Shooting great footage starts with correct white balance. If your white balance is off color, you’ll have to try to fix it in post-production or shoot it again. When I was shooting news our cameras viewfinders only displayed what we were shooting in black and white. You needed to know how to white balance and hope you got it right. If your white balance was not correct you would soon see it on the monitor back at the station and well, if it was blue you got teased for it by the other photographers. Now days all the camera’s viewfinders for the most part, show a color screen. However, do not be fooled by the lcd monitor, because that too can misrepresent the true color of whatever you are capturing, it may not be calibrated.
Therefore, it is so important to understand the fundamentals of white balancing. When you go through your cameras settings you will come across white balance. You will see many icons such as: a light bulb for inside lighting, a thunder bolt which represents flash, a sun for when you shoot out doors on sunny days. There are more icons, and I will talk about them later, but what is important here is that these icons represent the lighting environment in which you are possibly in. For example, If I was an amateur videographer and did not know much about how or why to white balance, I would be safe by choosing the sun icon if I was shooting outdoors on a sunny day. Why should you allow your camera to tell you what is white?
Our eyes are amazing because no matter if we are indoors or outdoors they determine what true white is. However, that is where the cameras fall short. Cameras need to be told what white is, if not you’re going to get all types of off color imagery. So how do we do this? One way is to select the icon the best represents your lighting environment. I prefer to use different techniques to achieve correct white balance. When you scroll through the white balance menu you will see an icon that looks like two triangles with a dot in the middle. This is the custom white balance feature that allow the operator to manipulate the white balance manually. When you do use custom white balance, you need a white or grey card and the reference card must be in the light that dominates the room or environment that you are shooting in. For instance, if you are shooting a wedding and you wanted to get your white balance in the church you would hold up a white or grey card where the groom and bride will be located. This will give you the correct white balance for them. However, if they move to another area in the church that is lit differently than your white balance will suffer. I will talk about how you can overcome this situation. Another example is if you are shooting a promotional video and you sit your talent down to interview them. Your lights are on and you grab your white or grey card and have them hold it up next to their face. On your camera, you will push and hold the custom white balance button. Now your shot is white balanced.
There is another icon that has the letter K. This K represents Kelvin degrees. If you set your white balance to K you better know by eye what the color temperature is your shooting in. Sunny days Kelvin can anywhere between 5200-5800 K. So, if you dial in your kelvin to that degree you are good to go. How about the shade? Is that different from the sunny kelvin temperature? Shade is a lot higher in kelvin, more like 6000-8000K. Kelvin can be anywhere from 2500-8000 in most cameras. If you want to use kelvin as your primary white balance, it is imperative that you are well versed in color temperature. I tend to use Kelvin when I am outdoors and indoors if there’s no fluorescent lighting. Florescent lights tend to give off a green tint. Implementing custom white balance under fluorescents would be a great thing to do.
Tungsten lights at 3200 Kelvin
Auto white balance
Custom white balance
I have been working in television and media for over 18 years. My experience includes news photojournalist, editor, producer and storyteller. I am a five time Telly Award winner.