Monday, September 22, 2014

White Balance Settings

Last week, I touched on DSLR cameras, mid range cameras and depth of field. This post will address white balance and why you should understand it.

Have you ever noticed in your pictures that your pretty white backgrounds were red or that your subject was some groovy color not found in nature? I sure have! That is, until I learned about the white balance settings on my camera and what they can do for me.

Most cameras, even some point and shoot cameras will offer a few settings which will allow you to shoot more accurate colors in different lighting conditions. You see, cameras, especially modern digital cameras, are computers. You have to tell it what you want. It doesn't have our brain or eyes. So, tell it what lighting conditions you are shooting under and it will try to accommodate your needs. Every lighting condition will look differently.

My mid range Canon G-12 has lots of white balance settings. I can choose the setting most like my conditions, or I can set my white balance manually. I don't know your camera, so you'll have to get to know a few of its functions to follow along. If you lost your manual- Google is your friend. :)

The following images were taken of a pale pink limb cast chalcedony cabochon on a sheet of white paper under halogen lights with the Canon G-12. I used every white balance setting. White balance is sometimes just referred to as lighting conditions.

This is a little purple looking to me.


Warmer still


Warm again

Warm .... again

.... and warm

I set the custom white balance, using a sheet of white paper, since the camera doesn't have a halogen setting. The color is closer now, but it is still a little cool (blue) and still needs help with the gray background.

Using Photoshop or another image editing program which has levels, pick the white eye dropper and click it in a white area of your image. That should brighten things up. Play around with levels a bit and get a feel for what it does.

Here, the image background is almost true white (you can still make out a tiny tinge of blue) and the stone isn't as dark. My stone, indeed, looks like this indoors and under halogen lights. 

Of course, if you can, try to use natural sunlight. My stone is a bit washed out, but the color is very close to what it looks like outside. I used the daylight setting on my camera.

So many of us post images online to share or to build an ad for selling purposes. It is paramount that these images look great. But, they should look like the original, too. Be careful not to over process, but don't neglect the little tweaks, like levels, that will improve your images. 

I finally found my forever camera with my Nikon D5200. If you don't have many options on your camera, especially white balance options, you really should consider another camera. Don't beat your head against the wall because you can't get good shots. Take a breath and explore your settings. Learn your camera. If you still can't get great images, maybe it isn't you. Maybe its just time to step up.

If you are happy with your camera and you can set a custom white balance get a digital gray card on eBay to help you set the white balance. I could have gotten an even closer white balance had I used it, but I'm lazy and I wanted to show you levels. Essentially, the gray card is an exact gray point for your camera to reference. Instead of using a white paper, you use the card. Really simple and effective.

Since I haven't posted any jewelry in awhile, here's a couple pieces I recently finished. I used custom white balance on the Nikon D5200 using a gray card, a light tent with color correct bulbs and a shallow depth of field. I shot on full manual except for the auto focus lens.

Willow Creek Jasper

Stone Canyon Jasper

Dinosaur Bone

Gemmy Druzy Ocean Jasper

Purple and Red Agate

Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Post your comments and or questions and I'll address them and answer, if I can.


  1. Tela, I so appreciate that you have shared with us your techniques for DOF and White Balance. You did a superb job of describing both of these and then taking photos demonstrating the variations. I'm always thrilled with learning your photography teachings. I do have a question. You said that during your post processing you use the eye dropper and picked up the whitest portion of the photo. I'm curious if you used the hot spot on the stone or did you choose the whitest spot on the paper? And uh, that stone canyon jasper and wrapping is ooooolala luscious. ~Susan

    1. Hi Susan, I was just wondering how your teaching was going.

      I generally click the lightest portion of my white background. That brightens up the background without changing much of the stone. I think it is best to play around with levels to see what suits your picture best. For instance the gray point is very handy if your camera has really saturated your colors. If you bump the gray down with the slider, it will desaturate color. (Generally speaking.) Using the black level slider with create more contrast. Levels is a very powerful tool and one that you should play around with and get to know before you begin tweaking. It's real easy to get a great picture which doesn't look anything like what you are photographing.

    2. Thank you for explaining this. I think that I need to be paying more attention to my sliders, as white balance is a thing that I really struggle with. Reading your posts is causing new camera sugar plums to dance around my head. I would love a Nikon one day.

    3. I love my Nikon. You can still find really good older models at great prices. Mine isn't the latest. I am sooooo glad I got it.

      Try to pick up a gray card. They are not expensive. Use it to set your white balance and I think you will see a drastic improvement.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments.