Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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