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Colour Balance – What is it and why is it so important?

As photographers, we know that from a technical perspective, getting the precise colour balance and white balance is very important. But what exactly are they?

All different lighting conditions have different colours. The human brain is able to adapt to the changes in colour of the light source.

However your camera needs a bit more help to interpret the correct colours. The aim is to make sure that your pictures are a true representative of their respective subjects.

White balance (WB) is measured in K valves (Kelvin). A standard daylight setting would require a K of 5000k. Incandescent (light bulbs) lighting is around 3,000k whilst outside shade is towards 8,000k.

Professionally, we aim to use the ‘Custom white balance’ which is usually labelled ‘PRE Preset manual’ in a camera setting menu. This method is ideal for portraits and product photography but not really practical for landscapes or event photography.

Correct white balance is achieved by using a Grey card or similar product, which is 18% grey. This can be purchased at any good photographic store. Locate the manual white balance setting in your camera and press WB. This will activate the function, zoom in to fill the frame with the grey card and turn the camera focus ring so that it is out of focus. Press the shutter and the display will read….. PRE Good. This will set the camera’s white balance to the exact correct setting. If the display reads, PRE NO Good, just re- take the shot.

Try this out: Set your camera to AUTO and take a shot, then do a grey card PRE preset white balance shot and just see the difference!