Out of the box, your digital camera will typically be set to auto white balance, usually indicated with, “WB – A” on your control panel.
While auto WB won’t ruin your photo, as we saw yesterday – it won’t help it. When you see a pro photographer’s images and you think, “How’d they get those colors so true and rich?” the answer is that they set custom white balance, or they know Photoshop really well. In my opinion, the less time you have to spend in Photoshop – the better. It’s smarter photography to get it right in-camera.
ISO 200 f/2.5 1/30s
Setting white balance makes a big difference in your results indoors, too. (Something to keep in mind – not many people have their monitors color balanced, so you may not be seeing the same results!)
Using the presets we learned about yesterday allow the camera to better guess what your light may be, but it’s still just a guess – a range of light’s color temperature measured in kelvin (K). Light is unique day to day, hour to hour… sometimes in a single shoot I have to change my WB settings 4 or 5 times.
There are many ways to help your camera better judge reflective color and light. We’ll talk about some common ones.
How to set a custom white balance using a gray card:
A gray card is 18% gray and will tell your camera what’s neutral in that moment’s light. You’ll need your camera manual to walk you through how to adjust WB. I simply hold the gray card in front of my camera, filling the frame on my WB setting so I see only gray and press the shutter. Nikon will say “Good” or “No Good” on the control panel. It takes about 4 seconds.
Pros and Cons? Gray cards are inexpensive and can even be homemade. But they can be bulky and inconvenient to carry around on a shoot.
How to set a custom white balance using a BaLens or Expo Disk
Using an Expo Disk is great on shoots. It comes on a long shoe-lace like string, so I can wear it and keep it around my neck – keeping my hands free to shoot. A BaLens Lens Cap fits over your lens. You follow your manual’s guide for custom white balance settings, aim at the light source and click. You can stick it your pocket while you shoot.
Pros and Cons?
Both are easy to keep on hand and conveniently sized. However – they are often created for a single lens size so you have to order large or plan to purchase one for every lens. That gets expensive quick. I ordered the size for my largest lens – 77mm – and just hold it over the ends of my smaller lenses.
How to set white balance on a Canon:
Canon White Balance on YouTube
I end my unbias here and say – if I were a new Canon user here I’d have to watch that slowly over and over, step by step. I watched it a few times, and had to take a few deep breaths. I bid you all good luck! I know it can be mastered, because I’ve seen a lot of great pros nail it in 20 seconds. Before you throw the towel in – keep in mind the results are worth it!
Good news Nikon users – for us it’s much, much simpler.
How to set white balance on a Nikon:
Nikon White Balance on YouTube
Time to play!
Using your manual and the tutorials above, experiment with your camera’s white balance settings. If you shoot another brand, I encourage you to search YouTube. There are tutorials on just about everything there.