Many photographers will start shooting in automatic mode, but once you start shooting in manual mode, you will gain so much more creative control over your images. The first three settings you should know about are the exposures settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These settings are only the beginning, and your camera settings go beyond those three. Today’s blog focuses on white balance, which allows you to get the right color temperature in your photos.
Color temperature is expressed in degrees Kelvin, and all sources of light have a color temperature whether you’re using natural light, fluorescents, professional speedlights, or LED panels. Color temperature works inversely to what we associate with temperature because “warm” colors fall at the lower end of the spectrum while “cool” colors are on the higher end. The lower the number, the warmer the color, and likewise, the cooler the color, the higher its color temperature.
Colors that are warmer tend to read orange and fall around 2000K, and cooler colors, like that of moonlight are at the other end around 8000K-10,000K. Even the same light source can have variations of color temperature. Take the sun for example. Sunlight may look neutral at noon (within the ballpark of approximately 6000K) but can appear warm at sunrise or sunset.
Our brains are remarkable and recognize colors even in different color temperatures. We understand that an apple is red whether we’re looking at it in warm light or cool light. A digital camera can approximate the color temperature of an object but doesn’t always compensate correctly. If you want to record accurate colors, you may be required to adjust your white balance settings.
Your DSLR will often have white balance presets like Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Shade, and more that will help compensate for your lighting conditions. Sometimes, your camera may have even more refined controls and may let you adjust the values in Kelvins. Think of color temperature and white balance as opposites: warmer light falls lower on the Kelvin scale, so setting a lower number on your camera will cool down the image instead of warming it up.
White balance is a powerful tool for accurate color correction, but it can also be used artistically. Knowing how to set your white balance settings can make a photo look natural, but they can also be used to do the opposite and make them look otherworldly.