Do you realize quite often after shooting some lengthy videos during your vacation, some takes look unnatural and appears to be cast with bluish or yellowish hues?

The issue we are looking at here is poor or improper white balance. Now let me explain how you can use your camera’s white balance function to your advantage.

White light isn’t just light. It consists of every single color mixed together to give you white. Conversely in paint, all the colors mixed together in equal proportions give you black. The colors you see are from the absorption of the other colors by the object and reflecting the mixture of colors which you see with your eyes.

The different colors of white light are not seen by us because our brain is able to rapidly compensate for the change in color. As for the camera however, it would record the different colors of “white” light it sees. It usually seems like the recording was shot through a lightly tinted sheet, making the colors duller and less vibrant. As such, manufacturers have designed a white balance circuit to solve this problem. The electronic color equalizer in this circuit however, isn’t as impressive as the one humans inherited from their ancestors between the ears.

Most video cameras when left to its own devices is left in auto, or continuous automatic. Continuous auto sees the light passing through the lens and tries to distinguish what kind of light is reflected off the surface of the object. Most of the time, the automatic setting is relatively reliable in providing accurate color. Occasionally however, challenging lighting conditions will pose a threat to a good video with an automatic white balance setting.

The goal of white balance is to make sure that colors are rendered correctly like the image on the right.

Setting the right white balance

Setting manual white balanceThat’s where the white balance hold comes in. Also known as manual white balance, you fill your video camera’s viewfinder with a white object under the same challenging lighting conditions. By pressing the appropriate button, your camcorder will scrutinize the light passing through the lens and adapt to the new lighting conditions. In just a few seconds, an equalized color balance is achieved giving exceptionally accurate color tones. It’s a good idea to perform this procedure at the beginning of every shoot.

In some circumstances, you might intentionally want the video to have a tint to your preference. It may be enhancing the mood, for example making the video yellowish or redder in the outdoors to portray a warm feel. Or blueish hue indoors for a colder tinge to the atmosphere. By playing around with the aperture and the white balance, you can make day appear to be night indoors.

Below is a chart showing the different color temperatures at different times of day and under different lighting conditions.

Color Temperature Chart

Color Temperature Chart

Set your mind thinking, be creative with your takes! For instance, manual white balance a colored object to give an opposite tint to your video. With time and practice, setting the right white balance will become second nature to you.