Why White Balance Matters to Photographers
December 17, 2013
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The majority of film rolls are balanced for daylight photography. This means the color saturation and tones are optimal for outdoor picture-taking during the day. When the world of digital photography was introduced, photographers gained the ability to manually adjust this balance, known as white balance, or WB.
What Is White Balance?
One of the sophisticated features on a digital camera is the ability to tell it what type of lighting conditions you're enduring. If you're under fluorescent light fixtures (which create a sickly yellow-green color in pictures) or cloud cover (which makes colors dull), your camera wants to know. By giving the camera this information, it determines how to create a true white color in any lighting condition. This leads to recording colors more accurately in your photography.
For the technically-advanced photographer, some digital SLR cameras offer a customizable Kelvin scale setting to tell the camera the exact color temperature (yes, temperature) of the lighting conditions to create an optimal exposure.
Choosing WB Settings
Thankfully, choosing white balance settings is usually a simple two-step process: Pick the type of lighting and press "OK" to save the option. The most popular WB settings you'll encounter on digital cameras include the following:
Once you've chosen the white balance setting that corresponds with your shooting conditions, you'll notice a slight color change to your images. For example, using the Shade option outdoors adds a faint orange-red cast to pictures. This brightens the common blue cast over facial tones recorded in shaded areas, giving people healthier complexions.
Why Does It Matter?
The goal of most photographers is to accurately represent what they see in person on film or a digital memory card. The ability to adjust the white balance settings on your camera gets you even closer to capturing the true colors of the world around you.
Do you manually adjust your white balance settings, or use the automatic mode? Why? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo credit: Stock.xchng