If you’ve ever wondered why a scene that looks perfectly normal to your eyes comes out strangely colored in a photograph, the answer may involve the white balance setting on your camera. Here’s how you can use white balance to improve your pictures.
White balance refers to the setting of your camera that helps it display colors more accurately in finished photographs. If you’ve ever noticed that a picture you take looks somehow “off” in color, this is likely a white balance issue. A red couch may look orange in a picture, or a pink flower may look blue. This impact on color is why white balance is also sometimes (confusingly) called color balance.
Colors come across differently in photos because of variations in camera sensors, and more importantly, the quality of the light. You’ve probably noticed that your living room looks different to your eyes under a “warm” incandescent light than it does under a “cold” fluorescent. That’s true for your camera as well.
The good news is that you can adjust white balance while you’re shooting a photo. You can choose to make colors look as lifelike as possible, or you can reach for an artistic effect by creating colors that are anything but lifelike. We’ll talk about both of these here.
White balance has a huge effect on the appearance of your photos. You’ll notice immediately if you have a white balance problem while you’re shooting, because something will simply look wrong in your pictures, even on the LCD preview screen.
This is most obvious when you are shooting in a dim or fluorescent-lit environment with a white balance setting intended for brighter ones, such as a tungsten/incandescent or full sun setting. These settings instruct your camera to tone down red and orange shades it picks up and to make blue shades brighter. But since fluorescent lights are heavy on blue light wavelengths, the result is a picture that looks completely out of whack in the color department—with far too much blue.
The solution is simple: Switch to a fluorescent white balance setting, and the colors will look more accurate in the photograph.
White balance can also be used to make colors look more vibrant than normal—or even surreal. Experiment with different white balance settings to see how your camera responds; try using an indoor setting while shooting outdoors, or using a setting designed for bright sun when shooting in the shade. The results can be ultra-colorful or they can have their colors stripped away, almost like a black and white shot. Either way, if you’re looking for an unusual camera effect, this is a simple way to achieve it.
Setting white balance on your camera is easy. On most point-and-shoot cameras, including the Samsung WB150F, you’ll find white balance as an option under the primary menu. Simply select the white balance that is closest to your shooting conditions. Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H (for “daylight” fluorescents), Fluorescent_L (for “white” fluorescents), and Tungsten (for incandescent bulbs) are the primary options. You can customize white balance further by selecting the Custom Set white balance setting, then taking a picture of a white piece of paper. This will calibrate the camera’s color settings, making white options as colorless as possible under your current lighting.
You’ll get identical options (plus one additional fluorescent mode) with an interchangeable lens camera like the Samsung NX20. You can work with these options under the Fn menu when you’re in shooting mode.
Don’t want to mess with white balance at all? No problem. As with most other settings, your camera will attempt to set white balance automatically without your intervention. You only need to change it manually if something doesn’t look right.
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