White Light Balance – DSLR Photography

This is the first of the series of posts by Mili Sharma on the technicalities of photography. Mili is an IT professional, who is passionate about travelling. She also pursues photography as a hobby. Today, she has written about White Light Balance.

White Light Balance

White light balance is used to ensure that the color appearing to our eyes appears the same in the photographs too. In other word, balancing the white light gives us more accurate colors in our photographs. Human eye has the capability to judge the white color under difference light conditions. However a Digital Camera cannot automatically understand/detect the white light in various light conditions. This is when the feature of balancing the white light comes into effect. It allows the camera to understand the white color in various light conditions and remove the unrealistic colors.

To understand this better, we first need to be familiar with the concept of ‘Color Temperature’. Each color has a temperature. Color temperature describes the spectrum of light which is radiated from a ‘blackbody’ with that surface temperature. A blackbody is an object which absorbs all light incidents irrespective of the frequency. The Sun is considered to be a black body radiator as. The unit for measuring the color temperature is ‘Kelvin (K)’. Colors which have temperatures over 5,000K are called cool colors (blueish white) while the colors with the temperature between 2,700 K and 3,000 K are called warm colors (yellowish white through red).

We can also relate the warmth of the colors to daylight and evening light. Daylight has a spectrum similar to that of a black body with a correlated color temperature of 5,500 K. Digital Camera come with predefined white light balancing effects. Some on the common White light adjustments are:

Color Temperature

Light Source

1000-2000 K


2500-3500 K

 Tungsten Bulb (household variety)

3000-4000 K

 Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)

4000-5000 K

 Fluorescent Lamps

5000-5500 K

 Electronic Flash

5000-6500 K

 Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)

6500-8000 K

 Moderately Overcast Sky

9000-10000 K

 Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

We can manually set the white light balance by following the steps below to set the white light balance:

  1. Press the MENU button and select the Shooting Menu.
  2. Select White balance and then scroll to the right.
  3. Select one of the values like Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct sunlight etc. and click OK.

White balance 2

White balance

Note: These steps are for Nikon users. Cannon users may refer to the User Manual.

If not sure what white balance option to use then leave it set to ‘Auto White Balance (AWB)’.  We can also create our own white light balance using a Grey Card or a White Sheet. To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Keep a Grey Card or a White Sheet ready in front of you.
  2. Press the ‘MENU’ button and select the Shooting Menu.
  3. Select ‘White Balance’ and then scroll to the right.
  4. Select ‘Measure’. It will show a pop up to ‘Overwrite existing preset data’.
  5. Click on ‘Yes’.
  6. It will then ask to take a photo of a Grey or a White object.
  7. Set your focus on the Grey Card or White Sheet and take a picture.

You can now expect better photographs with better color accuracy in various light conditions. Happy Clicking!!

3 thoughts on “White Light Balance – DSLR Photography

  1. Pingback: Light Painting – A Photography Technique | Mission Sharing Knowledge

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