While White Balance presets and Auto White Balance can be quite useful, many choose to manually set the white balance on their cameras.  This is a useful approach if you need to compensate for when multiple lighting sources are mixed together in the same scene.  It is also a way to warm or cool a shot for stylistic purposes.


If you want to work numerically, you can use these numbers in degrees Kelvin as a guide.

  • 1,700K Match flame
  • 1,850K Candle flame
  • 2,700–3,300K Incandescent lightbulb
  • 3,400K Studio lamps
  • 4,100K Moonlight
  • 5,000K Horizon daylight
  • 5,500–6,000K Typical daylight, electronic flash
  • 6,500K Daylight, overcast

If memorizing a bunch of temperatures is too difficult or you aren’t happy with a built-in preset, it’s time to make your own preset. The exact process will vary from camera to camera, but typically the process involves doing the following.

  1. Shoot a reference photo with something white in the shot.  The white should fill most of the frame.
  2. The subject can be a sheet of paper or a more accurate calibration target.
  3. Choose the custom white balance option in your camera’s menu.
  4. Select the reference image so the camera can calibrate itself.
  5. Take a few more photos under the lighting conditions used to make the preset.
  6. Visually inspect the preset’s result and ensure that skin tones and key details in the shot look natural.

Here’s a short video tutorial showing the process.

You can also see the video here.

Give this technique a shot and combine with your own shooting preferences.


This Post Sponsored by:

lynda.com Learn photography anytime, anywhere, and at your own pace—from bite-sized tutorials to comprehensive courses. Try lynda.com free for 10 days by visiting lynda.com/ Photofocus.

Mosaic A complete solution for photographers using Lightroom who want to manage and share their photos. You can easily view images with their iOS app or web service. Plus your photos are backed up to the cloud with several plans to match your needs.

The HDR Learning Center Check out new ways to use High Dynamic Range photography to make compelling images. Free tutorials and posts to get results. Produced in partnership with HDR Soft.

500px Join the world’s premier photo community. 500px lets you discover, share, buy and sell inspiring photographs.

Drobo – Not only is Drobo 5D fast, but it’s easy-to-use, expandable, flexible, and protected.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. […] Setting a Custom White Balance […]

Comments are closed.

About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Technique & Tutorials


, , ,