The Color of Light – What is White Balance? 5 Minute Photography Tip

Here’s a quick five minute photography tip. One of the easiest and helpful things you can do is learn how to assign a temperature for your camera to shoot at. Why? Look at the two pictures below. What’s the difference between the two? The color temperature. Why spend hours trying to edit your images when you can fix it right off the bat?

Color of Light
Colors do carry temperature. If you look at a traditional color wheel, colors on one side are considered cool ones and the other half are considered warm tones. Just as colors carry temperatures, so does light.





color wheel


And what is photography? Down to the basics, your camera captures light, reads it, and produces an image.  Varying light sources emit light at different color temperatures, and as a result you will have a color cast to your images. If we can tell the camera what object in the shot is white, then the camera can adjust it’s settings to the appropriate color temperature. This is called “white balance.” Your camera has settings for different light conditions, the most obvious being “sunny, cloudy, etc.”


How do you adjust the white balance on your camera? Again it’s all in the settings. Most Advanced digital cameras allow you to manually set the white balance.Look for a white balance function in your menu. Depending on the make and model of your camera, how to set it will vary (Google your make and model of your camera for exact directions). Many point and shoot cameras will carry no reference to white balance at all, but instead will have icons, a sun for sunny, a cloud for cloudy, etc. Even older point and shoot cameras should have some options of changing the color temperature. It’s really a matter of your spending some time with your camera, doing test shots, and learning what does what.

white balance

Look at these pictures from a Cub Scout dinner I recently attended. I used my Canon Powershot SD 1200 (a $150 point and shoot). The first shot was in Auto and the next was when I changed the settings to Tungsten lighting. All my images that night would have had a lovely yellow look. But by a simple change, I was able to save myself a lot of trouble. Now that we have a little better understanding of how to work our cameras with light, next week I’ll be talking about learning how to recognize and harnass  beautiful natural light. 



  1. says

    Thank you so much for this post. Trying to take pictures in hockey rinks and indoor soccer centre’s while my children are playing is tough and they never turn out. I’m going to give this a shot.

    • says

      Changing your settings should make a big difference! you make need to change up a but, but send us a link when you get some results you are happy with!

  2. says

    I really like these posts on taking better pictures. I think they are all so helpful – especially since I want to learn more but can’t afford to take a right now. This will be very helpful to remember! Thank you!

  3. says

    Thanks Marcel!

    I never take the time to adjust my white balance WHILE I am shooting! I always fix it AFTER in Photoshop or Lightroom.

    SO I definitely need to practice trying to set it while shooting. :)

  4. Bonnie says

    Thank you so much!!! I’m going to try it. I LOOVE taking photos and hate it when them don’t come out right,lol

    • says

      I LOOVE taking photos too and also hate it when they don’t come out so we can lol together! It’s a continual learning process:)

  5. Alison S. says

    Thank you for this tip! I will give it a try. I love the look I get when I turn off my flash. My pictures seem to capture natural light much better. However, I can’t seem to capture my 1 year old son with this setting. My pictures blur, but if I turn on the flash they are super dark. Can you help me? 😛

    • says

      See if you can put your camera in action or sports mode. This should stop the blur. Check out my post this week on natural lighting and the tips there should help you out! Best of luck!


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