Understanding White Balance
The concept of white balance in digital photography is an evolution from filters in film photography. Exactly the way filters were used for film, white balance settings are used in digital camera.
To understand white balance, it is necessary for one to understand the concept of color temperature and the human perception of color.
The human eye is so designed, that it automatically adjusts itself to depict true colors, of an object, to the brain irrespective of the conditions in which we are seeing the object. However, if you notice carefully, pictures clicked in the winter and in colder climates have a bluish tinge in them. Whereas pictures clicked in warmer climes have an orangish tinge in them. This is due to the temperature of light which changes as the climate changes. The human eye automatically adjusts to the temperature and shows a white piece of paper as white whatever the color temperature may be. However, the camera’s sensor will not record a white paper as white in all conditions. For most conditions, the AWB (Auto white balance) function of the camera will compensate for the color temperature and show white as white.
The following chart shows color temperatures at various times of days and what kind of a color cast will appear if you click a white piece of paper in such conditions…
Now that we’ve figured out that the camera isn’t really that smart and it can’t really see white as white, lets figure out how we can tell the camera what to do in tricky lighting situations.
The auto white balance setting will usually render washed out and dull colors in cloudy/rainy and other conditions. To unleash the power of your camera and capture those vivid colors, try different white balance settings on your camera under different conditions. Take a look at the following to understand what settings to use under what conditions.
Now that we have an idea about what settings to use under what conditions, lets take things a step further and see how we can enhance our pictures using white balance creatively.
The following set of pictures were clicked on the Big Sur in California. The time was evening with color temperature heading into the 3000-2000 Kelvin range. Further the conditions were slightly cloudy. Following set of pictures were clicked in different white balance modes…
This post has been reproduced (with permission) from livyx.com