Why does white balance matter, if I shoot raw I can just fix it later right?  Have you ever said these words?  White balance matters for several reasons.  First, it will save you a ton of time in post if you nail it correctly while shooting.  Second, even when you fix it in posit will never look quite the same.  I feel like there is always some color shift and a lose of pope to the image.

White balance is finding the correct color temperature for a given light source, so whites are truly white. Have you ever taken a picture that seems to have a blue or yellow cast? This is because the color temperature was not correct. It was either too warm or too cold. Warm being the yellow cast and cold being the blue.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  It was hand corrected to 6200K in post. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. It was hand corrected to 6200K in post.

So what is color temperature? The color temperature of a light source is the temperature of an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of comparable hue to that of the light source, per Wikipedia. Color temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin. Adobe’s raw converter will allow you to choose from 2000-50,000 Kelvin for your white balance setting. 2000 to 10,000 is the most common range as it corresponds to the types of light we use.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  WB was set to auto with the camera choosing 5050K. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. WB was set to auto with the camera choosing 5050K.

To illustrate how this works I have taken several photos of a white card using various WB presets on the camera. They were taken around 1:00 in the afternoon on a day with high cloud cover where you could see a slight shadow on the ground. The white card was facing south. There was no post work done to the images with the exception of the first, which only had the color temp manual corrected.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  Wb set to Day Light. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. Wb set to Day Light.

Most DSLR cameras have several different WB presses built in. They include auto, manual where you pick the color temp, daylight, cloudy, tungsten and so on. If you haven’t been changing your WB setting chances are it is set to the default auto. In your editing program check out what your temperatures have been coming in at.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  White Balance was on manual with a setting of 5200K.  The manual setting from the last time i used the customs function. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. White Balance was on manual with a setting of 5200K. The manual setting from the last time i used the customs function.

Here is on of the places where shooting raw is a great asset. When editing you can easily change the white balance to get it dialed in perfectly. Make sure you are color balancing you monitor otherwise all that color work will be for not. We will be covering more about this in the future.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  WB set to White Fluorescent Light. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. WB set to White Fluorescent Light.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  WB set to Tungsten light. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. WB set to Tungsten light.

Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro.  WB set to Cloudy. Taken with a Canon 5D III and Zeiss 50mm Makro. WB set to Cloudy.

Most of the time when I am taking photos outside during the day I go with auto white balance. Inside and night I prefer the set it manually. Go out and play around with some different settings to see what will happen. Experimentation and experience is the best teacher.