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From the author of Key #4—Natural Color with Whatever Light’s Available

Key #4—Natural Color with Whatever Light’s Available

Because different light sources (daylight, incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes or CFLs, and so on) can cause your photos to be off-color if you use the default Auto white balance setting, using the correct white balance for the lighting in use is essential if you want natural-looking color when you shoot without flash. Here’s what to use and when:

  • Incandescent / tungsten—If you light your home with traditional filament-based light bulbs, want to capture the glow of a fire or birthday candles (Figure 4), or if you’re attending a concert or stage show, choose this setting to remove the excessive yellow or red tint in these types of light. This is also the correct white balance for use with Soft White CFLs.
  • Figure 4 Incandescent white balance brings out the delight in a young girl’s face while retaining accurate color.

  • Daylight—If you use bulbs such as GE’s Reveal or Sylvania’s Daylight incandescent series, use this setting. This is also suitable for flash photography or shooting with window light (Figure 5).
  • Figure 5 If you’re indoors near a window, don’t waste the light – use it!

  • Cloudy—When colors are too blue when you use Daylight white balance, such as with GE’s so-called Daylight CFL’s, use this setting.
  • Fluorescent—Fluorescent setting or settings are designed primarily for tube-type fluorescent lights (Figure 6) or for other types of gas-based lighting such as sodium vapor, mercury vapor, and so on. While some CFLs can use the same white balance as tube-type fluorescents, others need different white balance settings for good color.
  • Figure 6 Fluorescent lights can give your subjects the blues (or greens) – unless you use Fluorescent white balance as seen here.

  • Auto—If Auto provides better results than other presets, use it.
  • Custom—If you can photograph a white card under the same light that illuminates your subject, this setting provides the most accurate colors of any. See your camera instruction manual for details.
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