How to Correct White Balance in Photoshop

White balance is simultaneously one of the most fundamental and one of the most challenging components of photography. In some instances, the white balance that you select in the camera could seem okay, but in other instances, you’ll need to adjust it in post-processing so that it looks more natural. In today’s lesson, I will demonstrate a few different strategies for adjusting the white balance in Photoshop.

How Does White Balance Affect My Pictures?

The white balance setting determines whether your photographs appear warm or chilly. If you are interested in brushing up on your knowledge of white balance, you should read the comprehensive guide that we have prepared on the subject, which can be found here.

Altering a photograph’s white balance can result in several distinct changes to the final product. The color cast, flatness, and saturation of a picture are all altered as a result of its presence.

Color Cast

A color cast in your photograph is one of the most significant issues that can arise from employing the incorrect white balance. Have a look at the picture that is provided below:

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The photograph has a very warm color cast and almost has a monochromatic appearance of orange. Even though it is a sunset, I don’t mind if this picture has a generally warm tone to it, but this is taking it much too far, even for me.

The picture that is seen above was taken by me with the white balance set in the camera to 8000K. 8000K is a somewhat warm white balance that produces “neutral” tones on an overcast day. If you haven’t read the guide to which I just provided a link, you can get more information about it in the previous sentence. The fact that it was not a cloudy day but rather a golden-colored sunset contributed to the shot having a tone that was particularly warm and orange.

On the other hand, have a look at the picture down below. I followed the same procedure as in the previous picture and changed the white balance to 8000K here. The primary distinction is that each one was captured with a distinctively different lighting setup. This time, I shot the photo in the middle of the day when there were no clouds in the sky:

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This time around, there is noticeably less of a warm color cast in it, but even so, it still leans toward that way. As a consequence of this, the sky, which ought to be quite blue, appears very washed out, with hues that are somewhat murky. In addition, despite its name, the parakeet has a yellowish cast to its green feathers. If you just apply the appropriate white balance, you will instead obtain this result:

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The distinction is readily apparent. Despite the fact that I did not adjust any of the other settings, such as saturation, the sky appears far better.

Flat Images

It’s possible that you’ve already seen it in the examples provided above, but pictures that have a color cast might look somewhat lifeless. Take, for instance, a look at these photographs:

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In this instance, the only adjustment I made was to the white balance rather than other parameters like contrast or exposure. However, the picture on the right has much darker shadows and appears to be in much higher quality overall.

Additionally, the subject matter is separated more clearly in the image on the right. In the absence of any color cast, for instance, the beak of the bird comes out more clearly against the backdrop.

Saturation

The golden hour is a popular time for photography, but it can be difficult to capture photographs with the desired level of saturation during this time. The white balance adjustment might be of assistance in this case.

Take, for instance, a look at how the two pictures below compare. You may select a warmer white balance, such as 8500K, to achieve the look of increased saturation if that is what you are going for. You may also try a colder white balance, such as 6000K, to achieve a more subdued look if that’s what you’re going for.

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It’s not that one image is superior than the other; rather, they each offer a unique aesthetic interpretation of the same subject matter. Consequently, you are able to capture photographs that are an accurate representation of your photography vision if you use white balance in an inventive manner.

Fixing White Balance with Photoshop

Adjusting the white balance in Photoshop may be done in a variety of different ways. I shall start from the most basic and work my way up to the most advanced.

Adobe Camera Raw

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is a plugin that enables users to import photographs captured in RAW format into Photoshop and apply some fundamental edits to them. By selecting “Filter > Camera Raw Filter” from the primary navigation bar, you may use this tool to make adjustments to photographs that are not RAW, such as JPEGs.

When you view an image in ACR, the temperature adjustment for the white balance is located towards the top and is labeled Temperature:

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You may customize the white balance by dragging the Temperature slider in the options menu. You may also use the eyedropper to choose a region of the image that has a neutral gray tone, and Camera Raw will automatically modify the white balance (and the Tint) such that the area you click looks gray.

It is important to keep in mind that the white balance may be adjusted more quickly in RAW photographs, TIFFs, PSDs, and other files that have less compression. If you make too many changes to a JPEG, you can see some color issues or compression artifacts.

Automatic White Balance Adjustment Using Curves

In Photoshop, one of the most useful tools is called a curve. In spite of the fact that you may consider of the Curves tool primarily as an exposure/contrast adjustment, it can also be used to fix white balance and color.

To begin, there is a technique that just requires one click and utilizes Curves that is successful the majority of the time. Have a look at the photo that is below here:

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The following actions need to be taken in order to correct the white balance of a photo in Photoshop automatically:

  • Create an adjustment layer for the Curves.
  • To access the right side of the Properties tab, which is highlighted in green in the following image, click here.
  • Choose Auto Options from the drop-down menu that afterward appears; this will bring up the window with the Auto Color Correction Options.
  • Choose the “Find Light and Dark Colors” option from the drop-down menu in the window (seen below with a red highlighting).
  • Click Ok

The efficiency of the automated correcting system may be shown in this screenshot:

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Manual White Balance Adjustment Using Curves

You have even more influence over the final product if you want to manually modify the white balance of a photograph using the Curves tool.

Create a Curves adjustment layer in the same manner that you did for the automated color correction I described above. You will see a drop-down list with the options RGB, Red, Green, and Blue to select from. RGB is the default option. To begin, choose the Red menu option.

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When you choose one of the specified colors, like red in this example, the tool modifies both the color you choose and the color that it is complementary to. For instance, if you raise red, you will see that cyan gets darker.

You need to tone down the amount of red in the image’s highlights, midtones, and shadows since the overall tone of the picture is warmer. To do this, pull the red line that starts at the right border of the top right corner a little bit down till the reds get better.

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The graphic that may be found above demonstrates that the warmer color cast has been brought under control. However, the picture seems to be green; hence, the greens need to be toned down as well, in a manner analogous to how the reds were adjusted, as seen in the figure that follows.

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The appearance of the green channel has been improved. However, the tone of the image appears to be little more on the warm side. The final tone of the image may be determined by adding a little touch of blue to it, as demonstrated in the following example.

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The picture appears more realistic now. There is no tint or tinting on the whites in the upper left corner. Now, if you choose RGB, the parameters of the adjustment layer will change as shown in the following paragraphs.

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A comparison of the original image, the automated Curves correction, and the human Curves adjustment can be seen further down in this post.

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The automatic changes in Photoshop often provide satisfactory results, particularly in more recent versions of the program. However, manual adjustments come in helpful when working with difficult photographs, particularly in situations when there are several sources of light with distinct color casts.

Since Curves is an adjustment layer, you may use it in conjunction with layer masks to selectively limit the effect of your modification in particular areas of the image. This brings us to our final point. You have a great deal of leeway as a result of this.

Conclusion

Even while cameras are becoming better at automatically selecting the appropriate white balance, you shouldn’t expect them to be flawless or to satisfy your preferences all of the time. I really hope that, after reading this, you will feel more confident altering the white balance in Photoshop as needed. Please leave a comment if you have any queries or would want to provide any further pointers. Best of luck with the shooting and editing!

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