Have you ever noticed how different light sources affect the way you look in the mirror? While incandescent light may give a softer glow to your complexion, fluorescent light tends to unmask all imperfections.
This is because different light sources have different color temperatures.
Our eyes do a great job for adjusting to see white light under various light sources, but cameras, on the other hand, have difficulty and create odd color casts as a result.
You will notice a color change from taking a photograph of your friend outside compared to shooting them indoors under artificial lighting. Where one will appear yellow colored, the other may have a tinge of blue.
A color spectrum will reveal where different light sources lie in relation to each other. Sunlight is considered the standard for all others to be compared (sunlight at noon to be specific).
Warmer light sources include candlelight, incandescence and sunrises/sunsets, whereas cloud cover and shade side with cooler light. Knowing where a light source stands on the color spectrum will help you better adjust white balance.
As the name suggests, white balance helps to adjust color temperature in images.
By adding the opposite color, it attempts to neutralize the color temperature back to a normal, white light. Though there is an auto setting for white balance, it is best to adjust the white balance setting manually.
Most cameras come with a few white balance settings to be used. These are often displayed as icons representing the light source. When taking a photograph, take note of the light source in the environment and choose the appropriate white balance icon.
To understand white balance better, take the same photograph using different white balance settings. You will notice a change in color amongst the images.
If you don’t adjust for white balance while taking a photograph, don’t worry, this can also be adjusted in the post editing process. However, it is always best to remember during rather than afterward.
Once you are familiar with white balance and how it can affect an image, you can use these settings creatively. For example, knowing that sunsets produce a warm color temperature and the correct white balance would create a similar image to what you see in reality, using the incorrect white balance setting may result in something unique, helping to evoke a different mood you are trying to convey.
If you use the Shade setting on a sunset image instead, the sky may turn out to as a striking blue. If you want your sunset to be even warmer, you could use the Incandescent setting and the image will come out with more vibrant reds and oranges.
In the below two images, this is the same sun rise with two different white balances used:
White balance doesn’t always have to be used to balance out the color temperature. You can use the different settings in your favor to utilize different temperatures that are not naturally given in your scene.