Ever taken a picture where the colours simply have not come out properly? Chances are that the camera (which has been set to AUTO WB) has not correctly calculated the white balance for the lighting conditions. So most of you are now thinking that it is easy to correct in post process, but this relies on one critical factor….that you are shooting in RAW.
For those of us who don’t shoot RAW, or just want to reduce the time spent on the computer, then making sure your white balance is correct as you shoot can be critical. So how do we fix this?
Firstly, there are the preset WB modes on your camera (even most compact cameras will have these) – Tungsten/Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, Flash, Cloud, Shade – using the correct one for your conditions will give you more accurate colours. Better cameras (and all DSLRs) will have two more functions; Kelvin and Custom Preset, it is using these that the most accurate WB can be attained. So Kelvin is simply plugging in the relevant colour temperature, which can be a trial and error process for the inexperienced, how can we make this process quick and easy? CUSTOM PRESET.
Custom preset requires you to shoot a white reference shot to provide an accurate set of colours for the lighting that you are shooting under. There are many tools that can be used to shoot a custom preset including specialist accessories like White Balance cards and White Balance Lens Filter Caps, however I have found that the lowly white panel on a 5-in-1 reflector or the white side of a grey flexible panel (a grey card) do the job nicely. I find that Custom Preset is the best for mixed lighting conditions, and will always use this when I am doing an important shoot.
So this is what you do when you want the colours right, but how about when you want to get creative? WB is an often neglected creative tool, by adjusting your white balance you can actually give an image a colour cast that is complementary to the subject. Stuffed it up? Once again RAW can save us! Below is a scene shot in different WB settings to demonstrate this (for those interested, FLUORO is the closest to the scene as perceived by my eyes when I shot this).
Get out there and play with White Balance, whether it is to see if your preset modes are better for what your doing, or to use it creatively to change the images you shoot.