white balance, white balance example

What is white balance- understanding temperature and tint

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White balance is a term that you may often come across in photography and editing domain. You might be using the Automatic settings on your camera or might be a beginner. Either way, it plays an important role in modifying your picture to achieve the desired result. So exactly what is white balance? It is a setting present in every camera to attain the accurate colors in the picture, as seen by the human eye.

Understanding Temperature and Tint

White balancing your picture is basically balancing two important components- the color temperature and the tint.  Color temperature is measured in degree Kelvin and is different for each light source. The higher the temperature in Kelvin, the blue is the light source, likewise the lower the temperature in Kelvin, the orange is the light source.
To balance the whites in the picture, it has to be kept in mind that the camera temperature or warmth works conversely. That is, if you increase the temperature value in Kelvin, the more orange(or warm) is the picture and if you decrease the temperature value in Kelvin, more blue(or cool) is the picture. Understanding this gives you the idea on how to white balance your picture.

color temperature chart, kelvin chart
Color Temperature chart

For example, if you click a picture in Tungsten light, whose temperature value is 3000K, then you have to either set your camera at 3000K or increase it in the editing stage. This will give a balanced, neutral picture. If you go upto 3500K, then your picture will come out to be warm i.e. orangish. Likewise if you go down to 2500K, then your picture will come out to be cool i.e bluish.

After temperature, comes tint. When you add white to any hue, it lightens and desaturates. Adjusting the tint is not necessary when clicking a picture in natural light. You might need to adjust the tint if the picture is clicked in artificial lights. A tinted light covers the whole picture hence disturbing the white balance of the picture. In your quest of finding how to white balance your picture, adjusting the temperature and tint accordingly will give you your answers.
While color temperature ranges between orange and blue spectrum, tint ranges between green and magenta spectrum.

tint example, tint removed example, road, highway
Tint before and after

You can set your camera to ‘Auto White Balance’ where it will guess the Kelvin value based on a white object in the frame. This might not give satisfactory results, especially if there is no white object present. Hence it is better to manually set it or select from the given presets:

Adjusting white balance in Camera

  1. Direct sunlight– Used for white balance when shooting outdoors in sunlight. 
  2. Tungsten– Used when shooting in light bulbs. 
  3. Fluorescent– Used for white balance when the picture is looking too green or under fluorescent bulbs. 
  4. Flash– Used  when using in-camera flash.
  5. Cloudy– Used for white balance on cloudy days, to get warmer pictures. 

Alternatively, a picture can be balanced during the post processing stage using softwares or photo editing apps. By adjusting the Contrast, Exposure, Saturation, Hue, Warmth and Tint, you can edit the white balance of your picture like a pro!
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