Beginners guide to WHITE BALANCE: 5 Important Tips On How to nail it and why!

White Light Balance Highlights: What you think of as “white light” is actually a mixture of different wavelengths of light that vary in color and temperature. Different light sources emit light at varying temperatures (measured in Kelvin). You must accurately white balance your camera in order for white to appear as white and to avoid odd color casts in your footage.

If you’ve ever shot a video and your subjects looked like they belonged in an alien movie or looked yellow like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, or the entire thing has an odd color cast, chances are your white balance was off. 

Knowing what white balance is and how to achieve it will make a huge difference in your filmmaking and keep things looking natural. Of course, there are numerous ways to get your WB accurate so that your videos are always picture-perfect. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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What is white balance?

What we call “white light” isn’t exactly white. It’s a combination of different wavelengths of light from across the spectrum, with colors ranging from red to violet. Different light sources contain varying proportions of these wavelengths, causing them to be slightly warmer or slightly cooler in temperature and color. 

Light temperature is measured in Kelvin. The cooler the tone – or bluer – the light will appear as the temperature rises. If that seems counterintuitive, keep in mind that white-hot is hotter than red hot.

Our eyes are very good at adjusting for differences in color temperature and determining the white balance to ensure that white truly looks white and that what we see does not have a color cast. 

Our cameras, on the other hand, will capture light as it falls. This means that you must adjust a scene’s white balance to ensure that white renders as white and our images or footage do not appear overly blue or orange. You can do this in our cameras’ settings or in post-production.

What factors influence your white balance? 

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Whatever you’re shooting, make sure your white balance is correct by adjusting the white balance settings on your camera. White balance can be adjusted in post-production, but it is best to do so in-camera.

However, knowing and understanding the light temperature where you’re shooting is critical to getting the white balance right, whether you’re shooting in natural light, other types of ambient light, or strobes in a studio. 

The temperature of light varies depending on the source of light and, if that source is the sun, the time of day.

How to Use a Camera's White Balance

You could use your camera’s auto-white balance to judge the light temperature where you’re shooting if you wanted to. This can be useful in fast-paced situations where making numerous adjustments and preparations can be detrimental. Of course, you can always fix it in post-production. 

However, it’s probably best not to rely on auto white balancing because it can introduce some anomalies. For example, if you try infrared videography with auto white balance settings, your image may appear mostly red.

Most cameras also include white balance preset options that are useful in a variety of shooting situations. You can adjust the white balance for daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, and flash lighting in the settings. It’s best to use a custom white balance setting in a scene with mixed lighting, but if you must use a preset, set the white balance for the light falling on your subject. 

You can also choose a specific Kelvin setting if you know the exact temperatures of your lights, such as if you use 3-point lighting. Remember that if you’re using multiple lights, make sure they’re all set to the same temperature. Alternatively, you can create a custom setting by using a white balance or grey card.

How to use a white balance card or grey card

custom white balance setting is always the most accurate option, but it is especially important if your light is mixed. For example, if you’re filming at night with different temperatures of street lights, or if your YouTube lighting consists of a mix of natural and ambient lights. 

The process of creating a custom white balance setting varies from camera to camera, but the principles remain the same. You’ll need a white balance card or a grey card to do this correctly. 

These are calibrated targets that are either spectrally neutral or 18% grey to provide a reference for your camera. You can use a white piece of paper or a white wall in a pinch, but they aren’t always the perfect color white.

Here’s how to go about it: 

  • In the menu of your camera, select the custom white balance option. 
  • Photograph or shoot your white balance or grey card so that it fills the majority of the viewfinder or screen – do this in the lighting conditions you will be shooting in. 
  • Allow the camera to lock on to the settings or import them into the custom white balance setting. 
  • If and when the lighting conditions change, remember to reset your custom white balance setting.

Adjusting white balance in post

Even if you set your white balance in the camera, checking and tweaking it in post-production should be the first step in your footage’s color correction process. In post-production, video editing software allows you to adjust the white balance. 

This is frequently done with an “eye-dropper” tool. You can select a white area and the software will correct the white balance. Alternatively, you can take a sample of white or neutral grey and use it as a baseline for making adjustments. 

You can fine-tune your white balance using the color wheel or the temperature and tint sliders if you want. The temperature slider controls the warmth of the image, ranging from blue to red, and the tint slider controls the magentas and greens.

A quick note on smartphone camera white balance 

Many of the advanced smartphones available today will allow you to adjust your white balance settings, providing your videos with a much more professional look and feel.

This is especially useful if you’re working with smartphone video accessories like lights and filters.

It’s also worthwhile to invest some time editing your footage, even if you were able to adjust the white balance, and especially if you weren’t.

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Getting your white balance correct makes a major difference in the look of your work. Even if you’re going to be video color grading your project to give it a specific look or feel, getting the white balance right will help you achieve a consistent result. 

Your audience will notice if the white balance is off right away. However, there are numerous ways to accommodate varying light temperatures and ensure that white truly looks white.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

Beginners guide to WHITE BALANCE: How to nail it and why!

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