Choosing The White Balance Setting To
On your DSLR you have, in most cases, two ways
to adjust the white balance settings, direct from buttons on the body, or from
Nikon DSLR cameras except for the D40, D40x and
D60, have a button labelled WB, on some in the D2 and D3 family it's below
the rear panel under the secondary display, on the D200 and D300 it's located
on the top on the left (from rear), on most of the others it's on the left of
the rear panel. When you press this button and rotate the main command dial,
(rear top right from rear), it goes through a pattern of settings, showing a
series of symbols, these run AUTO, indoor light bulbs,
florescent tubes, bright sun, electronic flash, cloudy, shady, K and PRE. With
some models you are also able to adjust the colour fractionally to warm or cool
with the subcommand dial (top front). The table below shows the symbols you will
see on the LCD panel.
|Tungsten (indoor) Light
|Colour temperature value
|Set your own
The options from the menu, allow you to set the
same selections and in some cases allow a wider range of options, in some cases
too wide an array.
Of these all except the K and Pre are fairy
- K is the colour temperature of the light set
as a value, and there are tables available that give you approximate colour
temperatures for different light. We have a table available,
to see it. You can also
measure it with a colour meter, a device similar to a light meter, however we
have not found one at an affordable price that produces near enough results to
use, and the cost and difficulties can be overcome by using the cameras
inbuilt colour analysing ability used with the PRE setting.
- PRE is used to set the colour at a pre
determined value based either on measuring the colour of the light or from the
colour balance used on another photograph. This is the most accurate way to
set the colour balance on your camera. We have another
page specifically explaining how
and when to use PRE.
When outside use the auto, sun, cloudy, shady,
- Auto is fine where there is a wide range of
colours without any dominant item and when you are not too critical about the
colour. Most tourism, scenic and wildlife shots come into this category.
- Sun is used when you have strong sun and
- Cloudy is used where you are in the open,
not in shadow, and you have a day where the sun is covered by cloud, so
no or little shadows show.
- Shady is for when you are photographing
items that are in the shadows, or would be on an overcast day if the sun was
making any. If the person or subject you are photographing cannot see the
position where the sun is, it is in shadow.
- PRE the most accurate, and exact measurement
of the colour temperature. Use it when you want accurate colours or where you
are not sure what setting to use.
When indoors use auto, flash, or the appropriate type of artificial light.
In some situations the lighting can be a
challenge, for example when photographing a sunset or in a position where there
is a lot of reflected light that is carrying some colour. For
- Sunsets - set the camera at sun.
- Rainbows - set the camera for the lighting
condition usually sun but could be cloudy.
- Mixed flash and sun - can be used on either
- Mixed lighting, some flash/daylight and some
artificial lighting - then use PRE, or a grey card.
- Panoramas - any appropriate setting as long
as all parts of the panoramas are at the same setting.
In many situations it is also important to have
consistent colour, for example at a wedding we don't want the bridesmaids
dresses to change colour, or such similar errors to occur. This can be overcome
- using PRE
- using a constant setting i.e. sun when all
are in the sun
- using a grey card system, explained under
other steps you can take.
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