How To Achieve Perfect White Balance In Camera

White balance is a tricky subject in photography. Different types of light emit different colors, though our eyes often adjust to these changes on their own. Cameras, however, need a little help adjusting their color input. We change the way our cameras see light by using the White Balance feature. 

When I started using white balance, I kept running in to problems. There is a lot of terminology that can seem overwhelming, and sometimes using the “right” setting doesn’t always create the correct color temperature in the final image. Is a light tungsten, fluorescent, or shaded? Sometimes it’s all three, and I found myself frustrated with overly yellow or blue images. While I can definitely adjust my image in post processing (especially when shooting in RAW, which I will write about some other time) I really prefer to get it right in camera, when I can.

For this tip, you will need to use a DSLR camera with the “Custom White Balance” feature (Canon) or “Preset Manual” white balance feature (Nikon). (Be sure to check your manual for a custom white balance feature, different models and brands have it under different names. I use a Nikon D5200, so I will show you the steps I use to create perfect white balance in camera. 

On the left I accommodated for the incandescent (tungsten) lights, on the right I accommodated for the flash. Both are definitely not the coloring I was looking for.

On the left I accommodated for the incandescent (tungsten) lights, on the right I accommodated for the flash. Both are definitely not the coloring I was looking for.

I recently did a photo booth for a women’s event at our church. I brought a grey and white bedsheet from Target and hung it from my Background Kit. I wasn’t sure which source of light to consider when setting my white balance, and when I tried accommodating the settings on my camera using premade white balance settings, I kept coming up off.

I photographed only the gray and white background to set my white balance.

I photographed only the gray and white background to set my white balance.

I finally took a moment and photographed something gray or white in the entire frame. In this case, I was lucky because the entire background was gray and white. This can also be done with a gray card, as long as it fills almost the entire frame and is in all of the lighting you are planning on using in the final image. My image was still a little yellow for my liking.

Next, I went in to the White Balance menu on my camera (Be sure to check your manual to find where your white balance setting is). Usually there are several options to choose from, though none of them were working quite right for me.

White Balance menu with presets in Nikon

White Balance menu with presets in Nikon

Using my Nikon D5200 to adjust the white balance in camera

Using my Nikon D5200 to adjust the white balance in camera

If I scroll down past these, settings, there is another option called Preset Manual. I click the right arrow to enter the options for this setting. I then can choose to use the photo I just took of the gray and white background. (“Measure” is another chance to take a gray or white photo to use). I choose the photo I want to use, and my camera automatically calibrates the white balance perfectly. 

My camera also saves this setting as the current “Preset Manual” until I reset it. If I wander around different locations but come back to this one, I can select “Preset Manual” and I don’t have to recalibrate the white balance again.

The rest of the day in the photo booth went swimmingly. I loved not having to worry about different colors of light affecting my images, and I had a blast with these wonderful women!

 

Have you ever used a custom white balance in your photography? What is the biggest benefit you have found? Is there a part of customizing a white balance you have found difficult?

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3 thoughts on “How To Achieve Perfect White Balance In Camera

  1. Danie says:

    This is SO helpful! I have a lot of trouble with getting colors to read true and this is going to help so much! If you had white poster board with you, could you put it where your subject was going to be and zoom in on the board to fill the entire frame? Would that work in the same way?

    Like

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