This week we were looking at the effect of white balance on photography. White balance effects the colour temperature of an image such that it is warmer with yellows overtones or cooler with colours taking on a blue tinge. We adjust the white balance to make the colours in the photograph as close as possible to the original colours seen by the eye.
Below are some images taken in a wildlife park’s reptile and amphibian centre. The frogs were lit in cool artificial light however I adjusted the white balance on my camera to show the situation where the light was too warm, too cold, and properly adjusted.
White balance can be automatically decided by the camera, however, more control can be exerted by choosing a white balance preset in which you inform the camera of what conditions you are shooting in, such as direct sunlight or fluorescent light. White balance can also manually be adjusted by setting the kelvin number to adjust the light temperature. Higher numbers result in warmer pictures. Where the lighting situation has very cool blue light, such as under fluorescences or overcast daylight, the image temperature needs to be turned up to make colours and whites look natural and remove the blue tinge. In warm lighting situations, such as candlelight, the opposite applies and to remove overly yellow colouring the kelvin needs to be turned down.
Cambridge in colour provides the following recommended kelvin ranges for different light sources.
White Balance Exercise
This week’s exercise required us to capture images in different lighting situations and adjust the white balance of the image.
The following images were taken in full sun using auto white balance and the daylight preset. The daylight preset presented a warmer image, particularly seen in the warm cream colour of the white van pictured behind the subject.
These images were taking in shaded daylight using the auto white balance, daylight and shade settings.
These images were taken under a tungsten light using AWB , tungsten and daylight settings.
These images were taken under a fluorescent light using AWB , fluorescent and daylight settings.
These images were taken using a LED light with AWB , fluorescent and tungsten settings.
During the exercises it became very clear that adjusting the white balance intensely affected the mood of the images. When the colour temperature was cool it made the images feel sombre, dark and clinical. When the colour temperature was warm it felt relaxed, happy and nurturing.
Throughout the exercise I found that the auto white balance commonly yielded the best result as occasionally using the presets would make the image way too warm or cold.
While going about the exercise I occasionally struggled to keep the key exposure settings, ie. aperture, ISO and shutter speed, the same across images such that the only difference would be the white balance. I would become concerned with making the photos look good and the settings would change, making it challenging to display the differences between the white balance.
Occasionally, such as when shooting in direct sunlight, I found the difference between auto white balance and daylight settings was so minuscule that it was hard to see any changes.
Overall I can conclude that AWB can be used in most situations however adjusting the presets can help to correct errors and create stylistic decisions.