The color of light and balancing the white

A light is a light is a light, right? Nope. Light sources can be warmer (with more reddish tones) such as a candle or an incandescent light, or they can also be cooler (with more blueish tones) such as in the shade or a cloudy day. You may have noticed that some times your pictures have certain tints to them and the color doesn’t look natural. This is where white balance comes to the rescue. The camera will add more of the missing hue in an effort to balance out the tint created by a light source and achieve more natural looking colors. I used the last blooms of the orchid on my patio as a subject. The plant is in open shade. Auto white balance will often produce a fine result but sometimes some tweaking is necessary or just fun to try.

This is the auto white balance shot:

auto WBIn this case, it is a fairly accurate color depiction but I will carry on. Different cameras have different white balance settings so you will have to get out your manual for your particular camera’s settings.

Next I used the daylight setting:

daylight WBThis adds a slight warmth to the picture.

The shade setting, symbolized by a house with diagonal lines off one side, is next:

shade WB Shade is a cooler light and the camera adds warmer tones with this setting.

The cloudy setting:

cloudy WBOnce again warmer tones are added.

Next the tungsten setting:

tungsten WBThe blue tones are strong with this setting because pictures taken under tungsten lighting will have a strong orange hue to them and the blue will balance it out. Generally, this is used indoors.

Next, fluorescent setting:

fluorescent WBThis is a cooler hue also.

Another method of white balancing is using the Kelvin scale of color temperature. The lower numbers are the warmer hues so the camera will add cooler colors. When I set my temperature at 2800K this is the result:

2800K WBInversely, the higher numbers are cooler temperature colors so the camera adds warmer tones, this is set to 10,000K:

10000K WBThen, there is a range in between these. You can also set a custom white balance by taking a picture of a white or neutral gray sheet and thus telling your camera what white is and it will adjust accordingly.

There is no rule that you must use a certain setting in a certain condition. You can decide what you prefer as the photographer. Maybe you like warmer tones in your photos or cooler. It is fun to play around with them and see what you like; just one more creativity tool!

Performing a balancing act,

~ Susan

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