Photography Tutorials and Articles

White Balance Presets 

When To Use  White Balance Presets.

When it comes to adjust the colours, human brain does an amazing job. In less than three seconds, our brains adjust the colours for us. That is why we move from one light source (for instance normal light bulb) to outdoor light (daylight), and we can see the correct light and colours almost instantly. Our digital cameras do not have a brain to adjust the colours. That is the reason for all new digital cameras are equipped with Auto White Balance, White Balance Presets, and Custom White Balance settings.

What is Auto White Balance?

Each digital camera has the data of thousands of images built into its processor. When you use any of the auto modes (Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure, Auto area auto focus, etc.) the camera compares the scene to the data of these images and selects the one that is closest. The result might be close or be quite far from accurate colour and exposure.

You may have noticed that the newer digital cameras take better photos. It is not because these cameras are better made, but mainly because the manufacturers added more data to the newer camera to use as references!

White Balance Presets

in most cases the Auto White Balance does a better job than Presets, but if you are using a flash as your main source of light, then it is a good idea to set the White Balance to Flash
Almost all digital cameras are equipped with White balance Presets.

When should I use Auto White Balance?

This being said, if you have a newer digital camera and are taking pictures with only one source of light, the Auto White Balance will create a decent image for you. If there is more than one source of light (e.g. daylight from a window and tungsten light of an indoor lamp) the chances are higher that your camera can’t make the right decision, which will result in a heavy colour cast in your image.

Auto White Balance

Custom White Balance
Auto White Balance, as the whit colour is presented in the image will work fine

How do digital cameras measure the White Balance?

Generally speaking, digital camera searches for 18% grey in the scene, and whatever resembles closest to 18% grey will be used as a reference for grey and the colours adjusted accordingly. This is why photos in a forest with no white or grey present in the scene will often end up with a deep green cast over your images.

Auto White Balance

Camera could not set the White Balance correctly in this photo
Camera could not set the White Balance correctly in this photo

What are White Balance Presets?

Almost all digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances; these presets are tuned to provide a fixed correction for common lighting scenarios. The camera relies on you to choose the right setting for the scene. The most popular presets are: Direct Sun, Flash, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent.

The description and symbol for the above white balances are just rough estimates for the actual lighting they work best under. In fact, cloudy could be used in place of daylight depending on the time of day, elevation, or degree of haziness. In general, if your image appears too cool on your LCD screen preview (regardless of the setting), you can quickly increase the colour temperature by selecting a setting further down on the list above. White Balance presets are not always accurate: for example the colour temperature for a shade area varies from summer to winter.

White Balance Presets Vs Auto

Auto White Balance Vs Presets
Auto White Balance vs Fluorescent preset. The preset created a better colour

Any tips on using White Balance Presets properly?

As a matter of fact in most cases the Auto White Balance does a better job than White Balance Presets, but if you are using a off camera flash as your main source of light, then it is a good idea to set the White Balance Presets to Flash and your camera will provide perfect colour.

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Custom White Balance can handle different Light Sources
Custom White Balance can handle different Light Sources

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