as brightness and contrast. Start
with these 'auto' settings which sometimes can give surprisingly good results.
If you want to adjust the color manually, some understanding of the physics of color is required. All color is
made up of the three primary colors which are red, green, and blue. Three additional colors called the subtractive
primary colors are obtained by removing one of the primary colors where the other two are mixed. The three
subtractive primary colors are yellow, cyan and magenta.
This awareness of how colors interact allows you to amend improper color balances. For instance, if an image is
too red, adding some cyan (the opposite of red) can assist to naturalize the color.
Software can also be used to adjust color strength and with subtle use of imaging software it is possible to
turn satisfactory photographs into fantastic photographs.