The Basics of White Balance

The Basics of White Balance

White balance, which can also be referred to as grey balance or neutral balance, is the term used to describe the colors in a photograph. In most cases you want to adjust the white balance in your images so that neutral colors, grey, white, etc, look accurate and don’t have any blue, orange, green, or magenta color shifts.

White balance is measured in Kelvin. A lower Kelvin temperature, like 3000K, will result in cooler or bluer image. A higher Kelvin temperature, like 8000K, will result in a warmer or oranger image. Daylight and flash is measured somewhere around 5000K.

This is the same scene photographed at three different white balances (3000K,5000K, and 8000K respectively).

Different light sources give off different color light. For examples in the image below the tungsten lights inside the church give off a very warm light while the natural light outdoors during twilight gives off a very cold light.

The following three images are all lit by different light sources so different white balances are needed to get proper colors.

This image was shot later in the evening when the natural light was cooler so a warmer white balance of 17000K was needed to ensure proper colors.

The lights inside this church were warmer, so a cooler white balance of 3950K was needed for proper white balance.

Lastly this image was shot entirely with flash, which is similar to daylight in color, so white balance of 5100K was needed.

How to Get the Proper White Balance

Built In White Balance Presets

Many cameras have built in white balance presets like daylight, flash, cloudy, shade, tungsten, etc. Using these presents in the appropriate situation should get you close to the correct white balance. Auto white balance attempts to create accurate colors but is usually inaccurate.

18% Grey Cards

A more accurate way to get proper white balance is using a grey card. Most digital cameras will let you set the white balance manually by photographing something 18% grey. After shooting the grey card the camera can obtain the correct white balance from the image of the grey card. Your camera’s manual should tell you how to obtain a proper white balance by shooting a grey card. Grey cards can be bought fairly inexpensively from most camera stores.

You can also correct your white balance in post using either Adobe Lightroom or Capture One by clicking part of the image that is 18% grey with the eyedropper tool.

Color Checker Passport and Camera Profiles

The way I ensure my colors are always correct is by using a color checker passport. The color checker passport has several colored patches on it and after it is photographed it can be used to create color profiles that ensure the most accurate color.

First during the shoot I make sure to photograph the color checker every time my lighting changes. Next I import these images in Lightroom and change the images of a color checker to a DNG file. Next I move the DNG files to ColorCheckerPassport software where it creates a color profile from the image. After this is finished I go back to Lightroom apply the new color profile and then correct the white balance by taking the eyedropper tool and clicking on the 18% Grey square on the color checker. Creating color profiles then correcting the white balance will ensure the most accurate colors in your photographs.

Hopefully this article helped give you a basic understanding of white balance. If there are any other photography and retouching questions you have let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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Skylar Senior Portrait Session Midland and Coleman, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Skylar “spark plug” Jones back in October. We shot at one of my favorite locations, Dow Gardens, in Midland, Michigan. Then we headed back to Skylar’s home near Coleman where we shot some more hunting themed images. The next morning we headed to the baseball field in Coleman for some final shots of Skylar playing his favorite sport.

Check out the slideshow below for more images from Skylar’s session.

Behind the Scenes of the My Halloween Themed Shoot


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Back in October one of my favorite models, Cassi Gross, messaged me asking if I’d be interested in doing a “post-apocalyptic themed belly dance shoot” before Halloween. This is something you simply don’t say “no” to.


Before all of my shoots I like to go “location scouting” where I look for the most fitting location for the shoot. An abandon house, that my family owns, right down the road from me ended up being the perfect location for Cassi and I’s creepy Halloween shoot.


iPhone shots of the location taken earlier that day.


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To give the images that eerie Halloween look I knew they’d have to be tonally darker so we chose to shoot after dark and light it mostly with flash.


For the first shoot I had Cassi get into fully costume and climb into this abandon building. I had my Alienbee strobe with an umbrella to camera right just out of the shot. I was also on a tripod because I was using a slow shutter speed to pick up some of the subtle blue colors in sky in the background.


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For the next image I moved my flash into the building, removed the umbrella, and pointed it towards Cassi. This lit up the textured walls of the building and helped give Cassi’s mask shape. Both this image and prior required minimal retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom.


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The last image in this shoot involved lighting the craggily tree in the front yard. To light up all of the branches I’d have to do a composite, or combine multiple images into one using Photoshop. With more flashes this look would have been achievable without compositing. I attached my camera to my tripod and photographed three images with my flash in various locations lighting up the different parts of the tree.


The three images before retouching used to make the final composite.

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I later combined the three images in Photoshop. I used layer masks to reveal the parts of each image with the tree lit up the best. I also applied some sharpening, dodging, and burning to achieve the final product.


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We shot a few less successful images that evening before hearing something that we both thought was wolf. We freaked out and packed up only to realize once we listened closer to it that it was only an owl. We talked a bit longer before parting ways for the evening. A huge thanks to Cassi for the photo shoot idea and being willing to model for me again!


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