What is the white balance in the camera

White balance - This is a parameter that helps to correctly build the transmission of a color image.

White balance

White balance

In short it is called simply BB (white balance), in English literature can be found WB (White balances)that does not change the essence.

This is very important parameter when creating color photography. He is responsible for color accuracy. Roughly speaking, white objects should be white and not have different shades of yellow or blue.

White balance helps the camera determine which light is considered white. Indeed - a camera, it is not the human eye that the powerful (or less powerful) brain carries out adjustments and sets the white color. The camera needs to somehow guess what is considered white. In this difficult task, the knowledge of the laws of physics helps the camera.

Let us superficially reveal the essence of the issue: according to thick textbooks, it is known that white is the color that gives an absolute black body (usually they use platinum), heated to a certain temperature. A certain temperature will give a certain wavelength, and the wavelength determines what we call color. The temperature is measured in Kelvin and, for example, they say that the temperature of daylight white light is 6500 K.

And what will happen if you heat less than 6500? Then we get a lower temperature, and it will correspond to a light of a yellow color - for example, a candle has a temperature in the region of 1800 K. Therefore, the candle gives off a yellowish warm light.

But what if heated more? There will be light with a temperature corresponding to different types of lamps with a bluish tint.

White balance - different BB settings

White balance - different BB settings

Why is it important to monitor BB? The answer is very simple, setting the correct white balance you can achieve the "right colors" in your picture. For example, for a portrait, the skin should have a natural color. If the BB is not installed correctly, the color will be mixed with yellowness or even worse with a touch of blue. You can see for yourself on the test pictures that are in this article and compare the appearance of the picture with different BB settings. The flowers are illuminated on the left by daylight from a window and from above on the right by an incandescent lamp, in this regard, light from different sources with different color temperatures is obtained and the camera finds it difficult to correctly set the BB. Pay attention to the difference between automatic balance and white sheet balance (predefined).

White Balance Adjustment

White Balance Adjustment

How to configure BB in the camera? Adjusting the white balance in the camera is simple, as almost all ordinary digital or digital SLR cameras have this function. Typically, the camera offers one of the preset BB profiles, for example, “sunny”, “cloudy”, “reflected light”, “incandescent lamp”, “flash” and, of course, “auto”. These standard settings are usually pictured and intuitive. For example, in the open air on a sunny day it would be wise to set the BB to “sunny” mode and thereby let the camera know that the BB is shifted to a hotter side. Similarly, in the evening with incandescent lamps you need to use the appropriate setting.

More advanced cameras have the ability setting the color temperature in Kelvin. The task is quite interesting and useful for visual study of BB.

White balance according to the template and with manual temperature setting

White balance according to the template and with manual temperature setting

How to configure BB in Nikon cameras? Just press the WB button and use the multi selector to choose a preset option. Or select the PRE option, press the WB button again, point the camera at a white object and take a picture. The picture on the card cannot be recorded, but information about the color, which is considered white, will be taken from it. After a successful BB installation, the camera will write Good, if the camera could not correctly read the BB, the message No Good will appear and you will have to repeat the procedure again. You can also store BB samples in the camera’s memory and turn them on as needed. In more detail, only the instructions for the camera will help you, which I highly recommend studying.

Interesting thoughts: if you have an advanced camera and you can choose to set the color temperature manually, I advise you to conduct an experiment - take the same picture at the lowest possible camera temperature and the highest possible temperature, as shown in the examples. After comparison, most likely, understanding of how this parameter works is very fast.

How to configure BB properly? Very simple, you just need to tell the camera what exactly is considered white. To do this, you need to take a test picture in a special mode (the picture is frozen) by placing a white object in the center. Usually this method of installing BB is called white balance on a white sheet. This is the best option. But he, in my opinion, has a drawback. Personally, I often forget that I made a preset white balance and continue to shoot further when changing the location and light for shooting.

Do I need to constantly remember about BB? It all depends on the situation - when there is a lot of time and there is a desire to take the most "correct" picture - then white balance is an irreplaceable thing. But if the scenes and compositions change at tremendous speed, then I recommend using Auto White Balance. Modern, especially digital SLR, cameras do an excellent job of this. But still, in low light conditions, it will be difficult for the camera to choose the right color temperature. For the majority of people automatic white balance is enough, since it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between pictures with different BBs.

If the white balance was not set correctly, the picture can still be saved. To do this, use a photo editor such as Photoshop or any other. You can set the color temperature in the editor; it is especially easy to do this by selecting a white object in the photo and using a pipette “take” a white sample. Very easy to pull BB out of RAW. I use a little trick when I shoot people, portraits, etc. and I want to stretch the correct white balance with RAW, then I expose the BB by pipetting along the white areas of the eyes.

By the way, professional BB cameras have a separate button for quick setup, just like ISO or image quality. That is, manufacturers themselves place great emphasis on setting the correct color temperature.

Hack and predictor Aviator: in almost all cases, when setting the white balance, you can rely on the automatic mode, in extreme cases, you can correct it with the editor. In an ideal embodiment, the BB is best set using a preset on a white sheet or plot.

Thank you for your attention and do not forget to press +1, tweet and like. Arkady Shapoval.


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Comments: 113 on the topic: What is the white balance in the camera

  • Vladimir

    Good health to you, Arkady! Thank you for the article. Tell me please. Now there are many different lamps on sale: mercury, energy-saving, with correct and with incorrect color rendering, neon, etc. When photographing under these lamps, which category of BB should they are attributed, what needs to be displayed in the menu - incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps, or maybe something else? And yet, does the lens aperture affect the result of placing the BB on a white sheet? Thank you.

  • Alexander

    Here it is better to experiment, try different BB settings, until you find the best one for specific conditions. Only the aperture affects the aperture of the lens, the more it is open, the more the aperture, and of course the light transmission of the glass of the lens itself. BB affects only the correct color rendering.

  • Vadimus

    Very good article, Arkady! Especially for beginners.
    The only thing that could still be noted is how sometimes photographers deliberately distort the BB in order to achieve the desired result.
    so, for example, sometimes, in order to show the warmth of the setting sun, the BB is deliberately put “cloudy” (for example), which results in an even “hotter” sunset, since the camera adds warm shades

    ... and vice versa, in order to convey all the cold of a winter morning, they set the "incandescent" mode (the camera will add cold shades).

  • Skvosh_vitaly

    Week as I use D800
    It is depressing that in the automatic mode of the BB the photos are faded, unsaturated. It is not always a supporter of hardware to raise something, and sitting for hours in Photoshop is not a great pleasure ... It is not always convenient to determine the balance from a white sheet. In addition, it is not clear whether the area of ​​this white field affects the measurement accuracy. For example, it is one thing to measure a sheet of paper close up in the hands of a model, and immediately take a portrait, and another thing to shoot a group of people, having previously pushed into a sheet of paper in the hands of one of the photographs. What are your thoughts on this?

    • anonym

      Some cameras (in my D3100, for example) have the ability to adjust the automatic white balance. Those. You can adjust the automation to a warmer or colder result. This thing is configured in the settings menu, and not in the menu that works during the shooting process.

  • Skvosh_vitaly

    I’ll clarify the question: does the area of ​​the white sheet field and the distance to it affect the accuracy of determining the white balance? Will anyone answer?

    • Nicholas

      Of course it affects, since the camera receives color information from the entire area of ​​the scene

  • Denis

    Working with a gray card (gray on one side and white on the other), I made the same mistake all the time: I tried to determine the BB (PRE setting in the camera) by the gray color :(, but I tried it on the white side of the “gray card” and here is the result - white remains white in the resulting photo, etc. Conclusion: on the white side of the gray card we determine (Pre-set) the BB, and on the gray side we determine the correct exposure of the future image. And strictly in the specified sequence, i.e. The correct WB will help the camera's exposure meter to determine the exposure from the gray side of the card.

    • Andrei

      In theory, and on the gray side, the balance should turn out to be correct, just if the exposure is not on the gray side, then white will be perceived by the automation as medium gray. In this case, the white balance itself should be correct when setting it to any gray tone (from white to black). Correct if not right.

  • anonym

    Dear author Arkady Shapoval, the article is interesting, but I want to note that you are writing for non-professionals. We will not run when shooting to the object to determine the BB. For us, the producers came up with “Shooting by Lighting or Scene”
    You will not add your thoughts to the article on the following topics:
    Choice of shooting atmosphere
    BB plug
    SRGB color space - why didn't I understand it
    White balance correction
    Image style selection
    Autoexposure fixation - which also affects the temperature and therefore the BB
    Flash exposure compensation - which also affects BB, I pulled it, but why didn’t I understand

  • Cobra.

    Why wear and measure on a piece of white paper? Is it convenient for you to wear a piece of white sheet anywhere and everywhere? The easiest and easiest way to measure a BB is quite simple!, Everyone knows about Doshirak ?, you just need the lid itself!, Take the scissors and the rectangle mode the square is more convenient for you, and that’s all!, the cap is from Doshirak white!, we attach this very cap to the glass to the lens, after switching the camera to manual BB mode, turn off the autofocus and take measurements, save the setting by clicking OK!, that's the whole story !)))

  • MMS

    Arkady, tell me:
    I don’t find WB presets on the D7100. There is only a setting for temperature and PRE

    • Arkady Shapoval

      PRE is the preset.

  • anonym


  • Vyacheslav

    To set the correct BB, I use the flash :). I have a D3100 with an Sb-700 flash, even if a flash is not needed in the room and with a fast lens, in M ​​mode I set 1/128 (or more) on the flash and illuminate it with reflected light from the card. The main light comes from windows or from artificial lighting, it does not matter, the BB is still set by the flash, even at minimum power! And the second moment, the eyes turn out better, since the light of the flash is reflected in them.

  • Nicholas

    Hello ! How to remove pictures from white balance from presets D1-D4 Nikon D90

  • Oleg Kolyshev

    Do not consider for not constructive criticism. But I would like accuracy.
    I have been reading your site for many years. For me, he became a “table bible”. I have not seen any other site like this. So complete, detailed and adequate.
    But enough curtsies.
    It's time and critics;)
    In this article, in my opinion, "heresy" is voiced :)
    I quote:

    "It is known from thick textbooks that white is the color that gives an absolute black body (usually platinum is used), heated to a certain temperature."

    What I have said concerns only this proposal.
    "Absolutely black body" is a hypothetically existing body that completely absorbs light. The entire spectrum. Without reflecting anything. That is why it is “absolutely black body”. Because even black is obtained by reflecting part of the spectrum from the body.
    As we know, white is a full spectrum (a set of seven “rainbow” colors). And the color of an object is perceived by us in one way or another because it (the object) absorbs the entire spectrum except, for example, red. And then we see the object in red, capturing the reflected red color (etc.) by the retina.
    Platinum is definitely not a "black body" For we see it completely different :)

    I do not pretend to be the ultimate truth. This question is extensive and beyond the scope of the photosite.
    But still, you probably didn’t mean platinum, but platinum black.
    Only oriented carbon tubes have a lower albedo.

  • plasma5210

    Thank you very much for creating a large number of competent articles on the topic of photos.
    Specifically to this article there is a small remark.
    Exposing the BB to white areas of the eyes is wrong.
    Since the proteins in the eyes of a person are not quite white.
    It is better to expose on any other object, about which it is known for certain that it is white. For example, a bride’s wedding dress (you should pay attention to this when shooting, since even a dress is often, for example, cream-colored).
    For shooting in RAW (or in NEFF for Nikon), you can simply remove a white sheet of paper, but leave the BB in automatic mode. Then for frames shot under the same lighting as our white sheet, you will have the opportunity to set the correct BB settings.

  • Andrey Popov

    Thanks a lot!:))

  • Andrey

    Hello Arkady. There was such a question. Does the automatic WB take metering from the entire area of ​​the frame always, or from the focusing point, for example, with spot metering? Does the WB metering result depend on the metering method? Matrix, dot ……? Thank you.

    • Andrey Super

      Conduct experiments, the result will be remembered better. ;-)

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  • Alim

    Arkady! Set out very sensibly and readily. Thank you

  • Igor

    And who worked with the CBL drive to adjust the balance? and the Chinese also have a portable lens mount for adjusting the balance — who works with such things? unsubscribe about the results.

  • NE

    Sometimes you have to shoot in difficult lighting conditions. Sometimes you wave your hand and translate it into black and white during processing. I am an amateur and I can afford it. Or, if possible, I turn off all light sources, aim at the backlight af flash…. There is such a thing called the ColorChecker Passport. It costs about 8 thousand rubles, so I bought an analogue from V. Lushnikov for mere pennies, which I immediately spat on, to be honest. But I must say that the bear helps. Then I read from E. Kartashov that it seems like experts in color calibration and color correction even made measurements and the conclusion is: ".. Viktor Lushnikov's target can be used to create camera profiles using any software that supports the use of Color Checker 24 .."

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    How can I find out the value of automatic bb? For example, he jumps in the process of shooting, and on one of the shots he hit the mark. But how to apply this BB correction to all photos in the series? It’s necessary, focusing on reducing the difference in histograms, to convert a photo with different settings of the manual BB and thus select first the temperature, then the shade, and thus calculate what indicators the automation chose. Is there a simpler way?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      In batch processors, just copy the value of the BB and apply to all photos in the series. In the Republic of Latvia, this is done by synchronizing the images according to the selected parameters.

      • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

        I checked, really - there is no problem in Nikon Capture NX-D: there the numerical values ​​of the automatic WB are shown and are available for change.
        And the problem I had in the converter from S5 Pro - Hyper-Utility3. In it, the values ​​"auto" are not shown or edited, and you cannot copy them to another photo - for the second one, new values ​​are simply calculated.
        In automatic mode, the BB jumps not only in kelvins, but also in tone correction along the three axes of RGB, which makes accurate manual selection almost impossible.
        This is probably the cost of using software twelve years ago, and there’s nothing to come up with

        • Valentine

          1. Converters usually have “as-filmed” WB and “auto” WB. The names may differ, but the essence is as follows: “as recorded” / recorded, etc. this is what the camera set (automatically or from presets), and auto / calculated, etc. this is what the converter calculates on its own. It doesn't always work correctly.
          2. The BB will affect the shift of all three RGB curves. Information in the camera is simultaneously recorded about the brightness and color of the three channels. Any changes that affect brightness affect colors. By the way, Lightroom can show LAB values, which simplifies setting BB by numbers.
          3. For a more accurate selection, standards are removed (gray pay cards, colorcheckers). You can also pick up the BB if you know how to navigate the numerical values ​​of the curves, including and RGB. But an accurate BB does not always give a nice color, and its small withdrawal, for example, in warm colors during a portrait, can make a picture more pleasant for perception. But, if you overdo it, ruin the frame.

  • Olga

    Tell me, at what distance from the lens should a sheet of white paper be placed when shooting indoors? And is it necessary to set the BB when changing lenses? (for example, first 18-105, then manual Helios-81N)

    • Dmitry

      When changing lenses, re-adjusting the white balance is not necessary, except if you screw on a very ancient lens that is noticeably yellow or blue. Modern more or less high-quality glasses usually do not distort color.
      A sheet of paper for measuring the BB needs to be placed so that it occupies the entire space of the frame; sharpness is not important here at all.
      You need to re-set the white balance when changing lighting (other lamps or another location with a different color of the walls in the room, changing daylight, especially in the morning and evening hours)

    • Dmitry

      Helios 81H usually does not suffer from color distortion, but it all depends on the instance. If on a BB car with Helios you get more yellow or blue photos than from 18-105, it means that Helios introduces color distortions, which means that when changing a lens, you also need to double-check the BB.

  • Vyacheslav

    If it's not difficult, please enlighten ...
    If you illuminate the subject
    (in the apartment, at night - oil paintings)
    two constant light sources
    with different temperature: 3000 (halogen spotlight)
    and 6500 (LED floodlight),
    THAT the resulting WHITE BALANCE will be 4750?
    (3000 + 6500) / 2 = 4750.
    . . .
    Will color distortion appear?
    . . .
    Did you have to put this into practice?
    . . .
    Thank you.
    Sincerely, Vyacheslav ...

    • Michael

      Distortions will depend on the degree of mixing of the light sources. The closer the point of the object (picture) to one source, the greater its luminous flux and, accordingly, the contribution to the illumination of the object. It is best to balance both sources in temperature, i.e. add a filter.

      • Vyacheslav

        Thank you for your feedback.
        Recently I took 2 halogen spotlights.
        Reason for Selection - CRI (RA) = 100.
        LED RA = 70.
        Nikon-D3300's color reproduction is not perfect ...
        (white balance "automatic" and "incandescent lamp")
        Especially the blues are “not real”.
        In lightroom, NEF files are tedious and imprecise to adjust ...
        A particularly problematic color is blue.
        Nikon-D3300 itself generates a JPG file - blue colors as ultramarine.
        Therefore, the assumption arose that blue objects (paintings)
        better illuminate with a cold light.
        The scheme of shooting the picture:
        The camera on a tripod is pointing strictly perpendicular
        (on two axes) to the center of the picture.
        2 spotlights at approximately 45 degrees
        to the picture and the camera.
        Near installed halogens (T = 3000)
        It is planned to put two more LEDs (T = 6500).
        There were Philips spotlights with RA = 80.
        There are with temperature: 3000, 4000, 6500.
        Can be purchased and used for illumination separately ...
        And you can supplement the halogen light with a cold LED
        for better color reproduction ... ???
        What to choose for additions with T = 3000, T = 4000 or T = 6500 ???
        Or combine light sources with different temperatures,
        generally impossible ??? !!!
        Practice is good, but expensive ...
        Are there already proven theoretical
        or practical ANSWERS ???
        Thanks …

        • Michael

          Typically, such combinations lead to color rendering problems, so they try, whenever possible, to avoid sources with different color temperatures, although no one bothers to try)) I have no practice with the described scheme. Lightroom and a pre-built color rendering profile are well suited for your task (the shooting conditions and equipment do not change after all). There are solutions like X-Rite ColorChecker for automatically creating profiles. I think you need to think in this direction.

        • Valentine

          I agree with Mikhail - if you want accurate color reproduction, you need a colorchecker. Light in any case is preferable uniform, closer to temperatures of 5500-6500. Any backlight at a different temperature can introduce distortion that is even more difficult to correct than any color in a photo with even lighting. Lightroom also has several color-correcting tools, including a single selected color.

        • Serge

          But what if I stick a piece of white paper from the edge of the picture, then take a BB pipette from it and sprinkle the picture?

          • Michael

            White will match, and the rest of the colors the camera will still lie

          • Valentine

            Serge, may come in handy: you don't need to sculpt anything anywhere. Both native raw converters and ACR / LR are great at taking a reference sample from any frame and applying the selected white balance to a series of other images. In addition, the person asks about the exact colors. White paper is not a standard, like any unverified gray paper (white and gray may not be neutral, they may have small shades in other colors and thus give distorted information for adjusting the white balance). At a minimum, you need a normal gray card, but colorcheckers with a wide range of reference colors give even greater accuracy. And most importantly, if the light in the frame has a different temperature and intensity, then the standards may not help - they will balance the light that fell on them, and in other parts of the frame it turns out that the light is different. You can also correct such things, but this already requires skill.

  • mos6502

    Everything seems clear, but if there is nothing white in the frame? For example, a landscape is a blue sky, green grass and a tree. Which BB would be “correct” in this case? Let's say I deliberately drove the BB into warmth, because I like it so much and so the photo evokes certain emotions in me, is this correct?

  • Andrei

    There was a question, but there was no answer.
    In general, if the shooting will be carried out with an external flash on the ceiling, should I also put the flash on the ceiling? Where can I have a white sheet? It turns out so solidly gray.
    And yet, put the WB button by holding the WB button (PRE blinks, you take a picture) or place the white sheet where you want, turn on the M-focus, the exposure meter is 0 (for example, a shutter speed of A is 1/5) and you put the resulting frame in PRE? then puff on the ceiling?

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English-version of this article https://radojuva.com/en/2011/07/balance-belogo/

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