white balances on camera

Vote & Learn #5 : Understanding The White Balance

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The results of Vote & Learn #5  is out now. Thank you for your participation.

Vote and learn #5 Result
Vote and learn #5 Result

You can clearly see that Our winner  is  the  #4th  picture

#1
#1
#2
#2
#3
#3
#4
#4

So in this 5th vote and learn, we are going to discuss about White Balance. The 4th picture was taken in Auto White Balance Mode.

All the above 4 pictures are shot using my mobile phone while I was sitting in a park thinking about Vote and Learn.  The camera used is  Samsung Android phone cam.

Camera used is the same, the place photographed is the same, the time at which the photos were taken is the same, the lighting condition is the same. All other settings used in the photos are same except one. White Balance.

All the above pictures are captured at different White Balance settings.

What is White Balance?

Our eyes can see a white board as white in almost all lighting conditions. We have proper sensors for that. But unfortunately digital cameras do not have such great sensors.

Digital cameras cannot always see white colour as white under different lighting conditions.  So we use White Balance correction to tell camera, “Hey, that is a white, show it as white. This is a cool light, warm the result a bit. Well this is a warmer light, you need to cool it a bit” and so on.

So in short white balance helps to get the colours as we see them without the influence of any light sources.

How to Control The White Balance?

Now you know what to tell the camera. Now lets see How to tell this to the camera.

Auto White Balance

All the cameras have “AWB” or Auto White Balance Setting. This function try to guess which is the best possible way to compensate for a given set of lighting conditions. It works well within a certain range of lighting conditions.

The brain inside a camera picks up the brightest spot (usually white) in the frame(composition) to adjust the WB correction. But in certain lighting conditions, the brightest spot could be a different colour. For eg if the scene is lit with a sodium lamp, camera cannot find a white reference point to correct the WB.

The White Balance Effect
The White Balance Effect

Due to such several factors, camera misjudges and gives a cooler(bluish) or warmer(reddish) colour cast to the photograph which looks unnatural, just like in the above pictures.

Preset White Balance Settings

Then comes preset WB settings, to our rescue. You can find them under WB settings

White Balance Settings
White Balance Settings

Depending on the lighting conditions, we can choose the right one. It does the necessary adjustments to give you a better picture.

These are the maximum WB settings that we can do with our basic mobile phone camera.

In the above four pictures from the park, the 4th one was taken using “AWB” (Auto White Balance) and the first one with “Daylight”

Even though it was taken during daylight conditions, the picture looks a bit warmer to me, in comparison to the 4th one.

So again, even the preset WB settings do not guarantee the right tones always. In bigger cameras, they have other options like setting a custom white balance manually and setting the Kelvin value according to the colour temperature.

Now the rest of the post is for the big cameras.

Setting Custom White Balance, Manually

If you have a white paper or anything that is white, You can tell the camera under any lighting conditions that “This is white, make the necessary adjustments based on this reference”

For that, you just need to take a picture of that white object in that lighting conditions and set that picture as the  White balance reference point.

Go to “Custom White Balance” option and choose this picture as the reference. Then you have successfully set your custom white balance.

white balances on camera
white balances on camera

This is the same scene in different white balance settings for an easy understanding.

Now lets see how to set Kelvin. But before that we need to know a few things about light and colour temperature.  This is going to be a bit technical.

Colour Temperature

There is something called as a “Black body” which does not reflect or allow light to pass through but absorbs all the light that falls on it. At certain surface temperature, this black body  Radiates certain lights.

So in simple terms,  at certain surface temperatures, it radiates certain colours of light.  This colours of light can be ‘bluish’, ‘reddish’, ‘orangish’ or “whatever colour”ish  depending on the colour temperature.

Anyway a perfect black body is a theoretical term. But the concept of colour temperature still applies to photography.

Lets check some of the light sources and the colour temperature associated with it.

Colour Temperature Light Source
1000-2000 K Candlelight
2500-3500 K Tungsten Bulb (household variety)
3000-4000 K Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 K Fluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 K Electronic Flash
5000-6500 K Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 K Moderately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

You can see

Warmer colours are associated with Lower Colour temperature &

cooler colour are associated with Higher Colour temperature.

So if you have a warmer results, increase the K value (or the presets which are cooler) and vice versa.


Now you must have found out the reason for setting the WB to “Cloudy” for the Candle picture and Sunset with Mobile phone pictures in the previous posts

That is all for this part of Vote n Learn. Let me know if I have missed anything or made any mistakes.

Happy Clicking.  Keep experimenting.

Let me know your feedbacks, What do you want to include in this series etc. Do share , because sharing is caring 😀

Also tell me which one did you vote and why did you vote.

I suggest you to try out different white balances in different lights and experiment. Sometimes even a wrong settings can give your nice results.

trablogger

View posts by trablogger
Photographing the journeys to recreate the Travels to take you for a virtual Photo walk.

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Soul n Spirit

I love this post and it was full of information. I have just started to shoot in Raw. Jathin tell me why some renowned photographers insist on shooting raw.May be it can be processed easily. I found the pics quite heavy when I shot recently. What is the correct mode. I have been using Manual mode or at times A to click. My Nikon dslr has so many modes but what to use when is always bug me.

shedacraydiva

Very nice article… It was an informative read. I’ve actually been trying to develop my photography skills as a hobby and I must confess ur blog is my go to blog for photography inspirations. Keep up the good work. ☺

nerdlovewords

I don’t remember…I chose either 1 or 4. 🙁

badfish

VERY cool! However, I don’t have WB on my iphone 6 (or…I can’t find it). Do you have to download an app for it?

Fimnora Westcaw

This is very interesting. And strangely, I found picture #1 (the top one is #1, right?) to be the most clear. I think I associate clarity with balance? The 4th pic felt ‘washed’ out a bit. I’ll have to find that auto balance you talked about. I do have an auto option, though I’m not yet sure of how to work with it. One problem was, I’d taken some pics of a ‘sunset’ and the street was more dark with the sunset at the far end… yet the picture itself came out like it was broad daylight. Very strange. That’s… Read more »

writenlive

This is a very informative post. I did go through the candle and the sunset posts but this one spurs me on.
I voted for pic#1 because I liked the warmer tones. #2 and #3 were too bluish and in #4, I found the pavement a little sun bleached- devoid of colour.

Aadhirai

I did vote for the winner!! 😉

I voted because, that looks closer to reality.. That is how I would see with my eye… 😉

As for the next part, That’s a wonderful lesson on white balance.. You had given even the technicalities in a simple way..

Keep caring enough to share the things you have learnt, over your travel from a novice to an awesome photographer.. 😉

Pretty useful for people like me.. 😉

ANooP

Good post man. You are a teacher.
I went through a whole chapter of WB while learning about Photography but the interesting fact about DSLR Photography is that I don’t bother about WB at all cos I shoot RAW files and later post process 🙂

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