So many people are struggling with white balance and colour casts on their images, and to be honest, it’s a far bigger issue than I originally thought. So, I figured why not run through a way to see what’s right and what’s not in Adobe Lightroom?

You should know that pretty quickly you learn to “see” the white balance and whether it is correct or not, and you may be like me and prefer it to be a little on the warm side of right, but either way, you won’t need this trick for long.

white balance card
To avoid having to do any of this, it’s definitely worth picking up a white balance card, like this one that I use from Lastolite. It packs down super small and you can pop it into your pocket or your camera bag, so as the light changes you can grab a shot of it there and then. Afterwards, in Lightroom, you can just click your white balance eyedropper on the card in the photograph and voila, your white balance is set!

If you’d prefer to watch instead of read, check out the video on the YouTube channel and follow along. Remember to please subscribe – it makes a big difference to me!

https://youtu.be/toMYfMCb21M

Where to start with white balance

First things first, you need to make sure you have a calibrated monitor. There’s literally no point working with colour correction if your screen is causing the cast. I would absolutely 100% recommend that everyone invests in a calibration tool and that they re-calibrate regularly. You’ll be surprised at how wrong your screen really is! For this, I personally have never had a bad experience with Spyders. For the entry-level “does the job” option, give this a go.

So the photo that we used for this piece was of a dog I used to have here with me, you’ll probably have seen her if you’ve ever looked into my work. She now lives in the most perfect forever home as an agility dog – she’s called Pig:

correct white balance in lightroom

It’s a pretty solid example of what is genuinely coming out of a lot of cameras – mainly entry-level DSLRs weirdly. There’s this weird green cast and that’s not controlled by your standard kelvin tweaks (kelvin is how warm or cool the light is, so the lower the number, the bluer the correction). But if you’re not experienced enough to work out that the green/blue cast is there, you could just write off the image as being pants.

However, that’s just not true!

So in Lightroom (Classic, not mobile) there are a few things you can do to solve this pesky problem. I’m assuming that we’ve all shot in RAW not JPG, as that will give us enough data to work with on the colour front. We also ought to just outline the basics of white balance:

White balance aims to essentially correct colour casts in a photograph. It aims to render white objects as white, without any additional colour values present.

White balance is measured in Kelvin as a metric – it’s the amount of warm or cool in an image. It’s tied directly back to wavelengths and how they render in our eyes as different colours. You can set your white balance manually at a specific kelvin value, or you can use a preset white balance, e.g, tungsten, cloudy, shade, daylight.

After kelvin there is another type of cast, thats green-red/green-pink. It’s just another thing to deal with in terms of light!

2 methods to solve cast issues:

1. Use your eye

This will be where you’ll end up and essentially you just use your two white balance sliders, tint and temp, to fine-tune the white balance by eye. That means that you make the call on where “correct” is. I would suggest learning what correct is before you use this technique, but if you want to jump in, go for it!

2. Use the HSL sliders as a guide

This is what this video is all about and it’s only really going to work if your dog is either black, white or has those colours on them. It can be a nose, it can be spots, it can be a full coat. If you have any shade of grey, from white through to black, then you’re all set!

What you want to do is have your HSL sliders visible. To the upper left of their little mini-panel, there’s a circular icon. Click on that and it’ll give you an eye-dropper that is attached to your cursor.

correct white balance in lightroom

That means that you can wave it about on the photograph and, as you do so, one or more of the HSL sliders will light up like a Christmas tree. Whatever lights up is the colour that is strongest under the eyedropper.

So, what we want to do is move that little cursor over your shades of grey. Keep and eye on what lights up and you should see a trend. In my case, in this video, it was greens, cyans and blues.

TIP: Be careful with noisy photographs. Colour noise at high ISOs can cause pixels of red, green or blue, so be careful that you’re not reading the colour of a noisy pixel!

Once you’ve identified what colours are casting badly, you can go up to your temp and tint sliders and correct.

correct white balance in lightroom

Try very hard to completely ignore everything outside of your reference area and do not start sliding until you can really see the cast. Look hard for blue, green, red or yellow – whatever came up strongest on your slider-hover test.

Move the slider until the reference area is neutral. That is, there’s no longer a cast from the colour we’re correcting, but there’s also not a cast from the opposite colour. Opposite colours would be:

Opposite | Opposite

  • Yellow/Orange | Blue/Aqua (Cyan)
  • Magenta/Red | Green

Purple is a warm blue, and yellow can impact greens, so be aware of those. The colour wheel is fluid, so there isn’t really an end point to these things!

Continue for the other slider if required and you can, if you want to, go ahead with your eye-dropper again to see if the sliders are either a) less reactive or b) have shifted to the opposite cast. Fine-tune to your personal taste.

Doing so for me, someone who likes things a little warmer than “correct”, resulted in taking us here:

correct white balance in lightroom

One thing that I will note is mixed kelvin photographs. You may have warm sunlight and cool shade on the subject at the same time. In these instances, it’s usually best to balance to the cooler light. Give it a go and see what you get!

And that’s pretty much it for this one guys! Hope it was useful!