Understanding White Balance and Color Temperature in Photography
If you shoot in RAW, white balance will not affect you at the time the exposure is made. White balance corrections are normally applied by the camera in post-processing of the image, before it is saved to the card as a JPEG file.
By shooting RAW, you avoid this processing as the image saved on the card is exactly as captured by the CMOS sensor. It is then up to you to adjust the white balance in your RAW file editing program.
One of the advantages of shooting RAW files is that you can apply different white balance settings to the image to see which give the most natural, or most attractive, results. The original RAW file remains unchanged. All the work is done on copies of the RAW file, which means that you can return to the RAW file and try again if the initial results are not what you want.
White light is composed of all colours, but white light, be it natural or artificial, can vary in its purity. We all know for instance that the light of the setting sun is much more red than the light of the sun at noon, and this is reflected in the way we see colours. Similarly, we can also tell that the light produced by a cool white fluorescent tube is a bit more green than the light produced by a standard incandescent bulb.
To demonstrate this, a series of images were taken using the Auto white balance of a camera, and switching the light sources for each shot.
In the still life shown here, the background is white, and can be used to see the impact of the light source. The first photo shows a correct white balance, and can serve to evaluate the others:
As can be seen in the images above, the auto white is not always precise. Interestingly, with these examples, the auto white balance fares much better when the light source is the cool white fluorescent as that source of the light is more easily identifiable, something that appears to be the case with a number of cameras we tried.
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