This digital photography training session will cover white balance and what it means to a photographer. In order to understand what white balance means, we should first talk about lighting in general. Various sources of light have different color hues associated with them. For example, incandescent lights have an orange cast that gives a scene a somewhat warm look to it. Sunlight has a bluish cast that many refer to as being cool. Fluorescent lights often have a greenish cast. The white balance adjustment in a camera is used to compensate for the type of lighting in a scene.
Even though various sources of light have different color hues, our eyes automatically adjust so that the colors appear relatively normal. Digital cameras do the same thing through the automatic white balance adjustment, but unfortunately the camera doesn’t always get it right. In those cases, we need to manually adjust the setting to tell the camera what kind of lighting we really have.
Have you ever taken a picture indoors without a flash and noticed how orange or warm the photograph looked? Well, that is the automatic white balance not getting things exactly right. Indoor scenes with artificial lights give many digital cameras difficulty. Whenever I take a picture indoors without a flash, I manually adjust the white balance to the incandescent setting, which is a good match for most indoor lights. This makes the pictures come out much closer to what our eye sees. If you can’t find a setting that is a good match for the actual lights, you can usually customize the setting by taking a test photo of something that is white for the camera to do a custom calibration. The camera will then use the custom setting for the shot. You can check your camera manual for the exact method for customizing the setting.
When you shoot in JPEG mode on the camera, the white balance adjustment must be made when you take the picture. There is no way to adjust the setting after the JPEG image has been taken. But if you shoot in the RAW mode, you will be able adjust the setting afterwards when you process the image. This is actually one of the big advantages of using the RAW mode. If you’re not sure you’ll remember to change the white balance setting, you should consider shooting in the RAW mode so you can adjust the setting later in post processing.