by Roger N. Clark
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What color setting should you use on your camera? Many beginning photographers select auto white balance. Auto white balance can work well in some situations, but not in all. If you record raw, the white balance does not matter, EXCEPT checking the histogram and LCD for the best exposure. If you use auto white balance on scenes that are largely one color, like sunsets, the auto white balance will make the sunset very dull. And the auto white balance will change the histogram, and thus the potential exposure which would affect people recording only jpegs. But even if recording raw, having the white balance close to the final intended image allows one to evaluate exposure better than if auto white balance is used.
Here are some examples of auto white balance versus the correct or other white balances and the effects on the final image. If you record only jpegs, set the white balance for the conditions in which you are images. For example, on cloudy days, set the white balance to the cloudy symbol on your digital camera.
If you make mosaics using multiple images, it is very important to keep the white balance the same for each image, and that will not happen with auto white balance.
Here are some examples where auto white balance fails.
First Published June 5, 2011
Last updated June 5, 2011.