Looking a Little Blue: White-balancing tips

We’ve all done it: you look at your camera’s display, and then look at what’s in front of you, and wonder why is everything a different color? This looks like crap! 

Behold–there is a solution!

If you have never explored the corridors of your camera’s settings, but you want to get the best possible image that your camera can create, discovering the glorious menu option that is white balance will…kind of change your life. Well, it will at least change your image.


Your White Balance Menu

You can find these options in virtually every camcorder or DSLR’s menu. They each have special uses:

 Tungsten: Use when your subject is completely lit by household lighting, or professional, non-fluorescent lighting and generally speaking, most indoor spaces.

  Fluorescent: Use when your subject is lit primarily with Fluorescent, HMI, mercury or metal halide lights, such as street lights.

 Daylight: This setting is used for outdoor, sun-filled shooting, or indoors when the sunlight coming through the window or sunroof is the primary source of light.

 Cloudy:  Very similar to the Daylight setting, but a bit warmer, more natural looking. Use when shooting in a sunny environment.

 Shade: This one can be pretty orange, which is great if you’re in the shade, as shaded areas pick up as blue on your camera’s sensor. This setting will counter balance the light emitting from your shaded subject.

(This list covers the basics. For nitty-gritty pro details, we recommend checking out video guru Ken Rockwell‘s site.)


Auto White Balance

In my experience, Auto WB is frequently a little too blue and unnatural looking. This is because the camera’s sensor turns would-be yellow light (like sunlight or most indoor bulbs) to a neutral white, which looks unnatural.

That being said, there are a few instances you may want to opt for the camera’s Auto WB () setting. It’s great when you are shooting with multiple sources of light, or are moving through multiple locations, indoor and out, or even through a building with different lighting throughout.

The photo on the left was shot using the Auto WB () setting, while the photo on the right was set to Shade ()


Custom White Balance

If you want to get fancy, explore your camera’s Custom WB (function. Pick an object that you would like the camera’s sensor to recognize as “neutral white”, usually a white wall.

  • Make sure your object fills at least most of the frame
  • Hold and select this function
  • After a few moments your image’s color temperature will change. Presto change-o!


The Digital Alternative:

Of course there are digital post-production options (like tweaking your color settings or applying filters) offered by programs like Final Cut Pro, Color, Adobe Premiere or After Effects, but you’ll have more control over your final results if you control your white balance from the beginning.

Using a white-balanced image gives your software the most useful information, and allows you to tweak effectively without making it look unnatural.


You Have The Power

I remember the day I realized I controlled the color temperature. I cried tears of joy when I pressed that custom button and my image leapt from blah to brilliant.

I now bequeath this secret onto you, my fellow image hunters!

:::::::::: Ready?! Set?! Shoot!!



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