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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Better Blog Photos: Learn How to Use Your Camera's White Balance

People often ask how I take the photos I post here in my blog. In truth, I don't know a lot about how to use my camera. I know what I know which is kind of the tip of the iceberg. One of the best tips I can share with you whether you're taking pictures for your blog or just for fun is this: Learn how to use your camera's white balance.

Do your photos often look like this?

These are some tortoises I recently photographed at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences using AUTO White Balance. As you can see, because of the lighting over the exhibit the color balance is completely skewed.

And the same tortoises photographed under the artificial light source and through glass using a PRE-SET White Balance setting. It looks even worse.

And here's a photo taken with the CUSTOM White Balance function instead of the AUTO or a PRE-SET setting.

WOW! What a difference right?

If you poke around your camera's settings you'll probably find that if you use the "Auto" mode to shoot in you won't have the ability to change or customize your white balance.

On my camera I have to use a mode other than "Auto" to be able to customize my white balance. I have several choices. There are settings for Program Mode, Aperature Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Mode that all give me full control to customize my white balance. Some of my Scene Modes allow custom white balance.

Once I'm in a mode that allows me to customize my white balance there are pre-set white balance options I can choose from or I can choose custom.

The Pre-set  white balance choices for my camera are:

• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Shade
• Flash
• Halogen

And then there are the custom options:

• Color Temperature
• Custom White Set 1
• Custom White Set 2
• White Balance Adjustment

If this doesn't convince you I don't know what will... Without Custom White Balance top, and with Custom White Balance bottom.

When I customize my white balance setting I select the custom option and a small rectangle opens in the middle of my screen. I aim the rectangle over a piece of white paper, a white napkin or anything near to what I'm about to photograph that is white. This allows the camera to measure the "temperature" of the light around my subject matter which allows it to then calibrate the color balance, adjusting for too much of any color (usually yellow, blue or red) that would otherwise ruin my photo.

It's much easier to use your white balance than to try to fix a picture that is extremely out of color balance in post processing. Even using a photo editing program life Adobe Photoshop can only do so much to fix an extreme color imbalance.

So, learning how to use your white balance is well worth the small effort it takes to learn. If you want to learn how to use your camera more effectively you can Google your camera model and the words "white balance" and there will most likely be online tutorials and/or videos that will show you how.

Go for it! You'll be glad you did :)


  1. white balance changes the world! Or at least the way we see it. :)

  2. It definitely is like magic!!! It's amazing what it can do for shots!!

  3. Thanks for the comment Chi. It is amazing and it took me way too long to begin using it!

  4. Thanks Jennifer! I'd always had the biggest problem with the "too blue" outdoor photos you mentioned in your post. And also with "too greenish-yellow" florescent lights. Now my pics are either perfect or pretty close and easy to balance out in post processing.

  5. Thanks for the tip! I just got a new camera (Canon S95) so can't wait to test this out now :)


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