Posted by Jeff C.

Photography has been accepted as the practice of recording light, whether it fits in utilitarian or artistic purposes. Basically, photography is painting with light. But light isn't the most important thing in Photography; good photographs transmit messages, and that's why it's important to have a concept to work with. This is part of the planning process in the Photography Workflow, and it shouldn't take for granted. Concept is what gives meaning to the messages transmitted by Photography, whichever the discipline, branch or niche of Photography that appeals you the most.

Let's talk a little bit about White Balance. White Balance is the overall or selective temperature you apply to an image, and it goes from warm to cool. In technical terms, this is measured by Kelvin degrees, which measure the temperature of light. All cameras can be set to auto or manual (manualish) temperature. The most common standard settings for white balance are:

  • Tungsten: this white balance mode is usually symbolized with a light bulb, and it's used for shooting indoors, thanks to the common tungsten light in all the indoorsy places.
  • Fluorescent: This setting is used when the average light on a scene comes from fluorescent light sources. This compensates for the coolness of this light, and therefore, warms up the shots.
  • Sunny or Daylight: This is the normal white balance setting, which has a standard of 5200 Kelvin degrees.
  • Cloudy: This setting warms things when the average light is affected by clouds.
  • Flash: This white balance setting compensates the cool greenish light of flashes.
  • Shade: This setting is generally cooler than sunlight, and it has a standard temperature of 7000 Kelvin degrees.

You really don't have to worry much about this settings nowadays thanks to the great engineers behind cameras, because they give is the capability of using the whole camera's sensor potential by allowing us to shoot in RAW format.

Furthermore, you can shoot auto always, but it’s important to know which light temperature corresponds to certain type of settings, or ambiences when you want to stick to a concept.

How is the White Balance related to the concept? Easy, because the message your photo is trying to convey, has a specific mood. Let's say you are shooting a romantic portrait of a couple, you are going to use a warm color palette. Let's say you are trying to render a spooky feeling on a peculiar essay, you are going to prefer cooler colors for the photographs. White Balance is used to match a scene with the unaltered pure white color inside the scene. But sometimes, this white hues may need a certain temperature to render a specific message in the shot.

I'll try to explain how I play with White Balance inside Lightroom, but I must say, that I have my own very personal workflow, as all of you could have defined in a bigger or lower degree.

Thanks to RAW format, I forget about thinking of the White Balance when shooting, we have plenty of variables to quick by instinct when shoot, so taking one of those out of the game, really speeds things up. I'm a little bit picky, so I don't work with the standard Lightroom Catalogs, I filter my photos first via JPEG preview (I shoot RAW+JPEG always, because sometimes you need to develop quickly in a computer that is not yours. First I import my pre-selected images into Lightroom via drag-and-drop. Then, I choose the Develop mode. You'll find a greatly wise workflow pane at your right, and the first thing you'll encounter besides the histogram, is the White Balance controls. Thanks to the glorious RAW format, I first correct my own laziness of using auto-white balance setting of the camera. I do this mostly with the Eyedropper tool. I select it, then I choose a portion of the picture that corresponds to true white in the original scene, and voila, things get closer to what I imagined seeing in real life. Let's say I don't have a white portion in the scene to work with, then I use standard temperatures for the job.

  • Blue Sky: 15000 - 10000 K
  • Cloudy: 6500 - 8000 K
  • Noon: 6000 - 7000 K
  • Daylight 5200 K
  • Fluorescent 4000 - 5000 K
  • Candle Light 1000 - 2000 K 

Adobe's Lightroom has two main sliders for White Balance. The first is Temperature and the second is Tint. Temperature works roughly on the earlier mentioned different light temperatures of the light source on the shot. And Tint, precisely tweaks the temperature to a closer rendition of the human eye.

When you are defining a concept, always try to take in consideration the Mood of the scene, and trust me, you'll see a huge influence of the temperature in that particular message or mood you are trying to convey. Just watch the movies, and you'll see the great presence of White Balance Temperature in each and every single Color Script in the movie.

White Balance is miss believed to be a particular thing of just Color Photography, but if you are a Black and White enthusiast and lover (as myself), you'll encounter a greater control on the color contrast (the on you develop by just playing with the 8 color channels) by adjusting first the White Balance, than not doing it at all. How come is this possible? Because the hues of the colors, get closer to the real thing, so, when you are tweaking the lightness or darkness of yellows, you'll be dealing with true yellows only, not the whole yellowish scene before adjusting the white balance.