What is White Balance?
White Balance is the single most important setting to master on a digital camera. The color temperature you select that tells a computer/camera what values equal white. Why white? That is simple. Do you remember CRT (Cathrode Ray Tube) televisions/monitors? Remember being told not to touch the screen because it would blow up the TV? This was because the TV’s had the 3 tubes, one Red, another Blue and the last Green, that fired electrons that created a static electricity field around the set/monitor while delivering a picture to the screen. Red, Green and Blue are capable of rendering the entire color spectrum when they are mixed; In fact, when you combine them you get white.
Traditionally, we selected film and used filters to control white balance. Today’s cameras are computers; they are designed to produce daylight balanced images based on your white balance correction.
The visual light spectrum, example A, ranges form infrared to ultraviolet. Neither film or digital sensors are capable of capturing the far extremes of the visual light spectrum. This will explain why women should never select purple dresses to wear for important photographs. Violet/purple colors often tend to photograph blue! Just as it is scientific fact that men don’t see red (opposite end of the spectrum) very well. Color is measure in units of temperature call Kelvin. Examples A and B both display the temperature units by color.
What’s the difference between the color temperatures of light?
In photography and videography for that matter, we create our images under many lighting conditions. Ambient light, the light that surrounds us, is predicable
3200K Lighting is produced from Tungsten light or Early Morning/Late Evening light. This color of light is yellow/red and is most commonly found inside your home. You may have photos that you took inside with the camera WB set for daylight which causes you to see the yellow/red hue in you photos. If you want to have beautiful color in your sunsets you may want to consider setting your WB to 5000K.
4000K – 5000K Lighting is the temperature created by Florescent lights. Consider your camera was set at 5000K and you are creating an image with florescent light; your image would have a slight green cast to it. Selecting the tungsten setting on your camera will correct for this.
5000K – 5500K Lighting is the purest WHITE color of all available. It is also equivalent to perfect daylight when determining your white balance manually.
6500K Lighting falls between white and BLUE side in the graphs shown in Examples A & B. many photographers generally set their WB around 6500 K when photographing landscapes with an overcast or blue sky to emphasize the sky and give a cooler appearance to the scene. It is especially relevant to adjust the WB to the bluer (cooler) side (6500K-10,000K) when photographing snow or water if you are looking to obtain optimal image color!
What’s the easiest way to remember which color is which?
Now that you understand how color temperature looks on the graph the best thing to do is to remember that the lower the number the more YELLOW or ORANGE the light appears. The higher the number the more BLUE or PURPLE the light appears.
The Color Wheel
Sir Isaac Newton developed the first Color Wheel diagram based on the colors red, yellow and blue in 1666. It is considered as the cornerstone in the field of art ever since. Both scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept. Many theories have been compared; hence the vast differences between models continues to provoke debate. The most common Color Wheel referred to in terms of photography is Example C. While we use CMY when printing color negative film, but now use RGB for balancing color in Photoshop and Lightroom. There are a lot of nuances to color balancing;if you are interested in learning more you can contact us at (215) 887-1248 to sign up for private mentoring.