White balance is actually the process involving the removal of unwanted color casts from the picture. Only the right white balance setting can give you the right color temperature. It is the white balance, which sets the mood of the picture. So, understanding white balance is essential.

 

Color Temperature

Now the question is what is color temperature? Color temperature is used for describing the spectrum of light that gets radiated from the surface of a black body with the same surface temperature. So, How is White balance and Color temperature related? Different lighting condition like daylight, cloudy, shade and tungsten light are almost similar to the light created by the black bodies, hence they are related.


The table given below will give you an idea of how color temperature is related to different light sources:

Color Temperature in K

Source of Light

1000-2000 K

 Candlelight

2500-3500 K

 Tungsten Bulb

3000-4000 K

Clear Sky

4000-5000 K

 Fluorescent Lamps

5000-5500 K

 Electronic Flash

5000-6500 K

 Daylight with Clear Sky

6500-8000 K

 Moderately Overcast Sky

9000-10000 K

Heavily Overcast Sky

 

Auto White balance

All digital cameras and SLR cameras come with Auto White Balance feature. Most of the photographers will be setting their white balance to this one. But, I would not recommend going with this setting because if you use the automatic mode then you will never learn about white balance. Also, in certain situations when the lighting conditions are not so good then there is a chance that the camera system may not be able to select the appropriate white balance for you.

If you own a DSLR camera and if you shoot in RAW then it is OK to go with Auto White balance as the RAW format gives you the option to change the white balance during post processing. But, if you own a normal digital camera then you should select the appropriate white balance depending on the scene and lighting conditions.

 

Preset White Balances

Almost all digital cameras come with preset white balances. You can select any one from these depending on the situation.

Different White Balance options in a camera

The above shown white balances are arranged in the increasing order of color temperature (from top to bottom). I recommend you to keep the default white balance as cloudy rather than Auto white balance. This will give more warmth to the image.

Let us see, how the mood of the picture changes with different white balances.

White Fluroscent Light White Balance


Tungsten White Balance

 

Shade White Balance

 

Flash White Balance

 

Cloudy White Balance

 

Auto White Balance

 

Daylight White Balance


Custom White Balances

Certain cameras, especially DSLR cameras allows you to set custom white balance, wherein you can select the color temperature according to your wish. Most of the photographers use this feature to customize their shots.

 In certain camera models, you will be having the option of more than one custom white balances. So, you can set one for landscape, one for portrait, one for macro. In this way, you can save some time before taking a shot. In my experience, most of the time is consumed for setting the parameters
in the camera.


The RAW Advantage

RAW format gives you the ability to apply the white balance after taking the photo. This is a good option. The main advantage is that you can apply all the white balances and have a preview to see which one suits the best. Also, you will get a better control over the color temperature as you can move the slider to select one rather than choosing the available presets.