• Yvonne

Creating a Custom White Balance-Is it really necessary?


White Balance is the color temperature of a specific light source. All of the light that we see has a range of different color temperatures and that color can range from warm to cool.

The White Balance setting on your camera is how the camera interprets this temperature. By default your camera is probably set to ‘auto’ white balance or AWB.

In this case the camera will take a reading of the available light and try to choose what it “thinks” is the most correct color temperature. You can also choose one of the white balance presets that have been programmed into the camera, but one of the problems that photographers run into is a situation where there are multiple light sources with varying color temperatures.


For example if you are shooting a still life with incandescent lighting and there are large windows allowing daylight to come in and then you want to use your flash. In this situation we have three different color temperatures falling onto the subject. You could try and let the camera figure it out with ‘auto’ white balance or you could choose one of the presets and hope for the best. If you are shooting RAW you could correct the color temperature when you process the files. The problem with that is not only does it add time to your post-processing, but also it is very hard to remember color. This is where creating custom white balance will speed up your workflow and eliminate guesswork.

To create a custom white balance you will need to be familiar with how your camera sets a custom white balance. Look up custom white balance in your instruction manual. Although each camera will vary slightly, the one thing that they will all tell you to do when creating the custom white balance is to ‘fill the frame with something white’. You could use a white piece of paper, but tit is not as reliable as a product that is specifically made for custom WB. Therefore, my recommendation would be to get one of the many white balance tools that are available. My personal favorite for creating a custom white balance in camera is the Expo Disc. With your camera set to custom white balance and the Expo Disc attached to the camera lens, take a calibration exposure. The disc should be facing toward the primary light source that will be falling on your subject. Your camera’s white balance is now calibrated to that particular lighting situation. If you move to a new lighting scenario you will need to take a new custom white balance.

Creating a custom white balance as part of your workflow will give you control to capture the right color in camera and speed up your post-processing time.

How to set a custom white balance:

For (most) Nikon Cameras:

  • Set the camera’s white balance setting to “Pre”

  • Hold an Expo Disc in front of the lens-it is recommended to put the camera’s autofocus to ‘manual’ focus so that the camera will take a photo. When the camera only sees white it cannot focus.

  • Point the camera toward the light that is falling on your subject.

  • Take a photo

  • The LCD will say “GOOD”....if it says “NO GOOD” there was not enough light for the camera to calibrate the WB-adjust your exposure and try again.

How to set a custom white balance:

For (most) Canon Cameras:

  • Set the camera’s white balance setting to

  • Hold an Expo Disc in front of the lens-it is recommended to put the camera’s autofocus to ‘manual’ focus so that the camera will take a photo. When the camera only sees white it cannot focus.

  • Point the camera toward the light that is falling on your subject.

  • Take a photo

  • You will have a white photo

  • Then go to “MENU”

  • Go to the second camera menu

  • Scroll down to Custom WB

  • Press “set”

  • The camera will then set the WB to the white image that you took.

#whitebalance #camera #photography

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