Camera Basics Introduction To White Balance

Jerry Walch By Jerry Walch, 7th Aug 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/mi_af86h/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Photography

White Balance is one of the most complicated menus on a digital camera for the neophyte, but it need not be. White balance is nothing more than adjusting the way your cameras sees different colors under different lighting conditions. When properly adjusted for the lighting conditions your cameras sensor will identify and display colors just as your eyes see them. When set to "Auto White Balance," your camera will attempt to adjust automatically just as our eyes do, but not always successfully.

Introduction

Have you ever taken a picture on a cloudy day and have it come out too blue? Have you ever taken a picture indoors using incandescent lights and have it come out too orange? Have you ever shot a picture illuminated by candlelight and have it come out looking too red. An improperly set white balance caused all of those problems. All light sources are not equal. Different types of light sources emit different amounts of red, green, and blue light. Different light sources emit light at different color temperatures. You measure color temperature in degrees Kelvin, but we can forget about that for now. I will go into color temperature in detail in a future article.

Where Did The Term White Balance Come From?

This section is for all of you with inquiring minds who want to know. The term "White Balance" come from the science of video photography. Studio video photographers use an oscilloscope that displays the red, green, blue signal waveforms in parade form. The video photographer uses these displays to balance the red. Green, and blue outputs from the camera. Camera manufacturers have made it a lot simpler for you to get the right, white balance with your still camera.

The White Balance Menu

Digital cameras have an elaborate menu system that controls all the camera functions. There is one menu devoted to setting white balance. If you do not know how to pull the white balance menu up, get out the manual that came with your camera and read it. Most consumer digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and high-end point and shoot cameras offer you six options on the white balance menu-Auto, Tungsten, Daylight, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom. Unless you have a color temperature meter that gives you the exact temperature of light in degrees Kelvin, you will probably want to stay away from the custom menu option that allows you to dial in white balance by degrees Kelvin.

Auto White Balance (AWB) Mode

The AWB Mode does a terrific job in most situations no matter whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, using natural light or flash. Photos shot indoors at night using incandescent lighting will appear pleasantly warm. Pictures taken in the shade will appear blue. When the scene is dark enough to call for flash the camera will automatically switch to the flash mode. The letters "AWB" on the white balance menu selection screen usually indicates the auto white balance mode. Use the AWB Mode on your camera while you experiment with and master the other modes.

COLOR TEMPERATURE IN DEGREES KELVIN


TWILIGHT................................................12,000
SHADE IN DAYLIGHT.................................7,500
OVERCAST................................................6,500
NOON DAYLIGHT/FLASH...........................5,500
WARM FLUORESCENT............................. 4,000
TUNGSTEN................................................ 3,200
SUNRISE/SUNSET...................................... 3,000
75-WATT TUNGSTEN BULB........................2,800
CANDLE FLAME...........................................1,800
MIDNIGHT............................................................0

Tungsten Mode

The Tungsten White Balance mode is indicated by "Indoor" or a symbol of a light bulb on the white balance menu screen. The color temperature of tungsten light varies depending on the bulb wattage as you can see from the above chart. A 75-watt tungsten bulb has a color temperature of 2,800 degrees Kelvin while a tungsten projection lamp has a temperature of 3,200 degrees Kelvin. The color temperature of a tungsten lamp also changes as the bulb ages. Shooting in the tungsten mode except under tungsten lighting will produce pictures with a distinctive blue cast.

Daylight Mode

The daylight mode is indicated on the white balance menu by a symbol of the sun. The only time I use this mode is for shooting test charts in direct sunlight. This mode produces pictures that have more of a bluish cast than I care for. I always screw on an 81A-warming filter to reduce the bluish cast.

Fluorescent Mode

The fluorescent mode is indicated on the menu by a long rectangle, or fluorescent tube. Use this mode when shooting with fluorescent, mercury, HMI, or metal halide lighting. Use this mode if your pictures appear too green.

The Manual, Custom, or Preset Mode

This mode allows you to preset the white balance to an exact temperature setting and works great if you have a light meter with a color temperature display. If you do not have a light temperature meter, you can still use this option by trial and error. Dial in a temperature setting and then take a test shot. Check the exposure on the LCD. Increase or decrease the setting until you are satisfied with the results.

Fine Tuning The White Balance

Many cameras allow you to fine-tune any of these modes to increase or decrease the coolness or warmth of the mode. Moving up the + side of the scale increases coolness while moving up the – side of the scale increases warmth.

Tags

Color, Color Temperature, Coolness, Daylight, Degrees Kelvin, Digital, Fine Tune, Fluorescent, Menu, Tungsten, Warmth, White Balance

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password