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What is White Balance

Ned S. Levi (Ned_L) on January 15, 2012

Keywords: guides, tips, tricks



A small set of images was made on a D700 with 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor. White Balance set -inadvertently- at Direct Sunlight. It looked fine on the viewfinder; however, upon magnified inspection it was discovered that the lighting could be described as either 'creative' or low budget. The girls in the back row had yellow faces, while those in the center at the front row were a very pale white, despite using a more than Vivid Picture Control ('Velvia').

Nikon D700 White balance set at Direct Sunlight under mixed lighting



Without time to make changes (specially in the dark of the theater), the rest of the images were shot with the same settings, knowing that shooting in RAW (NEF) would save the day.


The subject of interest came up, but this time with a red background, changing the actual or real white balance.

Exposure was f/2, 1/320s to prevent ghosting and blur, requiring ISO 2500

A single click to change the WB from Direct Sunlight (5,200°K) to Incandescent (3,000°K) did the trick to bring out the true skin color not just of the dear subject of interest, but on all in the group in this frame, their show garments and the scenography.

At the end of the tap number, the center spot and other lights were off, leaving the light coming in from a single row of reflectors with the same light type source.

Exposure was f/2, 1/250s, ISO 2500


Once more, a simple change of WB, from Direct Sunlight to Incandescent, did the trick.

The temperature of Incandescent is 3,000°K, the same of Warm White High Color Rendering Fluorescent light (and likely cheaper)


Shooting in RAW allows for easy changes of White Balance for true whites and accurate color. When shooting in JPG file format, such changes get by far more difficult to be done. Nikon Capture NX2 makes it even easier and truer.



(3 Votes)
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Ned S. Levi Ned S. Levi (Ned_L)

Philadelphia, USA
Moderator, 6721 posts


Y V Tyagi (yvtyagi) on December 23, 2013

Do the settings under picture control also have an effect on White Balance?

Zita Margit Kemeny (zkemeny) on March 12, 2013

Good explanations. Thanks.

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