Why White Balance Matters for your DSLR
Adjusting the white balance will make a huge difference for the the colors of your photos

How to Get Great Colors With Your DSLR?

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Did you skip the section about ‘White Balance’ in your digital SLR’s manual when you bought it?

I definitely did, but I want to show you how an understanding of white balance can make a huge difference in the way your digital photos turn out.
<h2 class=”content-page”>White Balance and the Blue Lagoon</h2>
I’ll use the photo above as an example. This shot was taken at one of the most beautiful lagoons I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. My friends and I were on a sea kayaking trip in Palawan and we stopped here for lunch and to do a bit of snorkeling.

As Kristen and Kris (pictured above) were swimming around in the sapphire-blue water, I was trying to capture the scene. I thought the shots had turned out great until I got them home to my computer. The colors just didn’t match the brilliance of what I remembered from being there. At the time, I thought it was because I was using a relatively inexpensive digital SLR (the Canon Rebel XT).
<h2 class=”content-page”>Why RAW Format Matters for White Balance</h2>
In fact, the problem was white balance, but I didn’t take the time to learn about it for another two years. Luckily for me, everything I shot during that time with my Canon Rebel XT was captured in the camera RAW format, and I was able to go back to all those photos and correct the white balance as if I was still standing there in the lagoon with Kris and Kristen.

Then I could see what a huge difference white balance can make. When you compare the two versions, the original (shot with the camera’s auto white balance setting) looks like it has a layer of sickly yellow cellophane over it. The white-balanced version captures the amazing colors of the gin-clear water and the cobalt sky.
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Today, I still shoot only RAW format with the white balance on my camera set to ‘auto’. Once I import the new shots into Adobe Lightroom, I adjust the white balance to bring out the colors that I envisioned in the shot.

Pretty simple, but for me it’s one of the most important reasons to shoot in the RAW format. Yes, you can make white balance adjustments to a JPEG, but the results will never be as good. When you’re working with a RAW image, it is literally as if you’re back at the location of your photo and customizing the white balance on your camera. The quality of your final image exported from RAW will be much, much better than if you started with a JPEG that has already had white balance adjustments permanently saved to it by the camera.

<h2 class=”content-page”>Learning more about Post-Production</h2>

And if you’re new to post-processing of your images, I’d recommend you check out some of the great Photoshop and Lightroom tutorials at Lynda.com. And as a member of my site, you can sign up for a free 24-hour pass if you visit this link. I’d recommend Chris Orwig’s “<a href=”http://bit.ly/bgiOwL”>Photoshop CS5 for Photographers</a>” or “<a href=”http://bit.ly/bgiOwL”>Photoshop CS4 for Photographers</a>”. I’d also recommend checking out Chris Orwig’s “<a href=”http://bit.ly/bgiOwL”>Photoshop Lightroom 2 Essential Training</a>” to get a great overview of Lightroom and how to use white balance to get the best colors from your photos.

What about you? Do you adjust the white balance in your photos?

About the Author

Hi, my name is Tommy - thanks for visiting my site today. I've spent the past ten years capturing stories from around the world with my camera. I'm inspired by the ocean, working with creative people, and sharing what I've learned along the way. If you enjoyed this article and love travel / photography you should sign up for my free newsletter. If you need creative for your upcoming project, click here to learn how I can help you. If you want to learn how to share your own story in pictures / video, you can join my online photography course. If you'd like to connect with me, please say hi on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. If you're curious how / why I made the switch to being a full-time photographer, just click here.

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3 Comments on "How to Get Great Colors With Your DSLR?"

  1. Miguel · Reply

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m actually looking for a DSLR myself and as I see you use a Canon, and everybody is telling me to go for a Canon.. what would you recommend for a travel and sports lover?

    Thanks!

  2. Miguel · Reply

    The 5D that you say could be this one? http://www.pricepanda.com.ph/canon-eos-5d-mark-ii-body-pid408042/
    And what about those waterproof cameras like the sony cyber shot? I guess the quality is not that great, but I don’t know how big is the difference, have you try them?

    Thanks!

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