(Last Updated On: March 27, 2020)
Home Photography Lessons Advanced Understanding How to Determine and Adjust White Balance

Understanding How to Determine and Adjust White Balance

(Last Updated On: March 24, 2020)

In this article, we are focusing on the color balance within your digital camera system – better known as the white balance. A setting that is adjustable based on the lighting conditions in which you are shooting, it is important to understand and be able to adjust your white balance. The white balance can make a photograph warmer or cooler, can change for shooting on a sunny day or one that is cloudy as well as alter for tungsten or fluorescent lighting.

Determining Your White Balance

The first step of determining your white balance is to find where you can change and adjust on your camera. For example, my Canon 6D denotes the white balance by pressing the Q button on the back of the camera. This opens up a menu – where on the third row, second icon is where you will find the various white balance settings.

White Balance settings

If you have never touched this, then it will read AWB, which stands for auto white balance. These are the several presets you have for white balance.

Auto White Balance

AWB Auto White BalanceThis setting auto adjusts based on lightning for natural looking colors


SunnyFor outdoor scenes under clear skies, the color temperature is around 5,200K


Shade Used for shots in the shade, with a color temperature of 7000K


cloudy This is for cloudy days or at sunset approx. 6000K

Tungsten light

Tungsten For indoor scenes under incandescent (tungsten) light approx. 3200K

White Fluorescent Light

White fluorescent For indoor scenes under white fluorescent light approx. 4000K


Flash Used with flash photography


Custom You adjust the settings manually

Color Temperature

Color temperatureThe ability to make your image warmer or cooler by adjusting this setting

White Balance - auto - daylight - cloudy

You can use these settings to adjust based on the camera’s suggestions. These are helpful to use if you have never experimented or changed your white balance prior to shooting. It is true that for RAW images you can adjust white balance in programs such as Lightroom during post production. But, changing white balance prior to shooting will help you determine what you want your image to look like.

White Balance settings examples

Manually Adjusting White Balance Using the Custom Setting

As we explained above, white balance can be changed in the camera by scrolling through the preset options. The other option is to manually adjust your white balance by using the custom setting and a grey card.

A grey card is typically used when a mixed lighting situation is present during your session. This may be that you have a mixture of natural light and overhead lighting, in which case this helps to bring the natural and neutral color back to your images.

In order to achieve the colors you want, you start with photographing the grey card. It is important to remember that the card must fill the entire frame and nothing else can be in the shot. You may have to manually focus in order to achieve this.

Then you navigate to the “custom” setting of white balance as we discussed. It will guide you to choose an image, in which you select the one you took of your grey card. Press OK and the white balance will be set. If you change positions or move within the space you are shooting, you will need to readjust and photograph the card again. Most photographers prefer not to always use a grey card, but in certain situations it is the proper way to make sure your coloring is correct.

Manually Adjusting White Balance

Adjusting Color Temperature

Another way to add your own personal white balance preference and color tone on your images, is to manually adjust the color temperature, marked as K on the white balance settings. The temperature starts at 2500K which makes the image blue and ends at 10,000K which results in a yellow/orange image.  As the number on the scale increases, the temperature goes from blue, to cool blue, to warm yellow to completely yellow – this replicates the temperature slider you would use in Lightroom. Based on your style and vision for the image, you can change the temperature as you see fit.

Adjusting Color Temperature

White balance is essentially the best way to control the color of your images within the camera. Depending on whether you want true, natural colors or want your images to be very cool or warm – you can adjust and change the settings as you see fit. Do you adjust your white balance within your camera or in post editing of your images? Let us know in the comments below.

Shannon Ciricillo
Shannon Ciricillohttp://www.shannonciricillo.com
Shannon Ciricillo is a fashion, lifestyle + travel photographer working with digital and film formats. She is currently based in the United States.


  1. I’ve done it while editing raw images. But now know why my photos were blue one day when moving the settings. Thank you for the help


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