Landscape Photography – How to Get A Good White Balance


Getting the right white balance in our
landscape photography images or indeed any image be it travel through to
portrait is key to the success of that image. Why? Because the white balance
helps to give us an overall feel of that image whether it’s a nice cool image or
a warm image. If we’re not looking at the image and thinking that looks and so
nice and it speaks to me because the white balance is out then
really we’ve lost the game. We need to first get that white balance right in
our images before we do anything at all with them.
So let’s today look at the white balance of our images and how we can attain a
good white balance in our landscape photography images. My name is Julian
Elliott. I’m a professional landscape and travel photographer. If you are
interested in keeping up with what I do as a professional photographer, make sure
that you click on subscribe down there in the bottom right hand corner. So where
do we start with the white balance in our images? The first logical step for a
lot of people, and certainly beginners, is to start with the auto white balance in
our cameras. But it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s just the beginning of what
we do and can do with the white balance in our landscape photography. So let’s
just start with auto white balance and work up from there to see how we get
from in the field to post-production. And how those images will differ as we come
from the field literally to post-production. Auto White Balance Okay so for the first and easiest method,
especially for beginners if you’re new to photography, you’re going to set your
camera on Auto White Balance and you’re going to let the camera decide the white
balance of the scene in front of you. So at the moment so you can see on the
back of my camera there is a nice vineyard seen here in central France. And the sun
is kind of going in and out so it’s playing havoc really with the white
balance. But if I just take an image right now on auto white balance it will
then record the white balance as it feels is correct for that scene right
now. What’s the second method? Kelvin. Judging by eye. The second method to be able to get
white balance in our landscape photography images and any other
images is to custom manage the white balance. So Canon for example I can turn
on the kelvin so you can see flicking through there all the different white
balances. There’s cloudy, there’s tungsten so it’s very blue. If I go to the Kelvin
and then turn on info I can then look at the scene in front of me and I can try
and judge what I believe is the correct white balance at the moment for that
particular scene. If I can just lean over my camera and just look. It probably
looks somewhere just turn it back on again… It’s looking quite blueish. Blueish green in
that grass down there in the vineyards. Somewhere maybe around there. So if I
take an image that’s how my eyes are registering the scene at the moment. So
that’s dialling in a custom white balance. What’s the next method that you can use
to get a white balance in your landscape images? The Grey Card Something else that we can do to get a
good white balance in our cameras is to use a good old grey card. Now this isn’t
the perfect solution to getting a good white balance in camera because we’re
just working from the grey itself. There’s other things that we really
should be taking into consideration. But it’s at least a good starter for ten to help
you find a good white balance when you get into the post-production stage. So
it’s frustrating at the moment the sun’s gone behind a cloud. I don’t think it’s
going to reappear again when I’m filming this but I’m going to take a picture
without the grey card in scene and then I’m going to take a picture with the
grey card in scene and then we’ll see what difference that it makes. So there’s
three different methods that you could use in the field to help along the white
balance of your images. But that’s not the end of the story. The end of the
story does in fact lie at post-production because we want to be able to look at
the RGB values. The Red, Green and Blue values of our image because we need to
be able to identify where any color cast is to be able to neutralize it. So let’s
get the kit broken down and then get back to the office. Back into Lightroom
and then let’s go on to the next stages of our white balance story. Post Production So we are back in the digital
workstation in front of Lightroom at the moment. And what this segment is going to be about is showing you the different ways of which you can color correct your
white balance in your images and also to show you how the different lighting can
affect those particular images as well when we’re looking at the RGB values. So
there’s the three images that I took when I was doing the vlog. There’s also
an image that I took before the blog had actually started when the light was
playing ball and there’s another image that I’m going to show at the end and it
will become evident why I’m doing this. Now the reason that I want to do this is
because I know there’s a lot of people out there they sell presets and stuff
that you can do these wonderful things with Lightroom and Photoshop etc. It is
really just a shortcut to trying to achieve something that really it’s not
teaching you anything. It’s better to to look at individual images, on an
individual basis and just be looking to see what you can do with them and how
things work. And applying things yourself rather than just relying on a preset
from somebody. It just doesn’t translate all the time. So anyway, so let’s look at
these different images. So this image here this that I’m on right now. This is
the image that I took with the auto white balance set on the camera. Now if
you come over to the histogram up here if you remember from the last video that
I did on Lightroom processing that’s when I looked at the white and the
highlight area up here you could see where the RGB values were and
whether there was any colour cast or not. So here you can see this may be a tiny
bit of a blue color cast where this blue peak is just coming out at the end of
the histogram here. So that’s the first one. So overall as far as color casts go
this particular one it’s not too bad the camera it didn’t do too bad with the auto
white balance.This next image here this is what I took with the Kelvin setting
on my camera. So I was trying to match it how I thought my eyes were actually
seeing the scene so if again you look up at the histogram up here.
You can see that there’s a definite blue color cast here as it’s coming out from
this mid-tone area here. This grey mid-tone. So there’s this definite blue color cast in the image. And then finally these two images
here represent, you can see where the camera move there as I are obviously knocked the camera, there’s the gray card that I took just
afterwards to try and use this mid-tone area here to translate back into the
image here. So what can we do with these particular images? Well let’s start with,
for example, this image here. So if I want to color correct this what do I do? Well
the first thing that I want to do with this one is you’ll see up here there is
a potential of a bit of a blue color cast. Now you remember from the Basic Panel you’ve got your temperature slider and
your tint slider. So if we just move that slider over ever so slightly then we can
just remove the blue color cast so it looks a bit more warmer. It looks a bit more
pleasing. So that’s that particular image. And I can do the same with the others
here. Now with the gray card what you can do why you would use a grey
card or a color target such as the X-Rite kind of color target you can
take this the white balance tool and if you come over here. And so the grey card
is supposed to be neutral now if you look on my screen what you’ll see is
you’ll see the RGB values. So it says forty three point two. Forty three point
two and forty five point nine. So what that says is there is a definite blue
color cast shift in the image and if you look up in the histogram up around here
you will see that that is exactly the case. There is a blue color cast in the
image. So what you can do with the white balance tool is if you click here on
this neutral area. The supposed neutral area. Then if I click on there it will
then get rid of that color cast. If I just move it slightly you’ll see it’s
changed all of the values so they are now equal. Forty three point six. Forty
three point six and forty three point six. Again, if you look up in the histogram you will see that it has shifted. So that’s removed the color cast
from there. And then all you would need to do if you’ve used a color target is
then just go up here to the settings; copy settings so if I just uncheck all
of them; check the white balance; copy that; go back to the previous image and then paste it in and there you go. So if I press the Y key on my keyboard you
will see the before and then the after. So you’ll see on the right hand side the
image just looks that little bit warmer against the image on the left hand side.
Another quick tip is if you hold down the shift key and press Y you can cycle
through these different views so you can see exactly where they are if I get rid
of the white balance tool and zoom in just so I can hover around this image.
You can see the definite blue color cast in the grass there. So that’s one way
that you could remove a color cast in your images. You’ve got this grey
balance here. There’s the grey card. You can use the white dropper tool to click
on that and then it will give you a neutral color in your images so let’s
cycle back through to the full scale image there. There’s another way that you
could do color correction in your images. So let’s explore that particular method.
If I go back to my image whereby I thought that the color temperature was
this around five thousand or five thousand one hundred degrees Kelvin it
is what I dialed into my camera you can see that there is a definite blue color
cast up here now one way another way you can add color correction into your
images is if you look at the white and the black values of your images so I
want to look at the highlights first and identify where the whites are now
obviously there’s some white up in the cloud there there’s a bit of maybe white
on these buildings around here if I take the white slider and I push it
to the right-hand side now make sure your shadow indicator and your high
light indicator is set to jakey or these squares up here if i push this value up
here the white and start to see that the red comes in here to indicate that this
is where the whites are so if I double click on whites to reset that if I hover
over this you’ll see it says ninety six point eight ninety six and ninety five
so if I take this white balance tool here again what I could do is if I hover
over there you’ll see it says ninety six point four ninety five point six ninety
four point six so there’s obviously a bit of a color cast somewhere in there
and again I could click the tool just to remove that so you’ll see it says ninety
six point one nine six point one ninety six point one but they see the image has
gone blue but according to Lightroom that’s now color corrected so if I just
put this back here if I press control Z let’s try a slightly different method
again so if I click the eyedropper and then click on the temperature tool go
back up here what I can do here is I can see the RGB the RGB values the ninety
six point eight ninety six point one ninety five and what I want to do is get
the blue is is an obvious blue color cast to match the red and the green so
let’s start removing the blue Telecaster the strange thing is I’m actually going
to have to go towards the blue to remove it
apparently so this is what I’m saying is that at times don’t always rely on
presets so I’m just pressing the down arrow key on my keyboard and you’ll see
that the blue is going up there so it’s going up it’s going to match in a minute
somewhere just around there so you’ll see since 96 point six ninety six point
two ninety six point three says it’s pretty much neutralized the white in the
cloud in the sky however the conventional wisdom says that we
should have a color a near enough kind of color corrected image but you’ll see
that up here you have this blue color cast that’s coming in again and you can
see the images looking blue however more howevers is that when I was out there it
was a cold day and it pretty much is how the scene would have been so if I press
the before-and-after you can see it’s called the image down and this is where
we’re starting to get into d like your images looking cool or do you want them
looking warm or do you want a neutral color cast it all it really is coming
down to science and art which is the better of the two something else that
you can do to further correct your image is if you bring the blacks slider down
then you’ll notice where the black start to blowouts as I bring it down so down
here in these vines if I double click on the black slider and then zoom in here
if i zoom in just more than one to one if I actually put it three to one or
four to one so you can see down here this and detailing in the dark area down
here if I hover over it you’ll see up there in the histogram that says nine
point three eight point nine ten point one so there’s a definite still blue
color cast down here where I want my detail so what do we do you can go to
the tone curve to remove that blue color cast so let’s go to blue on the RGB so
remember you’ve got two different types of time curve you’ve got this one here
highlights lights darks and shadows but I actually want the RGB one and you can
have overall RGB or red green and blue on what the blue I’m then going to grab
hold of this color picker here are then going to go into the vine and then I’m
going to pull it down the black and you’ll see the blue is starting to shift
so just put it down again done zoom out and that is a fully
colored corrected image whereby our red green and blue match in the whites and
then down there in the shadow detail as I said it may be that it’s color
corrected but it actually looked quite blue you could if you wanted to apply
the trick of pushing across the temperature slider so that this blue
comes over here so let’s do that so then it warms the image back up again so
that’s that particular way of doing that it’s another tool in your toolbox to be
color correcting images you can fully color correct it it might not look color
corrected but it is but it may be that you look at the image anything well
actually just want to warm it up again so that is a situation whereby we have
an image we color corrected and actually the white balance isn’t how we really
want it to be so this is what I’m saying as far as presets are concerned that
they are they might be just a starting point but they’re certainly not the
be-all and end-all so don’t necessarily just think oh I’m going to buy a preset
and it will make my images look amazing it’s not the case it’s not always the
case that they’re going to work that particular way
now before I finished this particular this particular episode for this week I
wanted to go to a different image an image that I took in the Dolomites a
couple of weeks ago and I want to show you an image that has a blue color cast
and I’m going to correct it and you’ll see that by using exactly the same
methods but it will actually banish that blue color cast and warned the image up
just a little bit so I’m going to go to this photograph down here
this is saben abbey which sits above cue sir in the Dolomites and there’s the
road that basically runs up from italy right up to Austria so you see this when
you drive up along the main road fantastic location as you can see and
this is around nine o’clock or so in the morning now when you’re looking at the
that’s this image you can see that there is a certain color cast to it although
when you look up at the histogram it’s not necessarily evident what that color
cast might actually be but you can see here at these trees they look they’re in
direct sunlight the Sun has come over the mountains that were over behind my
shoulder when I took this image but they look quite blue and again down here the
trees down here they look quite blue again how do we correct this image let’s
look at this photograph let’s see what we can do with it so I’m going to use a
combination of the white balance tool and the tone curve to color correct this
image and you’ll see what I mean where I’m saying that settings bar the user
presets in Lightroom and not necessarily the be-all and end-all that that every
single image his in fact has to be treated on its own and color corrected
on its own so let’s start that color correction process now if you remember I
was looking at those RGB values so if I start hunting around the image if I go
for example in the vines down here you’ll see it says sixty five point two
sixty two point five fifty three so there’s a shift towards the blue end if
I go in these well lit rocks over here it says eighty five point three eighty
five point four eighty three point six again showing a blue color cast the well
lit trees over here forty eight point three fifty fifty six point nine so
again the RGB values are showing that there’s a blue color cast so let’s find
a good highlight to work from now when you’re working from highlights I don’t
want to work for example from a highlights that are down here these are
blowing out ninety-nine point nine ninety-nine point nine ninety-nine point
eight they serve me no purpose at all I want to look for something around 95
percent and that’s because it around 95 percent we’re getting good detail in our
highlights so let’s see if I can find a good highlight to work from so around
here I guess this is showing 95 seven ninety five point three ninety
five point one may be up around here ninety eight point three it’s too much
let’s look around here eighty seven eighty six point eight eighty seven
point one again as soon as I start moving the mouse around you can see just
very slightly how these values change so I want to this have a look at this one
down here so this says is actually matching and
again up here but I know that there’s a blue color cast so I really need to find
somewhere to work from a good area let’s pull this up so the whites just go down
here ninety eight ninety seven point five ninety six point three again let’s
maybe actually let’s maybe work from the rocks down here so if I take this color
picker here and I click on there to activate the temperature if I click down
here it says eighty six point nine eighty six point two and eighty four
point nine so let’s try and remove that blue color cast so if I start pressing
the down arrow key to shift the blue upwards you might be thinking why on
earth is he adding more blue in but you will see how things change when we start
working somewhere else so at the moment you’ll see those values there they’re
starting to match eighty six point four eighty six point one eighty six point
three so if I come off of that and I dock my white balance tool you will see
if I click before and after the image looks a bit cooler but it’s probably a
good color corrected image so you see they’re in ninety-eight ninety-seven
point seven ninety seven point two so values are starting to to be just a
little bit more than they were now I want to find a dark area now this is
where you’ll see how image to image things do change as far as processing
goes and relying on presets isn’t necessarily the arts
so let’s bring the blacks down and see where we’re getting a lot of black so
down here in this tree area down here so if I double-click on this blacks there
if i zoom into this area down here let’s look at those RGB values again so I’ve
got twenty eight point eight twenty three point seven and thirty three point
eight so again we can see there is a colored difference as a definite blue
color cast and let’s open up the tone curve let’s go to the blue is I always
seem to be on blue let’s take this slider here so you position it there
where you see that color cast is so we’ve got twenty point four twenty one
point four thirty two it’s obviously changes pixel depicts all as to what
you’re going to get so let’s click and then drag down the slider and then
you’ll see when we get to around twenty one or so let’s just get it in there
very quickly 21.7 twenty points twenty-one point for twenty point three
so it’s a bit of a shift in the red let’s grab hold of the red so those push
the red up ever so slightly just around there now I know they’re not exactly
matching if I go back over there’s our T but RGB values but they are close enough
because really a point something isn’t that much so if i zoom out of the image
you will see now that where I had the blue color cast before by correcting the
whites I then by going down to the shadows I’m able to bring back the
warmth that was there that morning so if I click the before and then after you
will see on the left hand side the before which looks quite blue to the
more inviting image of the after so if I shift Y so you can really see up close
if i zoom in the treeline there you can see the blue color cast and these trees
here this just color at all it seems as no color and
yet it was autumn there was color everywhere so you can see there so I
know it looks fuzzy but it is actually at 3 2 1 not 1 2 1 you can see that tree
line there if you see this color here when I push it across there how blue it
looks so there you go that’s a bit of white balance tutorial in Lightroom so
going from the field into Lightroom inspecting RGB values having a look
around and seeing what it is that we can do with our images and seeing how those
RGB values affect things and also that from image to image it’s not necessarily
the case of the scientific method worked at times we are going to be relying on
our eyes to do how we feel the white balance is going to be because a neutral
white balance isn’t necessarily the right way is a good starter for 10 so
that’s it for this week’s vlog which has been centering around white balance in
our landscape photography and of course you can transpose that particular theory
into other genres of photography like portrait and into tribal photography as
well the more general area of photography that I do so that’s it
what’s coming up next I’ll be in Paris next week I’m hoping to be able to vlog
when I’m in the city of Paris then really like logging around cities just
because trying to vlog and keep an eye on everything that I’ve got at the same
time is never the easiest thing to do but if I can vlog and the weather plays
ball then I will be vlogging in the city of Paris thank you to all the
subscribers that have come along in the past week or so no there’s been a lot of
you again I think it’s nearly 200 or so in the last week thank you to my whole
subscribers and thank you to everybody that keeps commenting as well on the
vlogs that I’m putting out it’s really appreciated and I will always answer you
where I can when you’re asking me all those questions so thanks so much for
helping me to keep this channel alive and keep it alive with just your own
thoughts as well and what I’m doing and of course if there’s something that you
want to see in a future vlog do ask I’ve already noted down things like the tilt
shift lens I know people have asked about that and
different ways of using graduated filters so they are on the list it is a
long very long list that I have to do of vlogs over the next year or so as well
as all the travel as well that’s likely to be done next year
so until the next time hopefully next week I shall see you again soon
on my youtube channel

Comments 17

  • Evening all! Latest vlog is up and I'm hoping that it serves a good purpose for you.

    This week the weather in the Loire Valley has been truly dreadful. The afternoon that this was filmed was pretty much the best weather that we saw. But even then the sun disappeared behind a cloud before I could finish this off properly.

    But there should be a few gems in there for those looking for info on Lightroom 😉

  • Thanks Julian. I've had limited experience using the dropper for these instances. An informative technical overview that I will come back to often for review. Appreciate the guidance.

  • Great video Julian, I can honestly say I have never in my life seen a more comprehensive white balance/color correction tutorial. BTW, I am in Paris if you want to grab a drink or do some photography around the city I would be happy to play host, just send me a message if you interested. Thanks again for another great vid!

  • Excellent video Julian. I learned a lot about white balance. Thank you.

  • Excellent Vlog Julian. Merry Xmas to you and yours. Greg

  • Hi Julian I totally agree with the other comments, I am studying white balance and colour correction. I have the X-Rite colour checker passport but not sure it is that useful in landscape photography, maybe a close up shot of rocks, bushes etc but if like your last image you are say half a mile away, I think you need more of a good post processing solution such as the one you show. Thank you.

  • Another good one Julian particularly the use of the tone curve – it's good to see excellent tuition that is not linked to selling a gizmo to make me the world's best photographer overnight. I much appreciate your down to earth approach – keep up the good work.

    All the best for Christmas and `New Year.

  • Excellent! Thank you!

  • Wouldn't using a color checker passport do the same as well as correct all colors in a quicker format?

  • Hint: the clouds are far away and they are blue because of atmosphere. It’s the same when you have mountains in the distance. The dolomite picture has the same thing. – So picking a far distance “white” will not bring correct results.

  • Good one Julian. I don't rely on preset neither, although they can be a good base to start from. It is true that in the end it's the person in charge of the post-correction who makes the final decision.

  • What an amazing instructional vlog! Thank you so much. I have just applied your teaching to an image I thought I was happy with and I am astounded at the difference. Get the colour balance correct and then do what you usually do – highlights, shadows, clarity etc. It is amazing how much extra colour comes into the image! Love the way you approach photography and post processing Julian 🙂

  • Wonderful vlog Julian, never really looked into the WB science that much. Will have to re check a few images.

  • Nice video Julian. White Balance is certainly a keep topic and one that I don't think is talked about all the much. I've subbed! If you get a spare moment I'd really appreciate if you could provide some feedback on my videos. I'm brand new to vlogging so still looking for advice and pointers where ever possible. Looking forward to your next video

  • The general advice is to get the colour you want in camera as opposed to color-correct in post.

  • I’ve never seen anyone use the tone curve to manipulate white balance. Super interesting technique! I’ll definitely give this a try.

  • Very informative and extremely useful. Thanks

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