You may or may not have noticed, but the normal sources of light you use throughout the day are very different colors. The color of light is measured on a Kelvin temperature scale. At first appearance, the scale doesn't seem to make any sense, but it actually represents the color an object would appear when heated to different temperatures. Most people are familiar with a blacksmith heating a piece of iron to a red or orange color, but if it continued to be heated it could become yellow and then blue.

The scale below gives you an idea of where different sources of light fall on the scale. Notice that most artificial light sources are on the warmer yellow to orange side while natural light is mostly on the cool blue side.

If a candle was used to illuminate a white piece of paper, that white piece of paper would appear to be orange. If a candle illuminated an orange piece of paper, it would appear to be a much deeper orange than it actually is.  The purpose of white balance in photography is to have a control point so that all the colors appear under the color of light you want them to appear at. DSLR cameras are normally very good at choosing the right white balance, but sometimes the scene is too complex for the digital SLR to recognize what the white balance should really be or you may just want to be more creative with your DSLR photography.


The image below was shot at sunset, so the sunlight was much more colorful than it is during the middle of the day. The  white balance was set to auto and the camera selected a white balance to show all of the colors as they appeared in front of me. Notice that the colors and particularly the white dress appear to somewhat orange which is due to the color of the light.

The original digital image was captured in RAW format, so using an editing software the white balance can be easily adjusted afterwards. Using the RAW image processing software, the white balance was adjusted to show the true colors of the figurine or as they would appear with a pure white light at about 4,500-5,000K.

The point of all of this is to be aware of the effect white balance has on your digital images. If you're unhappy with the white balance in your photographs you can either change it to a manual setting and tell the camera what kind of light you're shooting in, or you can shoot in RAW file format and adjust it later. The two digital photo's above have different white balance settings, but that doesn't mean that one is better than the other. If the digital photograph was used in selling the figurine the white balance should be set so that the true colors are showing as they are in the bottom photograph. If the photograph was used as more of a portrait then the orange glow of a sunset may be very desirable as in the first digital image.

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