Creative White Balance Techniques

By E. David Luria, Director, Washington Photo Safari

You can use the white balance menu in your camera to either get the color right, or to get it wrong!

Usually, you want to get it right, so that your image matches the colors of the scene you are shooting.

But there are times when you want to get it wrong, on purpose. That’s called Creative White Balance.

For example the image at the right, shot at Washington National Cathedral, shows a cast iron figurine in the front door against a deep blue sky. It was actually raining that day. This was done by deliberately underexposing the photo on Manual Mode (1/4000th of a second at F8 at ISO 400) and setting the white balance on Tungsten/Incandescent, which is wrong, instead of putting it on the correct setting which would have been Cloudy. Pretty, no?

The image below shows the head of a statue at the Korean War Veterans Memorial against a deep red sky, implying combat and bombs bursting in air. It was actually a nice clear evening, but I set the White Balance on a high color temperature like Shade to redden up the sky.  On a cloudy evening, the sky would be even redder because of the reddish light pollution from the city bouncing off the grey clouds.  Clever, no?

Once you know how to make your camera do everything right, THEN you can start to do things wrong. On purpose.

To find out more about this subject consider taking any of our In-the-Field Shooting classes where we can work with you hands on.

David’s a master with manipulating the white balance so consider taking some that he is teaching to really have fun with this setting. David’s classes have the words, Photo Safari in the title.

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