Nikon Learn & Explore

Breaking the Rules: Experimenting with White Balance Settings

Shawn Corrigan photo of a boat on the ocean, at sunset with exaggerated colors

© Shawn Corrigan

The photographer intentionally used a white balance setting of fluorescent to enhance the colors of the sunset.

When learning photography, you follow the rules, but its once you know those rules that you can break them, and that’s where the fun comes in. In this image, photographer Shawn Corrigan purposefully ignored white balance rules and used the D5600's fluorescent white balance setting to elevate a normal ocean view into an image that's more about the emotional power of color than just the scenery. Had he used the direct sun setting, the image would not be as vibrant and colorful. He’s turned a normal shot into an artistic image.

"I spend a lot of time on the road traveling & shooting. The colors, the hues, the textures of a country—I think that really contributes to the photography that you make there. Like who puts those colors together?" says Shawn.

Color Temperatures

Warmer lighting such as that of incandescent or warm-white fluorescent bulbs are about 2700°K, cooler fluorescent lights range can range up to 5000°K. Direct sunlight is approximately 5200°K, flash 5400°K and cloudy at 6000°K. Shade, which is a much cooler color of light falls into about 8000°K.

If you’re shooting in daylight but set the camera’s white balance to incandescent it will warm up the colors and tones in the image. Similarly, if you’re shooting in warmer light but set the white balance to a cooler color temperature like shade or cloudy, it will give the image a bluer hue. To see how each white balance setting makes the image look, turn on the camera's Live View and scroll through the various white balance options. You'll see the different looks on the camera's LCD.

Here’s a tip: Shoot NEF (RAW) or NEF + JPG if you think you might like the original white balance of a scene. This way you can always go back to the correct white balance or use the more creative white balance for you image. Nikon's Capture NX-D software and the Picture Control Utility software (both free downloads) allow you to easily change an image's white balance and Picture Control respectively. It is available for Mac and Windows-based PCs.

Experiment and see the world in new ways.

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