EXERCISE: Colour Cast and White Balance

First study your camera’s manual to familiarise yourself with the exact procedure for altering the White Balance.  Then find the following outdoor lighting situations, each of which has a different colour temperature.

         * Sunlight            *Cloudy               *Open shade on a sunny day

For each, choose a scene or object or person to photograph, and shoot four versions, using each one of these White Balance options and your camera’s auto setting.  In your browser or processing software, compare the results for each scene.  Note that the auto will have attempted to make the best results under the circumstances, but may still be slightly different from the best of the three others.

I wanted to photograph a generic scene to capture each of the White Balance settings images for this exercise; as I thought doing this would best highlight the results.  Although the river is something I have used quiet a lot recently, I thought this would be a great spot to conduct this shoot, as I would be able to capture each of the required conditions relatively easy; although this exercise took two attempts to achieve due to capturing the right lighting conditions.

The first set of photos have been taken under sunny conditions:

White Balance Sunny

White Balance Sunny

Shutter Speed 1/2000; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 28 mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering

I am actually not surprised with the results of this test, as there is little difference between the photograph taken with the White Balance set to auto and the one with it set to sunny.

The real difference starts to appear in image three, when the White Balance is set to cloudy; this is because the sensor is trying to add warmth to the shot, hence the slightest tint of orange, which is more obvious in the sky and the grasses to the left of the frame.  By using the shade setting, there is a definite orange cast to image four, and the colours are really showing as odd, especially in comparison to the first three images.

Of the four images I feel that the photo taken with the White Balance set to sunny best represents this scene, as the sky is a little bluer and the surrounding water and foliage look rich and vibrant.

Next we have the images taken in cloudy conditions:

White Balance Cloudy

White Balance Cloudy

Shutter Speed 1/640; Aperture F4.2; Focal Length 48 mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering

The results of these photos are quiet similar to those received when the cameras White Balance was set to sunny, although there is an obvious difference in the luminance of the images due to there being no sun and substantial cloud cover to block out some of its light.

Again, the first two images are very similar in the way they look, although the first image, set to auto White Balance, is a little brighter than the shot with the White Balance set to sunny.  As with the previous set of images, both the cloudy and shade settings are a little more orange, which again is due to the cameras sensor trying to accommodate the requirement of more warmth in the image.

Although image three has the correct White Balance setting for the shooting conditions, I prefer images one and two, and would even say that image one is the best of the set, as although the degrees Kelvin for image one reads 5400°k it is warmer than that of image two at 5050°k but not quiet as warm as image three at 5750°k, which in my mind is still a little too orange.

The final batch of images have been taken from a shady spot:

White Balance Shade

White Balance Shade

Shutter Speed 1/2000; Aperture F4.5; Focal Length 28 mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering

Taken from under a bridge along the river, these images have produced the exact same results as were seen for each of the previous White Balance scenarios.  Images one and two are identical this time round, with little difference seen in image three either.  The image that should look right under these conditions is image four, which looks very orange in comparison and least representative of the scenes colour balance.


Although I was a little disappointed with the results here, I am not really surprised by them as I have never had much luck when trying to use different White Balance settings in my images, unless of course I have made the change to obtain a certain look for my shots, which I discussed during the previous White Balance post.

Due to this, I was still curious to see what results I could get through changing my White Balance settings, so I set about conducting my own little experiment.

Not wanting the influence of additional light in my images, I found a central point under a bridge; it was cloudy outside.  I then set about taking one shot of each available White Balance setting on my camera, the results can be seen below:

5.Alternate WB Images R

Alternate White Balance Images

Alternate White Balance Images

Shutter speed 1/40; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28 mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering

Now this is more like it, as here you can see a true representation of each White Balance setting and what effect each has on our photographs.

Freeman (2011, p.60) shows a similar set of images, although his appear to have been taken indoors; and here you can really see what literature discusses when it states that White Balance settings are ‘..usually available in order of increasing colour temperature..’ (Masoner, n.d.), as the ‘outside settings’ such as Sunny, Cloudy and Shade are much warmer than the ‘inside settings’ Fluorescent and Tungsten.  The White Balance setting for flash is virtually the same as the sunny setting, although it does appear a little warmer here.

So, it is apparent that different White Balance settings produce different results in our images, although sometimes this can be subtler than we would expect.  Of the images taken during this experiment, the image taken with the auto White Balance setting is the best representation of the scene, in fact I tend to use this setting often as it mostly produces the best results.



Freeman, M.  (2011) The Digital SLR Handbook.  Revised 3rd Edition.  East Sussex: The Ilex Press Limited.

Masoner, L.  (n.d.) White Balance [Online Article].  Available at: <http://photography.about.com/od/takingpictures/a/whitebalance.htm&gt; [Accessed 6 June 2013].

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