White Balance is the key to getting accurate color in your digital photographs. The white balance setting in your camera tells the camera how to interpret the color of light. If you’ve ever ended up with an unsightly yellow, blue, magenta, or green color cast to your photos, the white balance setting was probably askew.


What is White Balance

White Balance in digital photography is a way to adjust colors to look more natural and get rid of unwanted color casts.

Example of different White Balance

Most light sources have a certain color temperature and are not pure white. While our eyes and brains are quite efficient at seeing colors and adjusting for different light sources, our cameras need a bit more help.

All digital cameras are equipped with an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting that samples ambient light to choose the proper White Balance settings. AWB works well in many situations, but occasionally you may need to give the camera more information about the light source you are working with.

The easiest way to get more accurate color is to use a White Balance Preset. Most modern cameras include a variety of white balance presets that correspond with common light sources (i.e. Shade, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, and Tungsten). While presets are not perfect they can often get a photographer closer to correct color.

In situations where a technically correct white balance is required the photographer will need to use a gray card to manually set the white balance in-camera or to correct white balance in post processing.

Setting White Balance

Setting white balance can be done either in camera at the beginning of a shoot or during post processing. One of the biggest considerations in setting white balance in-camera or in post depends on the type of file your camera is saving: RAW or JPG.

RAW vs JPG for White Balance

The file type being saved by your camera will dictate how much flexibility you’ll have in post processing to alter the white balance.

A JPG will compress the color settings and make it difficult to correct color casts in post processing. In most image editing applications the only possible white balance adjustments for JPG files are Auto or Custom, and generous movements to the sliders will often reveal undesirable artifacts.

A RAW file, however, contains all of your camera’s color data. This means that white balance settings can be quickly and easily changed during post processing. Most image editing applications, including Luminar 2018, will allow the user to pick from the same lighting presets available in-camera. A RAW file also allows for far more flexibility in adjusting the sliders without introducing unwanted artifacts.

Setting Accurate White Balance In Camera

To set white balance in camera, take a photograph of a gray card or other neutral gray object using the same lighting that will be used for your shoot. Follow the instructions in your camera’s manual to use the gray card image as a reference for custom white balance.

Setting Accurate White Balance in Luminar 2018

At the beginning of a shoot, take a photo of your gray card using the same lighting that will be used for the shoot, then continue shooting as usual.

Gray Card

PRO TIP: If the lighting changes during your shoot, be sure to capture another image with your gray card. You can use this to adjust your in-camera white balance settings or correct the white balance later in post processing.

Once you are ready to process your photos, open Luminar 2018 with your photograph of the gray card. 

Using a Gray Card to Create a Custom White Balance Preset

  1. Go to Add Filters and choose RAW Develop
  2. Click on the White Balance eye dropper and use it to sample the color on the gray card. This will automatically adjust the white balance to a technically correct setting.

Using the White Balance Color Picker to Set Custom White Balance

Save the custom white balance as a User Preset

  1. Click on Save Filters Preset (bottom right corner)
  2. Name your preset (I chose Apricot Blossom Custom WB) and then click the Create New Preset button.
  3. Close the gray card image without saving.

Saving Custom White Balance

Using Your Custom White Balance Preset in Luminar 2018

  1. Open an image from your photoshoot in Luminar 2018
  2. Open the Preset Panel and select the User Presets category
  3. Click on your custom white balance preset that you created in the previous step to set your custom white balance
  4. Continue editing as usual

Applying Custom White Balance Preset


Technical or Creative White Balance

A technically correct white balance can be necessary if you’re a commercial photographer or photojournalist, but if you’re creating photographs as art, you have the power determine which colors look best for your image - this is often referred to as creative white balance. 

Many photographers use a technically correct white balance setting as a starting point and will adjust the Temperature and Tint sliders to enhance or deemphasize certain colors based on their creative goals.

For my photograph of the Apricot Blossom I felt that the background was a bit too cool (blue) so I moved the temperature slider slightly to the right warm it up (adding yellow). I also wanted to accentuate the pink tones in the blossom so I gently nudged the Tint slider to the right to add more magenta.

Creative White Balance

The difference is subtle and natural, and while not technically correct is more aligned with my creative vision.

Correcting Stubborn Color Casts in Luminar 2018

Occasionally photographers encounter a situation where the White Balance sliders in the RAW Develop/Develop filter are not adequately correcting a color cast. In these situations the Remove Color Cast filter can be a valuable tool.

The Remove Color Cast Filter automatically removes undesirable color casts by detecting and removing the problematic hue. You can also make manual adjustments to fine-tune the hue.

For this photograph I used the Manual setting to further enhance the colors to my liking.

Using the Remove Color Cast Filter for Creative Enhancement

The Final Photograph

To finish this photograph, I added the Accent-AI filter for a slight contrast boost and the Sharpening filter to give definition to the tiny details in the Apricot Blossom.


Conclusion

White Balance is an important tool in every photographer’s toolbox. Whether you prefer a technical or creative approach to White Balance, the tools in Luminar 2018 will help you achieve those results.