All About White Balance – KobraTech
All About White Balance

All About White Balance

White Balance (WB) may sound intimidating if you are a true beginner, we get that. But it is one photography basic that you should learn about to understand how light works on your photos. Ever wonder why some photos look blue while others look yellow and want to know how to fix it?

Your phone is probably set to automatic white balance (AWB) and that’s probably fine for most of your shots. But what if you could better control the tint in your photos and get exactly what you aim for. Sometimes the photo you take will be bluer or yellower than what your eyes see. Why does the white flower you photographed have a blue tint in your photos? The camera phone is doing its best to be as accurate as it can, but it’s not perfect. 

Let’s take a look at color temperature, light sources, and different conditions that affect white balance. Also, read on to learn how to adjust the WB features on your phone and how to use an editing app to adjust WB to get bright whites. 

Let’s Talk Color Temperature

All light sources have different color temperatures. These sources are measured in Kelvin (K) units and the higher the Kelvin number the bluer the photo will look - which means that a low Kelvin number will produce more yellow/orange photos.

Here’s a list of light sources and their Kelvin temperature readings. 

  • Candlelight 1000K - 2000K
  • Inside House Lighting 2500K - 3500K
  • Sunrise & Sunset 3000K - 4000K
  • Regular Sunlight (and Flash) 5000K - 6000K
  • Midday Clear Day Bright Sunlight 6000K - 6500K
  • Cloudy Day (Shade) 6500K - 8000K
  • Very Cloudy Day (overcast) 9000K - 10000K

Why Do Camera Phones Need White Balance

Our eyes see white no matter where we are and no matter what conditions we are in. The white flower from outside will look white inside as well. Our cameras do their best to detect color temperatures and try to adjust to compensate, but they aren’t as good as a human eye. When your setting is at Auto White Balance, the camera will add more blue or more yellow depending on where and when you are taking the photo. The goal is to keep whites as white as possible. 

White Balance Smartphone Presets

Your phone may already come with manual mode and preset features and if it doesn’t you may need to download a 3rd party app to access extra manual features. Some are specific to Androids and others are designed for iPhones

Phone brands and camera apps may vary in the way they display their features, but most will offer access to these WB presets. 

  • Auto White Balance (AWB)

Your camera phone is probably set to AWB. On most occasions, AWB does a pretty good job of figuring out colors and compensation to offer a well-balanced photo with accurate colors. 

When you are in challenging conditions or if you want to get more creative you will want to explore more WB options. 

  • Lightbulb (Tungsten) 

This preset is good when taking photos indoors. The camera fixes the Kelvin to approximately 3500K to accommodate light from tungsten light bulbs. 

  • Sunny

The sunny preset is the temperature setting that is perfect for clear midday photos. 

  • Shade

On a completely overcast day, the Shade preset will warm up your photo and minimize the blue tint that naturally happens during this lighting context. 

  • Cloudy

The cloudy preset is good when you are shooting on a cloudy day, but not completely overcast. This preset will add some warmth to your photo to make it look more natural. 

  • Fluorescent 

The fluorescent preset will slightly warm up your photo to override the blue tones that tend to happen with this type of lighting. 

  • Custom

Most phones and camera apps will offer a slider to customize WB. Notice the color changes when sliding from right to left. 

All these presets (except the custom) will do their best to accommodate the lighting conditions in a pre-programmed way. 

Tip: We suggest you play around with the presets to notice the color changes that happen in each preset. You’ll quickly get the hang of it and figure out what is good for different situations. Even if you choose to shoot in AWB it’s good to have the knowledge and understanding of how light affects colors in your photos. 

How to Adjust White Balance

Shoot in RAW format if you want the option to adjust WB. When you shoot in JPG, the phone makes automatic adjustments and compresses the photo and then deletes some information. A RAW photo will have all the information that you need to access during editing. This makes it easier to adjust WB and other components of your photo.

From Your Camera Phone While You Shoot

Adjust using a preset mentioned above or a custom WB setting before taking your photo.

With a Photo Editing App

A photo editing app like Snapseed will let you manually adjust the WB of your photos. Most offer an eyedropper feature where you can slide to the whitest part on your photo and the warmth goes up or down automatically.


Want more tips and tricks about photography? Join our Facebook group Shoot Like a Pro With Your Phone to meet other like-minded people who want to improve and share their phone photos.