Education

White Balance Guide

While the auto white balance option on digital cameras is usually pretty good in most models, it is not always the best choice. Here, we’ve done a comparison to show what the white balance may look like on each WB setting, and in the four main lighting conditions. (All photos are unedited to show their S.O.O.C. color casts. SOOC= straight out of the camera.)

Interior, fluorescent lights

Settings used (clockwise from top left): auto, cloudy, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, shade.

Here, the fluorescent setting worked the best to not only capture the most realistic coloring and WB, but also the S.O.O.C. levels. The auto setting came in second.

Interior, incandescent light (a regular light bulb)

Settings used (clockwise from top left): auto, cloudy, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, shade.

In this lighting situation, the incandescent setting works much better than auto and color corrects for the light bulbs yellow cast.

Interior, with flash

Settings used (clockwise from top left): auto, cloudy, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, shade.

In this situation, none of the settings gave a 100% true color representation of the object. The first four are all the closest, but vary with yellow, blue, and green casts.

Exterior, natural sun light

Settings used (clockwise from top left): auto, cloudy, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, shade.

In this particular lighting situation, auto worked the best. The other options gave color casts to the images that were gray, blue, cyan, bright blue, green/gray, yellow/gray. The other WB settings also slightly darkened the overall image and reduced contrast.

Now that you understand a little more about white balance and the manual options on your camera, we suggest doing some experimenting of your own to fully understand how each one works in different conditions.


images © Andy McCarrick

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4 comments

  1. On the Nikon models I have used (D70s, D80, D90, D40x, D200), the user set white balance preset can do an excellent job as well. The newer models (like the D90) have extensive options for fine tuning the white balance to a particular lighting situation.

  2. Auto white balance in digital camera works differently according to different lighting conditions. I have Nikon D3000 digital camera. I will definitely capture some portraits using this auto white balance.
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  3. I am using Nikon D90 digital camera which have facility of auto white balance according to the different lighting condition. I have take lots of pictures and get great pics…

  4. Hi
    Look at the image/picture that you are capturing and try to get the same color rendition. That is it.

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