I first noticed this when I used one push white balance in Hxr-Mc2500 sitting on a fluid head. I used a piece of A4 paper for WB reference and the lighting of the incandescent bulbs became weird white mush killing the color accuracy of everything in the room.

The same thing happened when I did manual/preset WB on my Nikon D80 which I used an A4 paper again.

So in the end Which WB Kelvin values keep the lighting faithful for incandescent and dawn/sunset times respectively? Is there an actual method for EVF and OVF cameras for manually selecting Kelvin values or selecting these values in Photoshop?

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    \$\begingroup\$ There seems to be some conflict here - setting white balance for room lighting will correct for any temperature offset in that lighting, it won't preserve the 'atmosphere' as you see it in the room. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 11:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin I thought the whole purpose Of WB was preserving the accurate color reproduction though. It wouldnt be correct if everything had a blue tint in a warm room. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ But if you're in a warm room & you correct back to white, it will look blue by comparison. if you're photographing some 'period drama' look & white balance everything 'correctly' it will look like a school disco just after they put the big lights back on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ On a point of order, A4 paper is a size, not a colour. I have sheets of red A4 paper. For white balance, I use a purpose-made white balance aid. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ https://www.staples.co.uk/content/images/product/GenesisExtraLarge/15/10/asset.151510.jpg \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


Let me try to swing a not-too-technical explanation of this…

Start out with "what do I want to achieve?" Accurate colour, or a more 'emotional' representation of what the scene feels like to be there.
The human eye corrects for white balance without you really being able to tell it's doing it, but by the time an image is on paper or a screen, that self-correction aspect is gone. What remains is an impression of what factors created it. Humans equate warm & cool to orange & blue.

If we're thinking in Kelvin, then let's consider daylight to be 5500 & indoor lighting to be maybe 3200.

So if we're indoors & we want our whites to appear white, then we'd set the camera to 3200 & Bob's the relative of your choice.
For any emotive imagery, though, this is going to just feel too cold. From my comment above, if you're looking for that 'period drama' look, you're going to end up with something that looks more like a school disco just after the adults put the big lights back on. Completely blows the atmosphere.

If, however, you want to retain that warm, cozy look, then you dial your WB back towards daylight, 5500. This will makes everything 'off-white' & colour-distorted, but it will retain the 'coziness'.

Setting it right up to 5500 might end up looking too warm, but that's the eye's self-correction method failing in a reproduced image - so you need to run some tests to see precisely which comes out nearest to how you imagine it to be.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just as a comment rather than part of the answer, as this is distinctly 'video' not 'photography' but see this trailer for a show i worked on. It's almost entirely shot at 5400, except for a couple of very 'blue' scenes by a lake, which was dialled down to I think 4400 or so [I wasn't there for those scenes]. youtube.com/watch?v=hJGedvRfHYg It has, of course, been colour graded after the fact, but they have retained essentially what was shot in terms of the overall look. I think it shows 4 distinct looks, indoor day [2 varieties], indoor night & outdoor [plus the 'blue' scenes'] \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 12:43

I believe there is a misconception here.

Doing a manual white balance, will not preserve the look of the lighting, it will try to neutralize the light and thus the rendition of color.

How white balance works

If you have a room with warm (incandescent) light, the light has a very yellow/orangish tone to it. Any object that is reflecting the light will absorb different wave-lenghts of light to various degrees. Thus we perceive its color.

If the light that hits the object is very yellow, the reflected light will share this trait.

To create a correction in white balance, you shine the existing light onto a neutral object (white or neutral grey) and tell the camera that this should be the new reference for neutral color. This way the camera is able to calculate the offset and compensate for it.

A formerly yellowish mood will now look neutral.

Note: This will not work completely if you have mixed light. This is the reason why you can change the color temp on many lights. You can then either match the temp to have the same look - or set them differently to set a special mood (e.g. a warm bedside lamp and a very blue light from a window to indicate night).

What of you want to preserve the mood?

Then override the white balance by setting the color temperature manually to whatever setting you like. On a mirrorless camera, this is quite easy, as you can see the preview. Also if you shoot raw, you can completely override the white balance in post production - and fine-tune the mood with that.

This enables you e.g. to make a mid day image to look like sunset - and use the color temperature as another means of telling a story.


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