what is white balance in photography and how its used in a camera

If you want to be a professional in photography and own a digital camera, then you must know what is white balance in photography in order of capturing a successful and error-free photo, and for that you also have to know the camera settings and how to deal with them for different shooting modes.

The White Balance setting in a digital camera is very important for the success of your photos, otherwise you will need, in the best case, to adjust your photos using a photo-editing program.

Also Read: The definition of aperture in photography and how to control it

Where the importance of this setting comes from making your camera adapt to the different lighting conditions of the scene you want to shoot.

For example, if you take a particular photo one day at night but in a bright place, and without adjusting the color balance on your camera, you will often get a yellowish or light orange photo, or if you take a portrait photo in a shady place or on a foggy day. You will produce a pale blue image, why is that?

It may happen at times (depending on the lighting conditions in which you are photographing), the appearance of colors that prevail over the rest of the other colors in the image,

Here comes the importance of setting the white balance in a digital camera, what is its mechanism and how is it used?

White Balance:

Each color in the visible spectrum has a different temperature that is measured on the Kelvin scale K, as the temperature to the light we are routinely exposed to is anywhere between 1000K and 10,000K.

When the color of the light is yellow, we say that the light source is warm, and when it is blue, we say that the light source is cold. As for the white color, it indicates moderation.

Although we can distinguish and know the difference in color temperature (such as the difference in the temperature of the candle light, for example from the light of the saving lamp …), the human eye does not notice this difference because the brain corrects it directly and involuntarily within the optical processing centers that calibrate the color temperature For the visual surroundings,

Also Read: 11 Tips for Beginner to Professional Photography!

Therefore, you find that you can still distinguish the white color under the various lighting conditions in which you are.

The digital camera can correct the temperature of the light in the image by adjusting the white balance, using a set of complex algorithms that determine the neutral colors in the image (white, grayscale and black) and then calibrate the rest of the image to the temperature of neutral colors.

There is no doubt that the development of image processing technology has greatly improved the ability of the modern digital camera to recognize white and neutral colors within the scene. You can use Auto White Balance – AWB.

The camera will automatically correct the color temperature, but if the camera does not make the correct adjustment, you must use the rest of the available options:

Camera white balance settings:

In addition to automatic white balance adjustment, any digital camera provides you with the following options:

 Tungsten / Incandescent Yellow Lamp: When shooting with yellow light bulbs, use this option. The color temperature of this source is in the range of 2500 to 3500 K.

Fluorescent white neon and saving bulbs: When you are shooting with white diagonal lights such as neon and LED lights, use this option. The color temperature of this source is within the range of 4000 to 5000 K.

Daylight / Sunny: When shooting in direct sunlight and the temperature of the light is within a range of 5000 K

Cloudy Sun through clouds (also called soft sun): When photographing in sunlight through clouds, the temperature of the light is within 6500 to 8000 K.

Flash Flashlight: If shooting with flash light, the temperature of the light is 5000 to 5500 Kelvin, which is close to the temperature of sunlight approximately.

Shade: When photographed in full shade without sunlight, the color temperature is 9000 to 10,000 K.

Also available in advanced types of cameras the ability to set the color temperature value digitally.

You cannot change the white balance settings when the camera is in full auto mode (because manipulating white balance violates the settings for shooting in full auto mode, so you will likely need to switch to one of the other shooting modes such as Aperture Priority, or Shutter). Priority (shutter speed priority), or Manual

Here in this example we are using a mid-level DSLR camera, the Nikon D3100, but you can apply the instructions to any other camera that offers the ability to change the white balance settings (custom setting) …

With the D3100 set to Aperture Priority, we can access the White Balance menu from the camera settings menu:

here you can choose one of the available options, depending on the lighting conditions around you (are you on a sunny day, are you shooting in the shadows, or are you shooting in Lighting yellow incandescent bulbs ?!

We’ll take a reference photo first using the Automatic White Balance setting. For that, we have a white card and a colorful game, and we photographed outside in the garden (a sunny afternoon) with a green plant in the background and part of the wooden fence …

as you notice in The resulting image here, although the white card (the reference) covers more than 25% of the image area, the camera was not able to obtain a correct automatic balance ideal for white color, the image elements, including the white card, appear in a warm yellow color.

The same will happen if you choose the wrong manual setting (which does not suit the lighting conditions in which you are photographing), such as our choice here for the Incandescent setting (the color temperature is much warmer than the indirect noon sun where we are photographing):

generally, when you turn off the color balance setting Automatic white, and by choosing any of the other options, you will get a completely imperfect image, color balance, either light yellow or blue / green.

So what do you need to do to get the perfect color balance for the photo?

The best way to get the perfect color balance for captured photos is to set a custom white balance according to the lighting conditions in which you are shooting.

At the bottom of the D3100’s white balance selection menu, for example, there is a custom white balance setting. To set custom white balance you need to capture a full frame shot with an 18% white card or gray card.

Or you can instead of purchasing this special photo card, replace it with any white card (bright color),

Here’s the photo we took after we zoomed in on the white card to encompass the entire frame, took a white reference image to adjust the white balance, and then re-captured the scene:

Among all the previous pictures that we took, note that the last image achieved the best result for white balance.

Our goal for this educational example is to get the best result for the images you take so that it approximates the real colors of the scene as possible, as well as your understanding of the method of controlling the white balance setting in the camera makes you able to choose the ideal lighting conditions and photography for the image as you imagine it,

You may not want to get the image colors as they really are, as a scene you want to photograph in candlelight, then you may want to warm the image by increasing the yellow color in it, such effects and others, you need to be fully aware of the white balance options available in your camera How do you prepare it ..