White Balance, Color Temperature & Camera Presets In Photography

White Balance, Color Temperature & Camera Presets In Photography

white balance in photography article

White Balance

To accurately represent the true colors of a scene, your camera will do its best to interpret different types of light that are available as you shoot.  This is called white balance, or color balance.

The idea is to learn how to deal with different types of light.

Don't Make the Mistake of Always Letting Your Camera Figure Things Out

Letting your camera choose the white balance setting is called “auto white balance”. Manufacturers are developing new cameras every year that do a better and better job of this, but they are still no match for your educated eye!

You can start adjusting the settings manually, as you see fit!  A good place to begin is by learning about color temperature...

Color Temperature - Cool & Warm

In general, COOL temperatures are the blues and greens of the sky and water. While WARM temperatures are the reds and yellows of fire.

Observe the light, and try using a COLOR / LIGHT PRESET on your camera. You’ll be surprised at the results that you can get by diving into your menu just a little bit!

Common Color/Light Presets

You can have your camera make adjustments to the color using presets for different types of available light...

AUTO – this is where the camera makes its best guess. You’ll find it works well in most situations but it’s worth venturing out of when the lighting is trickier.

TUNGSTEN / INCANDESCENT – this mode is usually for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting, such as bulb lighting. This preset cools down the colors in the image.

FLUORESCENT  – this compensates for the cool fluorescent light by warming up the color temperature with reds and yellows.

CLOUDY – this setting warms things up and gives a flat cloudy day a bit of warmer reds.

FLASH – Since the flash on your camera is a cool white light. This preset warms up your shots with reds and yellows.

SHADE – Just like on a cloudy day, the light in shade is cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up.

Shooting RAW & Editing Images

Give yourself the flexibility to correct the color when you edit. Warming a photo up or cooling it down is easy if you shoot RAW. A subtle change that is made to a RAW image looks realistic compared to the same change made on a JPG. Shooting JPG doesn’t allow for as much editing.


One of the most common questions I get is "How do I make my photography look like what I actually saw that day"?  

Understanding color and white balance will get you on your way to documenting things to your vision.

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