Lesson 11 – Correct the White Balance

Get Your Color Right

Last few days we’ve talked about lighting.

We’ve talked about direction and quality of light. We’ve also talked about modifying light using simple tools like foam boards, trash bags and black mesh screens.

Now it is time to turn our focus to capturing the right color using correct color temperature and white balance.

Light has a different quality based on its light source. As you take food photos, depending on light source you will notice that food subject’s color may not be all that accurate.

You can attribute that to white balance. As a result of different light sources, the color temperature is different and your photograph has a weird bluish layer (with a certain light source).

Below are some commonly used symbols for light sources in a lightWhite Balance Setup

Each situation creates a distinguishable change in color. Daylight (or direct sun) changes color very differently than Tungsten light source.

We have talked about White Balance (WB) and capturing correct color in detail before, so I am not planning to repeat that in this post. You can read about capturing and correcting wrong colors in food photography5 ways to get color right and much more.

Same subject different white balance

Two tips to make the most of the White Balance setting:

  1. Try turning off the AB auto mode and pick a WB mode (If you don’t know how to adjust your WB, please read the camera manual).
  2. Try shooting in cloudy mode WB. I like to do this sometimes and this automatically improves saturation and provides warmth. However also remember that not all food looks good in "warmer" White Balance. Food that are "cold" color temperature wise, make horrible photos when "warmer" WB is used. For example ice looks better a tiny bit cold (or bluer shade) than warm (yellower shade).

Let’s look at today’s assignment.

Today Assignment

Time estimated: 30-60 mins

Step 1 – Today again, select the subject. Ideally use the same food subject, you have been using last couple of days.

Step 2  – Set up the food subject in a way that the source of light is on one side. Take a photograph using all the principles we talked about in last few days.

Step 3 – Now, start by changing the WB to cloudy. Take a photograph with this mode.

Step 4 – Next change WB to Direct Sun or Daylight. Take couple of photos in this WB mode. 

Step 5 –Repeat step 4 with fluorescent WB mode. Take photo when you change an angle. (remember that you are taking the photo in same light source, but only changing white balance setting in your camera). In total change the WB four times and take a photo each time without changing any other settings.

Step 6 – Again, compare these photos just like you did yesterday. Recall your story and the specific elements we discussed yesterday. Which one of these photos compares closely with your story? If none does, that’s okay too.

Step 7 – Upload the best photo/s on Lesson 11 Album on the new Facebook Group. If you are not a member of the facebook group, you will not be able to view the album. Request access from the FB Group page.

Did you see any difference in the color when you used different WB settings? How often have you used WB setting to correct the color before taking the photo?

Certainly you can correct the color in post processing if you are shooting RAW. But when I take photos, my goal usually is to capture the best photo I can in the camera so that I can minimize time spent in post processing. What about you?

Extra Credit

We've talked about white balance and color before. If you are new to this topic, below is some recommended reading for you:

  1. Getting the Right Color in Food Photography
  2. Common Problems in Food Photography: Wrong Colors
  • Hey, Neel I requested already the FB group yet it is still pending 🙂

    • Is that the new way to post? I haven’t gotten anything

      • Look at step 7.

    • Hey did you getv in. All requests from personal account are being approved. We don’t have any one pending.

  • Would you suggest shooting in jpeg instead of raw for this assignment?

    • Shoot raw if you can.

      • Bam’s Kitchen

        Hello Neel, Will we be covering the concept of “shooting raw” in one of your upcoming lessons? Really loving your course and learning so much. Thanks so much for coordinating this course! Take Care, Bobbi

        • Do you mean how to shoot raw.. or why shoot raw.?

          • Bam’s Kitchen

            Hello Neel, I actually need to have a better understanding of both why to shoot raw and also how to do it. Will you be covering this in one of your upcoming lessons? If not, can you reply with a link to help me better understand this concept. I have concerns over the space that is needed for these photos and how to move them over to your computer, convert them to different formats, etc. Thanks again for your help.

    • shoot raw…always

  • I’m a bit lost in this assignment as I am not sure what cloudy setting is and I definitely don’t know where my manual is lol… It’s also been raining here all day so I have plenty of clouds haha….

    • Would suggest trying to Google it to find pdf version of your manual. Mostly you’ll find a link from your camera manufacturer. What camera do you have. .?

  • the daylight was the best

  • Misky

    I don’t have a FB account, and don’t really want one. I shall continue to study your daily lessons here on your blog, and then post my photos to my own blog. I am enjoying this course a lot, finding it very informative and helpful. Thank you.

  • Misky

    I just read that I’m able to still post photos here. Thank you. Here’s my white balance photo: one done with AWB and the other on Cloudy. I’ve never used any setting other than auto, so this was a very useful lesson. The first one is AWB.

  • Here are my WB colour balance photos. Better late than never!

  • Bam’s Kitchen

    I am so glad we covered this topic today. I am still waiting authorisation on Facebook account so will post comment/photos here today. I took photos with all of the white balance options and then shot one with custom white balance and wow my permission fruits are so vibrant orange. Lighting is natural and the last of the day…so a little dark but now I understand the concepts. However I really do not understand the Kelvin adjust button. In which situations would you use this function?

  • Increase in white balance causes my subject(rice cooked in condensed milk with saffron) to look white

  • My subject was again tomatoes. I shot it outside behind a wall so it wasn’t in direct sunlight. I shot them using the Auto select, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent Daylight. The cloudy overexposed the tomatoes as well as the Tungsten. I ended up liking the fluorescent daylight best, although I’m not a huge fan of the picture in general, specifically the glare on the tomatoes. I tried using a diffuser on the left hand side and it didn’t help. In fact, it made it worse.

  • I had never played with the white balance on my camera and was surprised to see what a big difference it made to the colours.

  • Here are the different shades of the white balance – Crazy what a difference it makes! The third one is my favorite

  • Oh jeez. Ok, I will try sending the first and third pictures again. Second time’s the charm!

  • Peter Block

    I actually took pics through every white balance setting to see all the color changes. It is amazing. The variation is huge and you really loose the natural colors with the various settings.

  • I found this a really interesting exercise. On this occcasion the original whitish colour was the most pleasing as it looked more natural. But I can see that there will be other occasions when changing the white balance could be effective.

  • Ingunn Løvik

    This lesson was very helpful. The cheese is supposed to be white, and not yellow or blue as it turned out to be with some of the settings. I liked the daylight setting best as it gave the right white color to the ricotta. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd6b2a511433684ae1e5e785d2af5065e33892df59e922e2317923def8d5ae72.jpg