Consistency, How To's, Lighting, Product Photography Tips, White Balance

Why You Should Be White Balancing Your Camera Before You Take Your Next Product Photo

If you’ve ever purchased something online, you know how important photos are when it comes to purchasing. You want the photos to look like they accurately represent what you’ll receive in person and if they don’t, you might not be happy.

One of the things I’ve heard from makers is how they have trouble with getting the colors right on their products in a photo.

One way to get the colors right in your photo is through white balancing.

Have you ever taken a photo and wondered why it looked a little yellow? Or reddish? Or even blue or green? This can be really apparent if you’re photographing a product against a white background. Sometimes the colors look a little off which isn’t great for selling a product online.

It turns out light gives off different color casting whether it’s from the sun or a light bulb.

So how do you fix color casting that shows up in your photos?

Adjust the white balance BEFORE you take a photo.

What’s white balance?

It’s a way to correct color casting you get from different types of light sources so your photo looks more or less natural. 

Now all digital cameras nowadays usually have an option to adjust the white balance. You’ll have to check your camera manual to see where you can adjust the white balance if you can’t easily locate it.

For my digital point and shoot camera, these are the icons and what each means:

If you use your phone to take photos, check your camera app to see if you have the option to adjust the white balance.

My phone’s built-in camera app didn’t have the option to change the white balance, so I downloaded the camera app Camera FV-5 for Android. This app gives me a lot more control over the camera in my phone like being able to adjust the shutter speed, ISO and so on I couldn’t get with the built-in camera app.

Here are the options for white balance in the Camera FV-5 app:

You might be asking, “Why do I need to be able to change the white balance when there’s an auto option? Isn’t that good enough?”

It can be good, however, your camera can get it wrong. Especially if you’re mixing light sources or if the light conditions are too bright or dark. Your camera can’t always read the lighting correctly so having the option to manually adjust it is ideal so you can decide which looks best for the environment you’re taking photos.

If you’re taking photos on a clear, sunny day, use the sunny option. If it’s an overcast day, try the cloudy/shade option and so on.

Here’s an example of how different each of the settings might look. I took these photos on a partly sunny day in a north-facing window.

Different color casting with natural light

Something to remember when using natural light is the color contrast will vary depending on the weather and the time of day so keep this in mind! When the sun rises and sets, the light may look a bit bluer or red or if the clouds keep rolling by the sun, you may need to keep changing the white balance.

Mixing light sources

Now before you white balance, do your best to make sure you’re only using 1 type of light source. In other words, don’t mix light sources if possible.

If you’re using natural window light, make sure you don’t have any overhead lights or lamps indoors on. Turn them off and then check your white balance. Adjust it to what looks correct for your light conditions. 

If you’re using artificial light during the day, close any blinds or curtains to keep natural light out. It’s also good to keep your light bulbs all the same. Mixing a warm fluorescent bulb with a cool fluorescent bulb may throw off your colors.

And if you’re using a lamp to take photos and it has a lampshade, make sure it’s white because if it’s any other color, it will create a different color cast in your photos.

Be sure to still edit your photos!

After you take your photos, you’re not out of the woods yet! 

When you edit your photos, make additional white balance adjustments if needed. Many editing apps and software have a white balance feature. Don’t stick to the auto white balance because as I mentioned above, it isn’t always correct. I highly recommend adjusting the white balance manually so you can adjust the colors in your photo to look as accurate as possible. I also recommend you adjust the brightness, contrast, etc., accordingly to make your photo look the best it can.

By adjusting your white balance before you take photos, it can make editing easier and less time-consuming and help your product photos look as close as possible the real thing in person.

Do you change your white balance before taking photos? Let me know in the comments.

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