Skip to content
Home » Photography Tips and Guides » Setting Your White Balance Manually: A How-to Guide

Setting Your White Balance Manually: A How-to Guide

Are you struggling to get the perfect white balance on your photographs? The struggle is real, but it doesn’t have to be. In this how-to guide, we will show you how to set your white balance manually so that you can finally get that crisp photo that everyone wants!

What Is White Balance?

White balance is how the camera records white in your photos. It’s how it balances the different shades of white in order to make them look, well…white! White can come in many forms however – from snow, to a cloudless sky, or even light reflecting off of someone’s skin tone.

Every kind of lighting will have its own color temperature that affects how much blue/yellow shade there is in the photo when you’re trying to take a picture indoors with incandescent bulbs (yellow) vs outside on an overcast day (blue).

The good news? With today’s cameras and editing programs this problem has become easier than ever before! You are now able to set your white balance manually so that all your whites show up how you want them to.

Attribution: Camera Harmony

What Is Kelvin For White Balance?

The best way to understand color temperature is through the Kelvin scale. This measures how “warm” or how much yellow there is in a photo. It ranges from 1000-25000 degrees with daylight being roughly 5000k and shade around 7000k . ISO, aperture size, shutter speed – all of those affect how your photos turn out as well so they are also factors when setting white balance manually!

In order to have control over these settings you will need a camera that allows manual white balance settings (most DSLRs do). Some point and shoots may allow it but be careful because not being able to set your own WB can cause some problems down the line if you’re just starting out.

What Does The White Balance Setting Do In Your Camera?

Here’s how it works:

The camera tries to make what you’re photographing look white (or how the WB setting is set). If your whites are too blue, so will be the photo. If they are yellow, those shades of yellow will show up as well. Even if there isn’t any shade in a shot and everything looks “white”, white balance can still affect how colors appear! That being said, here’s how to set your white balance manually for all types of lighting conditions:

Auto White Balance

If you have an automatic white balance setting on your camera, it will choose how to balance the whites for you. If this is all that you need then just set your camera to AWB and shoot away!

It is typically correct, but there are times when it gets confused. As a result, auto white balance should be used only in situations where you don’t have enough time to set the auto white balance for each shot or lighting condition. Event and wedding photography are two such examples because you can’t spend time customizing the white balance for all of the various lighting conditions if you want the photographer to capture the key events or moments of the wedding.

Daylight

When you are outside in the shade or in direct sunlight, your white balance should automatically be set to “daylight” which is usually around 5000k. If for some reason it isn’t then just change it yourself and you’ll notice how much better your shades of whites look!

The camera usually adds warm tones when this preset is selected. So it is best to use this preset when the sun is bright enough as otherwise, it can cast a blue colour in your photographs. 

Cloudy

If you are shooting on an overcast day or in the shade, your white balance should automatically be set to “cloudy” which is usually around 7000k.

When the sky is entirely covered with clouds, the camera applies slight warm tones to the pictures because on overcast days, light is a bit cooler. When shooting sunset or sunrise, you may not get the brilliant hues in your photographs, similar to what you see at the particular spot. This preset may be useful for adding warm reddish tones to your photos.

Shade

If you are shooting indoors without any sunlight or outside light, your white balance should automatically be set to “shade” which is usually around 7000k.

The camera adds warm tones to the photos since, when using automatic white balance, photographs taken in the shade may have blue tones. This white balance setting is also useful if you want warmer colors in daylight.

Tungsten

If you are shooting under incandescent bulbs, your white balance should automatically be set to “tungsten” or around 3000k.

The tungsten light usually adds warm tones to photographs, so the camera adds cool tones. As a result, this setting adds chilly tones to images to compensate for the harsh yellow or orange hues that these lights produce in a shot.

Flourescent

If you are shooting under flourescent bulbs, your white balance should automatically be set to “fluorescent” or around 4000k.

Because these lights produce cool light, the camera adds warm red hues to the images.

Flash

Because the flash is chilly, it gives the image a chilly tone. This setting should only be used if your flash is your only source of light. You’ll have to create your own white balance settings if you don’t use one.

How To Set Custom White Balance In Your Camera

The easiest way to set custom white balance in your camera is by using a grey card.

Hold the grey card facing the light source and take a photo of it with your settings. Then, on another shot without any light sources present, hold up the same grey card again but this time use that picture you took as your reference image for how whites should look when they are correctly balanced! This will be how all future photographs turn out if you choose to keep it selected until then or until you change it later once more at some point in time.

This method takes about two seconds per photograph so make sure you have enough memory available on your camera before doing this because otherwise, there won’t be much space left over for actually taking photos!

The other option is to use a preset. The presets in your camera are usually different depending on what brand you have so how this works will be very specific to the model of your camera but it’s still worth knowing how these work even if you can’t do them yourself!

For Nikon users, you should be able to go into your photo shooting menu and select White Balance -> Preset manual.

For Canon users, you can go into your menu and select Custom White Balance -> Use White Balance Data From This Image -> Set Your White Balance.

In both situations, you’ll need to have a neutral scene with grays or whites in order to manually set your white balance.