Light is all around us, both natural and man made – but not all light is equal. Every light source has a different colour, or temperature to them and this is why visible light is measured in degrees using the Kelvin scale. Warm light has a high number and cool light has a lower number.
Our eyes adjust seamlessly to these different light temperatures, or colours, but cameras are not so clever and have to be told what the temperature of the light is to render the scene correctly.
But just because there is a button that allows you to set the White balance correctly, doesn’t mean you actually have to set it correctly.
Take a look at these two images for example. The White Balance was set in camera at the time of capture, to 3330k
Of course, you can change the White Balance settings in post processing, using Camera RAW or Aperture or your own favourite image processor. But doing it in camera at the point of capture, allows you to instantly see the results on screen, so that you can adjust the settings if needed or discard the shot entirely.
A colour temperature of 3330k renders the scene very blue and makes the skin tones much cooler, but in these particular images the effect works well. Not all scenes would suit this colour temperature – and purists would discard the images as they are not “correctly exposed” – but from a creative viewpoint you can experiment and create some striking images, just by taking your camera off “Auto White Balance”.
For the purpose of comparison, the image below was taken straight after the image above, but the White Balance is set to “Auto”
This is a more natural looking scene, skin tones are more natural and the light appears how we would expect it to appear – white.
I’ll let you decide which you prefer.
Best – Colin