White Balance setting for indoors

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by pnomanWV, May 31, 2021.

  1. Greetings. Although I have been taking photos for many years, I feel like a beginner trying to find an answer to this one. I would appreciate any advice.

    My Nikon D-7500 has an Auto White Balance setting, which is where I usually leave it. Almost all of my photography is outdoors, and that works fine for me.

    However, last week we went to visit our Son, D-I-L, and new grandson (our first!!!). I took a LOT of photos, but the ones without flash came out an awful orange color. The kids have LED lights throughout the house. Luckily, I caught it early on and only had a couple dozen "orange shots" before switching to flash. The ones with flash came out OK.

    The camera does not have an LED setting, and I thought the "Auto" setting would compensate. The available settings are: Automatic, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, and Choose Color Temp.

    I am attaching a photo so you can get an idea how bad they were. Thanks for any suggestions.

    Indoor Color 1.jpg
  2. I'd shoot RAW and set the WB during conversion but my cameras ar older &/ less familiar.
    Looking at your image, you have a lot of outdoors / window in the frame, that probanly distracted your AWB as bright as it is.
    Maybe read up how to set your WB with a test target?
    Another option would be trial &error with manually dialed values.
    LED lights aren't created equally; many get tweaked to mimic warm conventional lightbulbs although they could deliver something closer to daylight.
    pnomanWV likes this.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    If the Old Gold and Blue pillow has a white background, an easy fix in any post processing software. The combination of room and window back light is probably the issue. Don't have a D7500, but the White balance menu on My D7200 has auto plus six presets and capability to choose actual color temperature. if you shoot there often, a white card and a little experimentation will allow you to set up a preset.
  4. Wow. I've seen a lot of images with incorrect white balance, but this one is really odd.

    I dropped into Adobe Camera Raw and did a white balance on the whites of the toddler's eye and got this:


    Not perfect, but closer. It required a huge shift on the blue-yellow axis (toward blue) and a big one on the magenta-green axis (toward green).

    My guess is that your son has some LEDs that have a very uneven spectrum. Unless you pay a lot of $$, many LEDs do, with gaps and peaks in the spectrum. This probably fooled the Auto program in your camera. The flash would have been birght enough to overpower the LEDs, and your camera probably knows how to handle flash properly.

    When I first started shooting digital many years ago, it was WB problems indoors at a Thanksgiving dinner that was the beginning of the end of shooting JPEG for me. I later mentioned to a cousin who teaches photography at the university level that I was having trouble getting rid of unnatural colors, and she replied "that's one reason I shoot raw."
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  5. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I will try to read up on taking a reading from a white card before our next visit. I will also experiment with different manual settings then, too.

    In the meantime, I may experiment with Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro 2019 and see if I can "fix" the orange ones. @paddler4 - your fix looks good. I will see if I can find those color shifts in my 2 programs.

    BTW - oddly enough, we took a few photos with our cell phones (nothing fancy) to have a few screen savers. The color on those came out OK. Hmm.

    Thanks again.
  6. More than likely Jochen is right on the money.

    Here's what I'd do. Get out your camera manual and look up "custom white balance." (I don't know Nikons; they might use a different term) With this you set it by photographing a white card (or white paper, or a neutral gray card) under the same lighting condition as the subject. So the camera sees what is the error in the white card, and the camera changes its individual R, G, and B settings to be correct. This special white balance setting is now stored in the camera, and you can call it up the same way as the other white balance settings. Note: as a confirmation that you did it correctly I would suggest, after setting this custom white balance, to take a test shot of the white card and view the color histogram of the image ( check the camera manual if you don't know how to do this). The histogram will ideally show a sharp spike for each color, and they should all be on top of each other (if one of the spikes is offset from the others then the WB was not properly set). After doing thus you'll probably get pretty decent skin color under that specific light source.

    Warning - after the shooting session immediately reset your camera WB back to auto. Otherwise you'll likely botch up color the next time you use the camera.

    Jochen is again right about LEDs being different. Fundamentally current "white" LEDs work in a similar manner. They have a fundamental "blue" component and a fundamental green-and-red component. These two components can be individually determined, so for a "daylight" balance (high color temperature) they make the blue component strong. Or for a "tungsten" balance (low color temperature) the blue component is weak. The whole point of this is that you might need different WB settings for different lights in the house. So double check them if you plan to shoot in different places.

    FWIW the current "white" LEDs are missing light energy between the bluish spike and the rest of the colors. So while you can get pretty acceptable skin color from them you won't be able to have top-notch skin tone reproduction. (Yeah, i know that everybody and his brother on the internet says they get great skin tones, so try asking them if they ever did high-quality side by side testing, LED vs flash/daylight, with hand-balanced color prints, viewed under proper, full-spectrum lighting, such as daylight).

    A second thing that I would consider doing is to use a low-power pop-up flash on the camera (I'm guessing that your camera has one). But... I'd use a colored gel to match the flash color to the ambient light. This adds to the complexity of the setup, but IF you've got 1) the time, and 2) an assortment of gels, this could be worthwhile. Without using a gel on the flash you'd likely get different color in the shadows, so probably not a good idea. Best of luck.

    Ps, to match a gelled flash to ambient light, you would set a custom WB for ambient. Then shoot tests, under flash, using that same WB,of the same white card. View the color histogram for each test shot to see what color error predominates. Try different colored gels to see what helps. Close is probably good enough, as long as the fill flash is fairly weak - say around -2 stops on the flash compensation setting.

    Ps, if I didn't have the time to set up the jpegs carefully then I'd make sure to also shoot RAW along with them.
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  7. Thanks.

    I noticed other photos that did not have a window in the background were still orange, but not quite as bad. They may have also had different brand LEDs in different fixtures, which could maybe confuse the camera.

    I think I will take time to try the different manual settings first thing on our next visit. I may also shop for a small used Nikon flash to set up with bounce and/or diffuser. That may be less harsh than the small built in one.
  8. Mixed lighting can be a PITA to work with. Because as you or the subject moves around, you can get more of one light than the other, and the color changes. And the mix is neither one, nor the other, so you have to use custom WB.
    When you are shooting towards a strong light source, IT could fool the auto-WB. In the case of your pic, the window is probably not the primary illumination on you, but a backlight. So the WB of the window is not relevant.

    Some cameras can do auto-WB better than others. My Nikon D7200 figures out the lighting in my school gym much better than my Olympus. I have to use custom WB with the Olympus. But there are times and places where the Nikon auto-WB fails.

    My solution for family events is generally to get a flash and bounce it off the WHITE ceiling or the wall behind me.
    The flash cures a lot of lighting problems.
    In your case, make sure you get an iTTL flash, that will do TTL with your Nikons.
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  9. I discovered this problem after we upgraded most of the light fixtures in our living room to LED. I found the best fix on my Nikons was to set a custom white balance that I saved and can be re-used at any time. I also discovered this setting was quite finicky, and only really worked under the exact conditions under which the reference image was exposed (full dark outside the big picture windows). I do a new one for other various lighting conditions, shoot in raw, and take my time processing. This approach has worked well with my D5100, D7100, and D810. If using a flash, I make the reference exposure using the flash plus ambient light for a fully correct reading.
    pnomanWV likes this.
  10. David, you might consider trying to gel your flash, depending on what the color temp (actually "correlated," CCT) of your LEDs is. Lacking any gels made for the purpose, and fairly "warm" LEDs (meaning something like 3 or 4 thousand K) you might not be too far off with a piece of clear (orangish) color negative film. If the effect is too strong, try covering only half the flash, etc. If you can come up with something close, no more worries about the specific ambient/flash balance at anymoment. (But outdoor daylight spilling in from windows will still be an issue.) Best of luck.
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  11. Is there not a custom setting on Nikons that specifies whether or not to keep some of the 'warmth' (orange cast) when shooting under incandescent lighting with auto white balance?
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  12. I second this advice.
    Adding flash must be done with care, else you introduce yet another colour bias. Mixing light of two different colours is problematic. Adding yet another one can make things worse. So you have to make sure it matches your main light, which here is artificial.
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  13. The Outdoor, Fluorescent, Incandescent, etc are major settings. Does the camera also have a adjustment in the Menu that allows you to set the light setting to a specific Kelvin rating? It would look like a slider. You can then move the slider while looking at the LED screen until looks correct.

    Keep in mind that bulbs including LED's are rated in Kelvin. So you can buy them rated at let's say 2500, 2800, 3500, 5000, 6000. The higher the number, the whiter the light. Usually in homes people like warmer tones like 2800 as people look better in warmer light. On the other hand, you may find that whiter lights with higher Kelvin numbers are better in work areas like in the kitchen.
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  14. Bill, I don't own any gels. Besides, it's really quite easy to set a custom white balance when needed. It's just a matter of remembering to do so. It does make taking photographs a little less impromptu...
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  15. LED lamps are usually no problem for Auto White Balance, but CFL lamps are. I've yet to find a domestic CFL lamp that doesn't come out too yellow or orange with a camera set to AWB.

    The answer is to use either the Kelvin white-balance setting, or a custom white-balance (called PRE - short for preset - in the D7500 white-balance menu).

    Both of these settings are fully described in the pdf D7500 manual on pages 137 and 139.

    The PREset method is probably the most reliable. It entails taking a picture of a white object - a sheet of A4 copier paper is ideal - under the lighting in question and with the camera in Preset mode. This setting gets stored in one of 6 memories, and can be recalled for future use. Anyway, this is all explained in the manual.

    A Custom, or preset white balance setting is available on many cameras, and is well worth taking the time to learn to use. Although Nikon's implementation is one of the most awkward to set up that I've yet come across.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2021
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  16. True, but still less of a problem than messing about with various gels.;) This is one reason I keep a collapsible white/grey card in my camera bag.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2021
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  17. I never carried a grey card, until recently.
    The lights in my gym cannot be matched by the AWB on my Olympus. I had to use custom WB.
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  18. I find it helpful, when adjusting such color casts in post, to work selectively on areas getting light from different sources rather than make universal color changes. In the original, the oof foliage naturally lit and much of what was in the direct light of the window was fine. In the reworking, which benefitted the shadowed faces, though with a bit of a cold, blue bias, the foliage, curtains, and wall area are now looking artificially off color to me.


    Additionally, working selectively with color temps in post can help a photographer emphasize various things and go a long way toward establishing atmosphere and mood.

    No doubt, starting out with a good out-of-camera base to work with is often desirable, and that may but wonโ€™t necessarily offer the desired final outcome.
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  19. I agree completely. In addition, I use a bounce card (a Demb) to direct a bit of light forward, which eliminates shadows under the eyebrows and give a bit of catchlight in the eyes.
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  20. Doesn't work around here, ceilings tend to have large oak beams and walls are stone...

    ...so a pop-up reflector is handy, hang it where you want to bounce your flash.

    Still fairly sure that Nikon has a 'Keep warm lighting' option when using auto white balance though, so maybe check that first?
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