According to SLRLouge and Wikipedia, "Color Balance is the global adjustments of [the primary] colors. An important goal of this adjustment is to render specific colors - particularly neutral colors - correctly. Hence, the general method is sometimes called gray balance, neutral balance, or white balance."
Generally speaking, our eyes do a fantastic job of rendering colors correctly - and the majority of people see colors about the same as the person standing next to them. For people like myself who is red/green color-blind (very common among males) - it's a little bit more challenging to differentiate the difference; we all see about the
Well, a camera's sensor is entirely different. It renders color by the way it was programmed. This is why the color science from every camera manufacturer is different. Mirrorless cameras in the Sony lineup have various color sciences in other sensors even. Their most recent cameras have much better color science than cameras of the past.
With that being said - manufacturers are constantly struggling with getting this balance (between white and other surrounding colors) correct.
Kelvin ratings are essentially a numeric representation of a color temperature. Kelvin values range greatly - with 1,000-2,000 being the warmest (yellow/orange) part of a candle flame and 9,000-10,000 being a heavily overcast (blue) day.
You may be familiar with the Kelvin scale when it comes to HID headlights. Before modern cars came with them from the manufacturer, you had to pick them out and put them in yourself. When picking them out, you had to choose which color temperature you wanted.
You could choose HIDs in the 3,000 Kelvin range, and your headlights would be yellow and warm. Between 5 and 6,000 were pure white - and anything past 7,000 and closer to 10,000 were very blue.
White balance uses these values but eliminates color casts in a way you might not be familiar with.
It's pretty simple, really, so try and follow me on this. It's an execution of proper balance; keep that in mind.
So, let's say your scene is in the 4k kelvin range. It's pretty warm, you're outdoors, and it's getting to the beloved golden hour.
Your camera (or you can do it manually) will bring the kelvin/white balance value to 4k. That's what you want - the white balance/kelvin value to equal the scene's temperature.
But let's say you're controlling white balance manually. You're set at 4,000 kelvin, and the scene looks great. You then take it upon yourself to experiment a little and go down in the kelvin scale. You're image then starts getting a cool/blue tint to it. You then push it to the extreme, 2,000 kelvin, and your image is crazy blue.
Well, yes. Yes, it is. But, you see, your camera is balancing - it's adding the opposite values to create that balance. It's trying to get an equal balance of warm and cool temperatures to equal what you see in reality.
This is why when you add what would be 'cool' temperatures (7,000+) on a sunny day, all you're doing is adding warm temperatures. The camera thinks that it's cloudy/cool out already - and will add warm values in attempts to balance... You would want to get the camera as close to the temperature in reality - and adjust from there.
Keep reading for a couple of note-worthy tips about this section.
When set in auto white balance (AWB), your camera analyzes what it sees through the lens. It tries to find what it 'thinks' is white. Once it does - it eliminates the color that's keeping it from being pure white. It believes that by eliminating that specific wave-length of color and bringing white to pure white, everything else in the scene should be the correct color.
You'll end up with images that aren't white balanced at all - but balanced off of a different 'color' in the scene.
You'll notice that white balance can bounce around from frame to frame while in AWB. This is common and one of the main reasons people use manual white balance settings.
To adjust the white balance manually, you will need to refer to your camera's manual. If you don't have the manual - you can find a digital version of it online. Search Google - and type "camera manual for X," with X being the make and model of your camera.
As for me - I use the Sony A7iii. To adjust the white balance on the Sony A7iii, you would hit the fn button (function) on the back. Botton over to the WB box and hit enter (center of scroll wheel). I then would scroll down to the K adjustments (right above custom 1) and button right. I can then adjust the kelvin values from there. Once I have it where I want it - I hit enter, and it's set.
Your camera may be a little different, but it's all the same (Canon white balance adjustment is easier).
There are a couple of times where you may find you have to use the manual white balance.
As stated previously - I'm providing this section from personal experience. I've had color balancing nightmares in the past - and I'm passing those experiences along here. I hope it helps you at some point, so you don't have to experience what I have.
We hope this article has helped you understand what white balance is and how it can make your photography more accurate. If people forget one thing, it's that the camera doesn't always know best, right?
Don't worry, though - you know how to adjust the white balance when you need to manually. And who knows, a few weeks or months from now, you could be setting your camera's white balance manually and never using auto white balance ever again! It's all about what works best for you.
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Check out our related article, Manual Settings On A Camera: Photography Basics Overview, where we touch on the five main manual settings - aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance (you're currently reading), and metering modes.
Until next time, be safe out there and continue learning and creating!