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Definition of Term

  • A manual adjustment process of removing unrealistic color casts so objects that are white appear white in the image.
  • White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. 

  • Proper camera white balance has to take into account the "color temperature" of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light. 

  • Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, but digital cameras often have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB) — and can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts. 

  • Understanding digital white balance can help you avoid these color casts, thereby improving your photos under a wider range of lighting conditions.

  • Let's say you're standing outside on an overcast day, and you're looking at an object you consider to be white. Now you take that object inside and it still looks white to you, despite the fact that you may be viewing it under a completely different kind of lighting, such as tungsten.

  • The human visual system adapts to these changes automatically so that it maintains something called color constancy. It's not something you realize is happening – but it happens all the time.

  • What's changed between the two conditions is the light, and with it color temperature of the scene as a whole. An overcast day is a good example of a reasonably neutral light, whereas the kind of light you get from a tungsten bulb is a warmer yellowy orange.

  • Your camera's Auto white balance system notices these changes and constantly adjusts itself to produce the right results, but sometimes it get its wrong. Some situations are harder than others to judge, be it because of what's in the scene itself or the type of lighting present, or both.

  • Some artificial lights, particularly fluorescent sources, are very different in nature to others, and there are many different varieties within these categories. Many Auto white balance systems struggle to get things right here, and this can lead to strange colour casts.


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