The simplest definition of white balance is adjusting colors to make an image appear more natural. Essentially, the color of the light in the area where the photographs are taken are going to affect the colors of the photos. While most people do not notice this with the naked eye because the mind quickly adapts to perceive the light as being neutral even when it is not, the camera lens is not as forgiving and records colors exactly as they look.

When photos are taken inside a home appear orange or pictures taken during the dawn or at dusk appear to have a bluish, cold look, it is because the camera is using the colors as they are. Fortunately, there are ways to adjust the white balance of the camera so photos are more natural. Each camera is different so it will be necessary to look at the manual to get the specifics on how to make the necessary changes. However, most digital cameras have a semi-automatic and an automatic mode that will help you make the adjustments.

Preset Settings

Here are some basic settings that are found on most cameras.

  • Auto: this setting means the camera will make its best guess on each shot. Typically, this will work for many situations, but trickier lighting may require further options.
  • Tungsten: this is for shooting inside under incandescent lights. It will typically cool down the color of the photos.
  • Daylight: not every camera has this setting because in sunny or daylight settings the white balance is considered fairly normal
  • Fluorescent: warms up shots taken under fluorescent light
  • Flash: the flash of the camera can be cool, so using the flash in white balance mode will typically warm up the photos a bit.
  • Cloudy: typically, will warm things up a bit more than the daylight mode
  • Shade: photos will be warmed up a bit since shade lighting is typically cooler

Manual Adjustments

The preset options will typically provide a fairly accurate result, but some cameras offer a manual adjustment option as well. The manual adjustment will vary based on the camera, but the idea is to tell the camera what the color white looks like during the session so that the camera will have a reference point that will allow it to determine how other colors in the frame will look. This can be accomplished by getting a white card that is designed for this particular task. Simply use the manual adjustment setting and take a photo of the white card. This provides the camera with a point of reference for white balance. You can then take your photo and the colors should appear more balanced or natural.