For entry photographers, besides the exposure triangle (refer to this tutorial), understanding White Balance is extremely useful to deliver the desired feeling of the photo. Let’s see how it works today!
(1) How Can White Balance Affect Our Photo?
While aperture, shutter speed and ISO change the exposure (brightness) of the photo, White Balance, on the other hand, changes the COLOR TEMPERATURE. By adjusting the white balance from your camera, you can make the resulting photo cooler (blue) or warmer (red/orange). Remember white balance will not affect the exposure of the photo. So if you find your photo under-exposed, you should not change the white balance which will not give you a brighter picture.
(2) How To Change The White Balance?
In today’s digital photography, white balance can be easier changed via a button on your camera body or within the menu. Just press the WB button (if you got one) and turn the dial, then you can select the correct white balance.
Some commonly seen white balance is as below.
Useful White Balance Setting – K number
If you find a “K” or “Kelvin” value under the white balance menu, then you can directly turn the dial to pick a white balance number, for example 3000K, 5200K, 7000K etc. To make it simple to understand how to pick a number, just memorize: The lower the number, the cooler the photo is. The higher the number, the warmer the photo is.
(3) What Is The Correct White Balance?
Many students ask me how to pick the correct white balance. The truth is, there is NO correct white balance. As we learned before, white balance is just changing the color temperature of the photo. If you want the photo to be warmer to deliver a sunset feeling, then you can change the white balance to higher K number (e.g. 9000K). If you want the photo to be cooler or make the yellow becomes white (e.g. in a restaurant), then you better change the white balance to a lower K number (e.g. 2700K).
Understanding and making use of white balance is an important task of a photographer. If you want to add more variations to your photos, you have to master this technique!
Author: Alex Tam