Most editing software has the ability to adjust the white balance in post-processing. Lightroom, my editing software of choice, has tools you can use to adjust the white balance in your images. Let’s see how to work with Lightroom white balance!
You can find the white balance adjustment options in the Develop module. To access them, open an image in the Develop module.
At the top of your Basic panel is where you’ll find the white balance adjustment tools.
For best and most accurate editing results, photograph in RAW. This is key and I am a huge proponent of photographing in RAW 100% of the time.
White Balance Adjustment
Lightroom has a predetermined set of White balance settings that you can use to apply to your image. These are essentially predetermined Kelvin values that you apply to the image.
The dropdown list will show you some options for adjusting white balance. This will vary depending on how you capture your images.
If you capture in raw, the white balance dropdown list will have the same options as your camera, i.e. custom Kelvin values. If you’re capturing jpg images then there are fewer options – As Shot, Auto and Custom.
As you choose different dropdown values, you can see how the Temperature and Tint sliders change in numeric values. The Temperature and Tint sliders also have different units of measure.
This, again, depends on whether you’re working with jpegs or raw images.
For jpg images both the sliders range from +100 to -100. If you’re working on a raw image then the Temperature slider shows degrees Kelvin from 2000 – 50,000. The Tint slider ranges between + 150 and – 150.
And in case you are wondering what Kelvin is, it is a measurement of the color of light. For daylight, the value is around 5,500 degrees Kelvin.
Warm or pink/orange lights, including tungsten, are around 3,000 degrees Kelvin. Cool lights are blue in color, such as overcast daylight and shade. These are around 7,000 degrees Kelvin and higher.
To adjust the white balance in the selected image, pick an option from the White Balance dropdown list. Use it to fix the image or you can use it as a starting point and then fine tune the result.
You can also manually adjust the Temp slider to add warmth or remove it from the image. Drag the slider to the left to add a blue tint to the image to cool it down. Or drag it to the right to add a yellow tint to it to warm up the image.
You can use the Tint slider to balance out any excess magenta or green in the image.
Drag towards the right to add magenta to the image cancelling out any green tint. Drag to the left to add a green tint canceling out any unwanted magenta.
If you have been photographing for a bit, you might have a certain look that you like in your images. For example, cooler images versus warmer images.
You can adjust the Kelvin value a.k.a temperature by using the slider or clicking on the number and adjusting it.
White Balance Selector Tool
Lightroom gives you the flexibility to go granular with your adjustments. Do this by picking a value in line with your image rather than using pre-determined drop down options.
You can also use the White Balance Selector (the dropper symbol) to adjust white balance. You can select the tool by clicking on it or press W.
From the White Balance toolbar under the image you can select options that make the White Balance tool easier to use. Then you’ll see a 5 by 5 pixel grid beside the mouse cursor.
The center point in the grid is the pixel that you are currently targeting. This will be used to adjust the image if you click. This grid makes it easier for you to pick the correct point in the image to adjust to.
In the bottom of the loupe itself are the RGB percentage values of the pixel under the cursor. These values tell you if the pixel is neutral or not.
If it is neutral then the percentages of R, G and B will all be approximately equal. If they are not equal then there is color in that pixel.
To balance the image using the White Balance selector, click on a pixel that should be neutral grey, not white or black. Lightroom will adjust the image so that the selected pixel is a neutral grey. As a result, all the color in the image will change.
Like all post-production editing for images, white balance adjustments are also very subjective. It all depends on your editing style and creative eye.
There is nothing wrong in experimenting. Try out different looks when you are learning to edit for the first time. As you get further and further in your photography, you will find yourself gravitating to a certain look. Light, bright and airy, or dark and moody or saturated colors or even black and white only.
There is no right or wrong way. A good approach to take is to experiment with the white balance selector. Check the effect on the image by selecting different pixels to adjust to. Then choose the most aesthetically pleasing result.
Even minor adjustments can change the complete look of an image so play around and what you like.