Question of the Day: Understanding White Balance

I recently came across a beautiful scene in which a church was lit by a street lamp. However, when I used the Auto White Balance setting of my camera, the photograph was very different from how my eyes saw it. Even when I tried changing the WB settings, the camera struggled to capture what I could see. How do I deal with such situations?
Raimundo Xavier, via email

 

Selective Color is an invaluable tool to help you get the best tones out of images that have been shot in mixed lighting.

Selective Color is an invaluable tool to help you get the best tones out of images that have been shot in mixed lighting.

You may come across situations in which your camera’s Auto White Balance setting may not be able to capture the scene to your satisfaction. This often happens in mixed lighting situations. As described in the example given by you, the camera struggled to differentiate between the warm light of the street lamp and the cool blue light in the twilight sky. In situations like these, you should use the RAW format so that you can fine tune the White Balance in post processing. While editing the RAW image in Photoshop or Lightroom, you should not only adjust the White Balance slider, but also Tint. This helps you fine tune your settings and capture the scene more accurately.
If your camera does not allow you to shoot RAW images, use the Custom White Balance setting and use a white or grey card to calculate the appropriate white balance. Also, while processing your JPEG files in software, you can select the sky and the church separately and then use the Selective Color tool, so that you can obtain the right amount of yellow and blue tones in both parts of the image.

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