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How to Render Colours with the White Balance Correction Function

An advanced photographer shows off their individuality not just through how well they capture the subject or compose the picture, but also through how they choose to render colours. One useful tool is the White Balance Correction function, which is more conventionally used to correct colour casts to a neutral white. This article shows how you can use the function for colour rendering. (Edited by studio9)


What is the difference between white balance (WB) and white balance correction?

To recap our previous article about the White Balance function, white balance is a setting used to change the colour balance in your photos to make it look warmer or cooler. If you use “Cloudy, twilight, sunset” mode, your photos will look reddish, whereas if you use “Tungsten light” mode, they will appear bluish. The basic settings for colour balance is as seen below.

However, this setting on its own only affects how blue or red your photos will appear.

So what if you want to make photos appear more greenish to emphasize the fresh green of trees? Or the times where you want to produce a colour somewhere between that of the “Daylight” and “Cloudy, twilight, sunset” modes by making the colour warmer or cooler?

That’s where the White Balance Correction function comes in, by allowing you to the colour tones and therefore render colours in tones that don’t appear in the actual scene.


How you access the White Balance Correction function?

Whether you’re using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, the White Balance Correction function can be set in more or less the same way.

Your camera should have a [WB Shift/Bkt.] option available in the menu.

If you select the [WB Shift/Bkt.] option, a screen like the one below will appear.


The G (Green), A (Amber), M (Magenta), B (Blue) axes are then displayed. The B (Blue) - A (Amber) axis in the horizontal direction is used to fine tune the white balance to make colours appear warmer or cooler. Meanwhile, the G (Green) - M (Magenta) axis in the vertical direction is used to make your photos appear greenish or pinkish.


3 steps to rendering colours in your own style

Now that you understand what white balance correction does, I will introduce some tips for the settings to use during an actual shoot. If you follow the steps below, you should be able to easily find your own colour rendering style. (P.S: Trying out these concepts with your own camera will probably help you to grasp them more easily.)

I will introduce this by showing an actual photo as an example. (Note that the edits to the example were simulated on a RAW file using Digital Photo Professional.) I have exaggerated the white balance correction in the corrected pictures a little to make the differences more obvious.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ f/5.6/ 1/1250 sec/ ISO 200
I took the shot using “Daylight” mode (without white balance correction).


Step 1: Decide on a base white balance setting

I wanted the photo to look clear and slightly sharp, and so changed the white balance to “Tungsten light”. This also resulted in an image that had cooler tones.

This completely changed the look of the photo. Be sure to decide on the change to the base white balance in advance as it has the strongest impact on the colour.


Step 2: Apply white balance correction along the G (Green) - M (Magenta) axis

I applied more G (Green) for the white balance correction because I wanted to put a little more emphasis on the green colour of the flowers. In this example, I shifted the marker about 8 squares in the G direction on the grid.

You can see that the green colour of the flower stems has been emphasized considerably. The sky also appears slightly greenish, which gives the image a unique ambience.


Step 3: Apply white balance correction along the B (Blue) - A (Amber) axis

While adjusting along the G - M axis will determine the overall colour tint of your photos, use the B - A axis if you want to adjust the colour temperature a little more.
In this example, I thought the photo appeared a little too cool, so I added a little warmth to the photo by shifting the marker about 4 squares in the A (Amber) direction.

On some monitors, the difference might not be that clear. However, this is how the image will look after you have made adjustments in the B - A direction.

With this, you will have achieved the colour you were aiming for!

When using white balance correction, the key is to firstly adjust along the G (Green) - M (Magenta) axis in the vertical direction. If you slide the marker about 3 to 4 squares at a time along the axis, the change in colour will become more obvious. You might want to try this after getting used to adjusting along the B (Blue) - A (Amber) axis (or skip it entirely if you don’t need to do so).


4 tips for white balance correction

When using the White Balance Correction function, it is best to try various settings during the shoot. However, I want to introduce 4 basic tips that could help.

1. On sunny days, increase the G value for clearer photos with relaxing tones
In the photo of a fountain below, I created a bokeh effect in the foreground and increased the G value by +2, to give the whole image a neutral, more relaxing tone.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ f/8.0/ 1/5000 sec/ ISO 400
The photo looks like this when taken in “Daylight” mode.


To bring out the translucence of the water, I used the “White fluorescent light” mode, which brings out the beautiful colour of the sky and makes the image appear more translucent.


In addition, I tried increasing the G (Green) value to about G+7. By doing that, I was able to create relaxing tones with a more retro feel.


2. For cherry blossom trees on a cloudy day, try increasing the M value
If you take shots of cherry blossom trees using “Daylight” mode on a cloudy day, your photos will appear like this. As the blossoms are quite pale in colour, they don't stand out but instead, blend into the sky.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ f/8.0, 1/320 sec/ ISO 200
The blossoms appear white and dull. Try using “Cloudy, twilight, sunset” mode to bring out warmth in the image.


After shifting to a warmer colour, the colour of the blossoms stands out a little more.


In addition, I increased the M (Magenta) value to M+5. The colour of the blossoms is just like how it appears when you see it in person!


3. Increase the M value in “Tungsten light” mode to create a literally and figuratively "cool"-looking city nightscape
When shooting a city nightscape, I recommend using the white balance correction to produce cooler colours. The picture just doesn’t have that big city feel if you use “Daylight” mode.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ f/11/ 6sec/ ISO 200


I changed the white balance to “Tungsten light” mode to create the cool atmosphere in the image. The big city feel came out rather impressively!


In addition, I increased the M (Magenta) value to M+10 so that the cityscape looks even more cool and sophisticated. The sky appears a little purplish, giving the image an air of sophisticated composure.


4. Increasing the G value at twilight immediately gives the image a retro feel
The most dramatic time of the day is just before the sun sets on a sunny day. However, “Daylight” mode doesn’t work too well in conveying that dramatic ambience.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ f/5.6/ 1/1000 sec/ ISO 250


Try using “Shade” mode instead to create warmer colours. This brings out the ambience rather well.


In addition, I tried increasing the G (Green) value to G+6. This brought out a depth in the colour to give the image a retro feel! (I increased the A value a little as well by about +4 because the image lacked enough red to balance out the increased G value.)


So I’ve just introduced 4 guidelines which you can follow in three steps. For these 4 guidelines, all I did was change the white balance of the original photo without making any changes to the brightness or contrast. See how much the ambience of an image changes simply by rendering the colours differently?

Now, how about using white balance and white balance correction to try to find your own colour rendering style?


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