Achieving Perfect White Balance: 10 Essential Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Use a gray card
  2. Adjust white balance in camera
  3. Experiment with different settings
  4. Use RAW format for flexibility
  5. Take advantage of natural light
  6. Utilize white balance brackets
  7. Try Auto White Balance
  8. Use a light meter
  9. Manipulate color temperature
  10. Post-process for perfection

When it comes to photography, achieving perfect white balance is a game changer. It's the secret sauce that can turn your photos from dull and dreary to vibrant and alive. But how do you get there? Here are 10 straightforward tips to help you nail that perfect white balance, and make your photos pop!

Use a gray card

First on our list is using a gray card. This isn't a secret club membership card, but a handy tool in achieving perfect white balance. A gray card is a middle gray reference, usually the size of a postcard, which reflects all colors equally. When you use a gray card, you're telling your camera "Hey, this is what gray should look like under this light."

Here's how you do it:

  1. Place the gray card in the same light as your subject. It doesn't need to fill the whole frame, but make sure it's visible.
  2. Set your camera to the manual mode. Now, focus on the gray card and take a test shot.
  3. Check the photo. If the gray card appears gray, congrats! You're on the right track. If not, adjust your white balance settings and try again.

The gray card is a great starting point in getting your white balance right. It's a simple, inexpensive tool that can make a big difference in your photos. But remember, achieving perfect white balance doesn't stop here. There are other strategies to explore and experiment with—so let's dive in!

Adjust white balance in camera

Most cameras come with built-in settings for managing white balance. These are usually labeled as 'Daylight', 'Cloudy', 'Shade', 'Tungsten', and 'Fluorescent'. By adjusting these settings, you're essentially telling your camera the type of light you're shooting in, so it knows how to compensate for different color temperatures.

Here's how you can do it:

  1. Go through your camera menu and find the white balance option. This might be marked as 'WB'.
  2. Choose the setting that matches your current lighting situation. If you're shooting outdoors on a sunny day, choose 'Daylight'. If you're indoors under fluorescent lights, select 'Fluorescent'.
  3. Now, take a test shot and see how it looks. If the colors appear natural and the whites look white, you're on the right path. If not, try a different setting.

Remember, these are just starting points. Every light source is unique, and what works in one situation might not work in another. The key here is to experiment and see what works best for your photos.

The in-camera white balance adjustment is a powerful tool in your quest of achieving perfect white balance. So next time when you're out shooting, give these settings a try. You might be surprised by the difference they can make!

Experiment with different settings

As you get more comfortable with achieving perfect white balance, you might want to start stepping out of the comfort zone of your camera's presets. It's time to roll up your sleeves and experiment with different settings to see how they affect your images.

Remember the Kelvin scale we talked about when adjusting the in-camera white balance? It's a measure of color temperature, with cooler (blue) colors at higher values and warmer (red) colors at lower ones. Your camera's white balance settings are just approximations based on this scale.

Let's take the 'Daylight' setting for example. It's usually set around 5500K, which is the average color temperature of daylight. But what if your daylight is a bit warmer or cooler than average? That's where manual white balance adjustment comes in.

  1. Find the 'Custom' or 'Manual' option in your camera's white balance menu.
  2. Adjust the color temperature up or down to find the perfect balance. Remember, lower numbers for warmer colors and higher numbers for cooler ones.
  3. Take a test shot and see how it looks. Keep adjusting until you find the perfect balance.

Yes, it might be a bit of trial and error at first. But the more you experiment with different settings, the better you'll understand how white balance works. And the closer you'll get to achieving perfect white balance in all your shots.

Use RAW format for flexibility

When it comes to achieving perfect white balance, shooting in RAW offers a great level of flexibility. The RAW format is like a digital negative - it captures all the image data recorded by your camera's sensor.

While JPEG files are processed in the camera, RAW files allow you to make those decisions later when editing. This means you have full control over aspects like white balance, exposure, and color grading. Isn't that something to look forward to?

  1. Switch your camera to RAW mode. It's usually found in the image quality settings.
  2. Don't worry about setting the perfect white balance while shooting. Focus on the composition, and let the camera capture all the color information.
  3. Once you're in your image editing software, adjust the white balance slider until you're satisfied with the colors.

Shooting in RAW might require a bit more storage space, but the trade-off in flexibility is worth it. You can sleep easy knowing that even if you didn't nail the white balance in the field, you can still achieve perfect white balance in post-processing.

Take advantage of natural light

Lighting is a game-changer in photography, and natural light is an all-star player. The great news is, it's free and abundantly available! The trick lies in knowing how to harness it effectively to achieve perfect white balance.

Natural light changes throughout the day. Morning light can be cool and blue, midday light is often strong and harsh, and evening light can be warm and golden. Recognizing these shifts can help you create a wide variety of moods in your photos.

  1. Try shooting during the 'golden hour' - the hour after sunrise or before sunset. The light is softer, and the warm colors can enhance your shots.
  2. Overcast days may seem gloomy, but they provide soft, diffused light that's perfect for portraits.
  3. Don't shy away from direct sunlight. Embrace the challenge and use it to create striking contrasts and shadows.

There's a whole world of possibilities when you start to see natural light as your ally. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to gauge how different lighting conditions impact your white balance settings — and use them to your advantage.

Utilize white balance brackets

Just like how you can bracket for exposure, you can bracket for white balance too. It's a neat trick for achieving perfect white balance, particularly in tricky lighting situations.

White balance bracketing involves taking multiple shots of the same scene with different white balance settings. This gives you a range of images to choose from, rather than just one. It's a bit like having a safety net; if one setting didn't quite hit the mark, another might have nailed it.

  1. Most digital cameras offer this feature in their menu settings. Look for 'WB Bracketing' or something similar.
  2. Select the range you want to bracket. This is typically measured in kelvin (K). The wider the range, the more variations you'll get.
  3. Take your shot. Your camera will automatically take several images at different white balance settings.

Remember, while white balance bracketing can be a lifesaver in uncertain lighting, it's not a substitute for understanding how to manually adjust your white balance. It's another tool in your toolkit, ready to help you achieve that perfect white balance when the situation calls for it.

Try Auto White Balance

When you're first starting out or find yourself in a rush, Auto White Balance (AWB) can be a good friend. While it may not always deliver perfect results, it's a useful tool for achieving a decent white balance without the fuss.

Most cameras today come with an AWB setting. This feature allows the camera to analyze the light in your shot and adjust the white balance accordingly. It's a smart feature, but keep in mind it's not foolproof. Sometimes, it can get confused, particularly in mixed lighting situations.

  1. Look for the 'AWB' option in your camera's settings. It's usually symbolized by an 'A' or 'AWB'.
  2. Select it and take your shot. Your camera will do its best to balance the colors for you.

While AWB may not always nail the perfect white balance, it can get you pretty close. And for those times when it misses the mark? That's when your knowledge of manual white balance adjustments will come into play. Remember, AWB is a tool—not a crutch. Use it to help you get in the ballpark, then tweak as needed to hit that perfect white balance home run.

Use a Light Meter

Let's talk about light meters for a bit. They are handy little tools in the quest of achieving perfect white balance. You see, they measure the amount of light in a scene, and with that data, you can make more informed choices about your camera settings.

Now, you might be thinking, "Doesn't my camera already have a built-in light meter?" You're right, it does. But an external light meter can offer a higher level of precision. This precision can be particularly useful in tricky lighting situations, like a room with lots of windows or a sunny outdoor location with patches of shade.

  1. Position your light meter at the spot you want the correct exposure for.
  2. Take a reading. The meter will provide you with an aperture and shutter speed.
  3. Enter these settings into your camera.

By using a light meter, you're not leaving things up to chance—or your camera's sometimes not-so-reliable interpretation of the scene. Instead, you're making a calculated decision based on data, which can lead to a more accurate white balance. So, why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much of a difference it can make in achieving perfect white balance.

Manipulate Color Temperature

Understanding color temperature can feel a bit like learning a new language. But, once you've got the hang of it, it can be a powerful tool for achieving perfect white balance. Let's break it down!

Color temperature is all about how warm or cool a light source is, and it's measured in Kelvin (K). Higher temperatures (5000K and up) are cooler (bluish) and lower temperatures (below 5000K) are warmer (yellowish).

Here's where it gets a bit quirky: to correct for a light source's color temperature, you have to set your camera's white balance to the opposite color temperature. So, if you're shooting under warm, yellowish light, you'd set your camera's white balance to a cooler setting to neutralize the yellow tones. On the other hand, if you're shooting under cool, bluish light, you'd set your camera's white balance to a warmer setting to neutralize the blue tones.

Remember, it's all about balance. And getting that balance just right is key to achieving perfect white balance. It might feel a bit like trial and error at first, but with practice, you'll soon be able to intuitively adjust your camera's white balance to suit different lighting situations.

Post-process for perfection

Now, you're probably wondering: what if you've taken the shot, but the white balance is still a little off? Don't worry, there's a solution for that: post-processing.

Post-processing software, like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, can be your best buddy when it comes to achieving perfect white balance. These tools can adjust the color temperature and tint in your photos, giving you the power to fine-tune your image's white balance during the editing process.

Here's a tip: when you're adjusting white balance in post-processing, try to use an area of the photo that should be neutral (white or gray) as your reference point. This will help ensure that the colors in your photo are accurate and natural-looking.

By mastering the art of post-processing, you can save a photo that might have otherwise been discarded due to poor white balance. So, remember to be patient with yourself and keep practicing. With time and experience, you'll find that achieving perfect white balance is within your grasp.

If you found the "Achieving Perfect White Balance: 10 Essential Tips" blog post helpful and want to learn more about handling colors in photography, check out Laurence Philomene's workshop, 'How To Photograph & Retouch Bright Colours.' This workshop will provide you with essential techniques for capturing and editing vibrant colors in your images, ensuring a professional finish every time.