Using the Right White Balance Preset

The White Balance setting on your camera is one of the most important choices to make. This control can be used to neutralize any color cast in an image and to set the overall color (or tone) for the scene. White is most often used as a reference point because it is the perfect blend of all the color channels.

While many are perfectly content to shoot in an Auto White Balance setting… this can lead to extra work in post.  Changes in lighting conditions (such as clouds passing overhead) can create variations in skin tones or subjects that just end up being frustrating. Ideally, strongly consider setting your white balance correctly before shooting in a location.  If shooting raw, you have greater flexibility to compensate in post.


The presets for your camera may vary slightly depending on the model and manufacturer. However, they’re usually easy to understand when you think about them. Typically, the presets are named for the type of lighting they are designed to work best with.

  • Daylight or Direct Sunlight. This option works best for general shooting under daylight conditions where the sun is readily visible.
  • Shade. This option is used when shooting in sunlight and your subjects are in the shade. It tends to make the image more orange to compensate for the bluish tones of the shaded areas.
  • Cloudy. This setting is similar to daylight but compensates for the sky having some cloud cover (which cools down the color temperature). Many prefer this setting because it is a little warmer.
  • Tungsten or Incandescent. This white balance setting is designed for shooting indoors with standard lightbulb illumination.
  • Fluorescent. This setting works best when shooting under standard fluorescent tube lights. However, some lights are daylight balanced, which would require you to switch to the daylight setting.
  • Flash. This option is designed to be color balanced for your camera’s flash. You won’t use this option when shooting video because you can’t use a flash.

Be sure to experiment with your settings as well as apply your own judgement to get the best results.

Check out Photofocus for more photo news and inspiration.