Hot White Balance

Indoor photography is where orangey colors are most common.

White Balance For Natural Color – Back To Basics

Some digital photography terminology confuses. White Balance sort of sounds like it might have something to do with exposure. White balance settings have no effect on exposure or how light or dark your photos are.

White Balance is about attaining natural colors.

White Balance by Marc Mantha

First, let’s talk about light, leading into how to use the white balance features of your camera.

So many different kinds of light.

The challenge with photography, regardless of the type of camera you have, is to reproduce what you’ve seen and felt when you saw something worth shooting. Light has what is referred to as temperature from hot to cold.

Light temperature? Look at it this way…

High temperature light produces warm colors – yellowish, orangey to reddish color tones.

  • Sunrise, early early morning natural light.
  • Sunset natural light
  • Indoor light (incandescent / tungsten bulbs)
  • Most street lights in night photography

Low temperature light produces cold colors – blueish to purplish color tones.

  • Bright midday natural light, particularly in winter scenes.
  • Old style florescent indoor lighting.
  • Overcast (heavy clouds) days.

(GOOD) Automatic white balance to the rescue!

Well not always. In full automatic shooting mode, you have no choice and can’t change the white balance settings. The camera takes it’s best guess and does well,  but fails miserably sometimes. The next best choises are White Balance Presets common to most digital cameras, both point and shoot, and SLRs.

(BETTER) White Balance Presets – The next best thing.

Many brands sometimes spin their own terminology so you’ll be well served to take a look at your camera user guide to look up “White Balance” in the word index to see what you have available to you.

Typical White Balance Preset names might be:

  • Tungsten / Incandescent (bulbs)
    • The most common cause of orangey indoor photos.
  • Florescent
  • Shade
  • Cloudy
  • Sunny / Daylight

Simply select the white balance preset that best describes the environment you’re in.

NOTE: You may not be able to change the white balance setting in automatic shooting mode. Simply change to P (Program Shooting Mode or any other preset, semi-automatic or manual shooting mode) and adjust accordingly. P shooting mode is the same as automatic shooting mode, but allows adjusting of some basic featuress.

(BEST) Custom White Balance for the novice and advanced shooters.

If you go here, I can write a whole lot mumbo jumbo, and I might do pretty well at it. Regardless of any article you read on the subject, I believe this is the right time to take a look at your user guide and look up White Balance again in the word index at the back. Then practice and experiment.

Custom White Balance will provide the most accurate natural colors.

There are two kinds of custom white balance.

The first method is to take a photo of something white in your shooting environment, then selecting that photo as the basis for you custom white balance correction. The results are more custom to your shooting space. Some photographers just carry a white handkerchief and take a picture of that. On the trails I once took a shot of a white trail marker. Worked great.

The second involves using a white card. The more finicky love this.

(Note: A gray card is more often used for setting exposure)


You can compensate for light temperatures that produce dominant warm to cool color tones using the white balance function. When the camera has the right benchmark for white, it then renders colors that are more natural.

How was that? I’ll gladly help with any questions.

Well, that wraps up another Back to Basics.

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