White Balance in Photography: A Simple Guide

Understanding colour temperature and white balance is essential for improving your photography.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what white balance is, why it’s important, and how to get it right in your photographs.


What is White Balance?

White balance is the process of adjusting the colours in a photograph to make sure that they appear as they would in real life.

Different light sources, such as natural light, fluorescent light, and incandescent light, have different colour temperatures. Colour temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), refers to the hue of the light source. For example, natural light at midday has a colour temperature of around 5500K, while a tungsten light bulb has a temperature of around 3200K.

Why is White Balance Important?

White balance is important because it affects the overall tone and mood of a photograph. If the white balance is off, the colours in the photograph can appear too cool (blue) or too warm (yellow), making the image look unnatural. Correct white balance ensures that the colours in the photograph are accurate, giving the image an authentic tone and mood.
white balance diagram

How to Set White Balance

There are several ways to get the white balance right in your photographs:

  • Use Auto White Balance
    Most cameras have an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting that automatically adjusts the colour temperature of the photograph based on the light detected by the camera. This is a safe option if you are just starting your photography journey, or if you're shooting in a variety of lighting conditions and don’t want to worry about adjusting the white balance manually.

  • Use Preset White Balance
    Many cameras also have preset white balance settings for different lighting conditions, such as sunny, cloudy, or fluorescent light. These presets can be useful if you know the colour temperature of the light source and want to get the white balance right quickly.

  • Use Custom White Balance
    If you want to get the white balance spot on, you can use a custom white balance setting. This involves taking a photograph of a neutral object, such as a white piece of paper or a colour checker card, and using that as a reference point for adjusting the white balance. Many cameras have a custom white balance feature for this purpose.

  • Edit in Post-Production
    If you shoot in RAW format, you can adjust the white balance of an image in post-production using software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. This can be a good option if you didn’t get the white balance quite right when you took the photograph, or if you prefer not to worry about colour temperature during a shoot.
camera setting for white balance

Camera Focus

Understanding focus is key to getting a good photograph as it’s critical that you get a part of your image in focus.
Watch Now


Understanding white balance and colour temperature, why they're important, and how to get them right can help you create images that are accurate, authentic, and visually appealing.

Whether you choose to adjust the white balance settings of your camera manually, or let your camera take care of it for you, you'll see a huge improvement in the quality of your images once you learn to get white right.

To learn more about white balance, download our free 90-page eBook, An Introduction to Photography.

© Visual Education. All rights reserved. No content on this page may be used or shared by third parties.

Leave a Comment