Making one small change can make a big difference to your photography. In this series, we look at quick fixes to improve your photos in a hurry.
Most of the time your auto white balance will get it right but in situations where it can’t take a white reading or there is difficult lighting it’s worth setting the white balance to a specific setting.
Your camera will have a range of white balance (WB) presets and it is worth getting to know what options you have available to call on in difficult lighting. Each setting adjusts the colours in a scene so for shaded scenes the tones will be warmer and to combat indoor lighting blues will be added.
Canon 5D Mark II & 50mm 1.4 lens
f2.2, 1/100, ISO 3200
Your camera will have a range of presets that set the white balance at a specific tone – these most often include: Daylight, Tungsten, Flash, Cloudy, Daylight, Shade, Auto, Fluorescent. Some cameras will even have an option to set white balance by Kelvins, the measure of the colour frequency of light. As a first step to improving your white balance, try adjusting to one of these presets – your camera manual will tell you how to change them.
Your camera will also have an option for custom white balance. To set WB using the custom option you’ll need to check you camera’s manual for specific instructions. Most rely on using a photo taken in the same lighting as your subject of either white or a grey card (you can buy these cheaply online) you then use this photo to take a light reading. You can also buy a nifty gadget called an Expodisc which gathers the ambient light into the lens so your custom WB photo is accurate.
Setting your white balance in this way gives you the maximum control over how you want your photos to look. Setting a custom white balance can help you in difficult lighting situations by setting it to compensate for that lighting specifically.
In our example both photos have been taken moments apart using the same settings. The auto white balance has left the image very orange from the overhead lighting. Adjusting the WB to custom and using an Expodisc to shot the test photo has given the photo a more natural colour tone.