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Setting Up the menus in a digital camera, Part III

Initial white balance screen
Initial white balance screen
©Allen Birnbach

In the last two installments, Part I and Part II, the image quality setting was discussed.

Next is a discussion of White Balance. This setting refers to what the camera sensor believes true white in the scene to be. Every light source has a color temperature, measured in Kelvin degrees, and a good example of that is the range of color we see outdoors over the course of the day. The color of daylight at noon on a clear day is between 5000 and 5500 degrees Kelvin. At first light in the morning, or at sunset the color may be more like 2800 degrees. Similarly, artificial light can be measured in Kelvin temperature as well. We all are aware that tungsten bulbs look yellow, so you can easily see that as the temperature goes down, the color gets warmer. Tungsten light bulbs, for example, are around 3200 degrees Kelvin.

Going in the other direction, the color temperature goes up when you are in open shade, overcast or cloudy weather, or after the sun goes down. These temperatures can go from 6000 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin.

All digital cameras have a setting named AWB, or Auto White Balance. What that means is that the camera will try to figure out what the color temperature situation is, and correct for that.

Although going with this auto setting works well, consider taking control of this feature, and match the White Balance setting to the actual shooting environment. So if you are shooting outdoors,  use the Daylight setting. That way, if you are shooting at sunrise, the camera still thinks that white is at 5000 degrees, even though the actual light is more like 2800 degrees. That means the warmth we normally expect to see in a sunrise image comes through. The Auto White Balance setting has gotten a lot better over the years, but by specifying what color temperature you want can make for better images right out of the camera.

For a more detailed explanation of this, and other photography tips, check out my blog at


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