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White Balance Examples
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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see also White Balance, How to Change the White Balance of an Existing Image and The Expodisc.

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Note: The last row of each shows the WB setting in degrees Kelvin, or K. Tungsten is the same as 3,200 K, Daylight is the same as 5,400 K, Cloudy is about 6,000 K and Shade is about 7,500K.

Explaining where and why we calculate Degrees Kelvin is complex so I'll skip it, but what it does is easy to remember: the more degrees set in WB, the warmer the image looks.

 

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Direct Sunlight (Outdoors)

Auto WB

Tungsten
Daylight
cloudy
shade
2500 K
4000 K
7000 K
10000 K

Here Auto WB does a perfect job, as does the Direct Sunlight setting. We expect this.

You can use the other settings for a cool blue or deep orange effect, or to trim blue and amber any way you prefer.


Shade (a white car in an open garage)

Auto WB

Tungsten
Daylight
cloudy
shade
2500 K
4000 K
7000 K
10000 K

Auto again does a great job, otherwise this would turn out too blue. This is from a D200, which does much better than my D70 and other cameras at compensating correctly for shade. Most other cameras leave this too blue. No problem, on other cameras set Shade manually.


Tungsten (conventional light bulbs in my refrigerator)

Auto WB

Tungsten
Daylight
cloudy
shade
2500 K
4000 K
7000 K
10000 K

This looks a little warm in AUTO. The tungsten setting looks better. The 2,500 K setting is also good, if not a little too blue.

Most Auto WB settings balance correctly for tungsten if you have a bright tungsten light source in the image, or a lot of illumination. With less illumination most Auto WBs don't compensate completely and stay a bit orange. This is deliberate: they presume high light levels mean studio lights and that you want perfect accuracy, and that at lower light levels you'll prefer a pleasant warm tint to interiors.

Refrigerator bulbs are usually warmer colored than this. In this case I had some blue skylight filtering into my kitchen.


Indoors at night, low-wattage tungsten bulbs

Auto WB

Tungsten
Daylight
cloudy
shade
2500 K
4000 K
7000 K
10000 K

Home lighting, especially lower wattage bulbs, are much warmer looking than 3,200 K studio lights. These 40W bulbs look right at about 2,500 K! Auto WB never can balance this low - it stays orange.

Of course the orange effect may be desired. If so, use it.


SUMMARY

That's it. I have no idea why people make this so complicated. Just use what looks good.

PLUG

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me write more with a donation.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

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