White Balance - How to Achieve Great Color
Unwanted color casts can make a photograph flat, seem off balance or simply appear visually unappealing. Many digital photographers use the automatic camera settings for white balance. These are just a starting point at best. White balance is a powerful tool that can transform a decent picture into great photograph. You can adjust white balance at the shooting location, in post-processing or both.
Various elements affect how the camera adjusts for white balance. The lighting conditions are the biggest factor in white balance. Shooting in tungsten, fluorescent, halogen, LED or natural lighting conditions cast hues that affect how the white balance sensor reads the light. If the lighting conditions are mixed, post-processing white balance will be necessary. For natural lighting conditions, the time of day will determine what type of color cast appears in the photograph. Camera type also affects the automatic white balance. Each camera model has different settings and ways of interpreting color casts, which will affect how the final image appears.
For natural lighting conditions, you can use filters to adjust for time-of-day hues. Early morning colors under a clear blue sky cast a bluish cast, which produces more bluish images. You can offset this using a warming filter on the lens. Another way to correct for the bluish cast is in post-processing. You can also correct warm afternoon colors using a cool color filter. Most digital cameras have adjustments to tune the white balance on the scene without using filters, as well. Adjust the white balance for a warmer or cooler tone depending on the lighting conditions.
Figure one was shot using the automatic white balance set to neutral at sunset. The sun cast a yellow-orange cast on the sky and buildings. Figure two shows the color cast neutralized in post-processing. The image is now correct with a proper white balance. Figure three shows how a soft warming tone is added in post-processing to mimic the warmth of the evening sunset. While some images look best with an accurate color balance, some images (such as sunsets) look best showing a warmer color to create a mood in your image.