Learn how to manipulate mixed lighting with these tips using Aurora HDR's white balance tools, along with layers and a simple mask.

When a photograph is captured with similar light throughout the image, white balance is a straightforward correction: choose a preset, perhaps make a small adjustment to the Temperature and/or Tint sliders, and then you are good to go. 

But what happens when you shoot in a situation with mixed lighting? A preset might look perfect in one area of the photo, but terrible in another. In these instances, the best course of action is to correct white balance selectively. In this tutorial, you will learn how to selectively adjust the white balance for different areas of a photograph to create a vibrant and natural-looking result in Aurora HDR 2018.

1. Evaluate the Light

Our first step is to determine the type(s) of light that are affecting our photo. In the example below, the sun was starting to set and the sky was lit by the sun. However, the bridge and fall foliage were in the shadows.

Evaluating the Light (White Balance - As Shot)

2. Select a White Balance Preset

Our next step is to select a White Balance Preset that is appropriate for the photograph. We will look at both the Daylight and Shade white balance presets to see which looks best.

Click on the HDR Basic Filter and choose a white balance preset.

White Balance Selection

With the Daylight white balance applied to the entire photo, the sky looks great, but the foreground areas in the shade are too cool/blue. Conversely, if we apply a Shade white balance to the entire image the sky and its reflections in the water are too warm/yellow.

Daylight White Balance (left) | Shade White Balance (right)

In this case, we will start the Daylight white balance, and then correct the bridge and foliage with an Adjustment Layer and Masking Brush in step 3.

3. Add Adjustment Layer

Our overall white balance setting preserved the rich blue of the sky, but made the foreground elements too cool (blue). To correct this we'll add some warmth (golden tones) to the bridge and trees to make the scene look more natural.

Click on the (+) button underneath the histogram and choose Add New Adjustment Layer.

Add New Adjustment Layer

With our new Adjustment layer active, we'll navigate to the HDR Basic panel again, this time choosing the Shade white balance preset.

Select Shade White Balance Option

Next, we'll activate the masking brush on the Adjustment layer. Click on the Brush icon on the Adjustment Layer and select Brush.

Activate Masking Brush

Using a medium, soft-edged brush, paint in the Shade white balance over the most colorful trees, and on the bridge. To see the areas you've painted marked in red, activate the Visibility icon on the masking toolbar.

Mask with Visibility Icon Toggled On

We've made significant improvements to the colors of the image, but the trees and bridge could benefit from an additional warm boost.

Shade white balance applied to foliage and bridge

Navigate to the HDR Basic filter once more and move the Temperature slider to the right to further accentuate the fall foliage.

Increased Temperature Slider

The small adjustment to the temperature slider makes a big difference in the vibrance of the trees.

4. Evaluate the Results

Let's take a look at the changes we have made to the photograph. In comparing the before and after we can see that both the warm and cool regions in the photo were enhanced without having to sacrifice the quality of the colors in either area.

With the help of Aurora HDR 2018's white balance tools, along with layers and a simple mask, we were able to enhance both the warm and cool tones of the photo for a natural-looking result.