White balance is a big deal in the world of photography. It’s a tricky little bugger. If you’ve never given a thought to photography besides pushing the shutter button down and then uploading your photos to facebook, you probably don’t know a lot about white balance. But you’ve definitely seen when it’s off. You know how most photos you take indoors at night (you know, those especially incriminating facebook photos) have a yellow glow? That’s because the white balance is off. For most settings, the camera actually takes a pretty darn good photo on Auto. From what I’ve experienced so far, Auto White Balance (AWB) is the only thing that the camera can’t seem to figure out when you’re indoors under a mix of lights.

This was taken of my subject with AWB as he dutifully works on completing his thesis:

Here it is with the Tungsten white balance setting:

And here it is with my custom white balance setting:

While he does look less jaundiced here, the custom white balance didn’t quite do the trick of capturing how he truly looked sitting there. He was somewhere between the second and third photos. He did look a little yellow, because he’s sitting under a bunch of incandescent lights (shh… don’t tell the green police- they’re the only ones we could find to fit the chandelier!).

Mr. Smartypants himself had a look, and after I complained that my custom white balance overcompensated and made him look a little blue, he pointed out the fact that his face was also being lit by the computer screen, which is a much different color of light than an incandescent bulb.

So the takeaway message is that white balance is tricky, especially when multiple light sources are involved. Honestly I will probably only worry about it when trying to take indoor nighttime photos, since in most other situations AWB seems to do a pretty good job.

Any white balance tips?