What can I do about some of my pictures turning yellowish under fluorescent lights - I can not turn the lights off - judo lessons for my grandson in school gym. I am using the Canon Rebel XSI (450D) digital camera. I take all of my pictures on the auto setting, I don't have very good vision. If I am close pictures are fine but ones from any distance are yellow.

  • 1
    Are you using flash?
    – Michael C
    Sep 29 '13 at 21:08
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    Interesting how this problem seems to be the very common at martial arts places. The question that I linked was martial arts, yours is martial arts and my first personal experience with this was at my wife's martial arts gym.
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 1 '13 at 15:55
  • @AJHenderson :) does fast martial arts movements cause light to shift to orange? :) Oct 2 '13 at 13:59
  • @woliveirajr - no, but it does increase the shutter speed you need to use. The problem is actually that certain types of florescent lights don't emit a consistent color through the power cycle. At times of lower voltage, they can turn yellow. What you are actually seeing with the yellow tint is that the camera happened to take the picture while the power was at the low point in the cycle, so the room was actually that color at the moment.
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 2 '13 at 14:06

Your camera has the ability to manually set the white balance. Under most circumstances, the auto white balance feature works fine, but since it's very likely you're shooting JPEG, correction after the fact when it does get it wrong is probably going to degrade your image quality a bit. at any rate, page 90 of the English version of the manual for your camera is the instructions for setting white balance. This is needed because, while the white under the lights appears white to us, it really isn't and so the camera needs to have some idea how far from that condition it is and sometimes you have to tell it.

You may also need to learn to shoot in a different mode (such as shutter priority) to control this, I'm not entirely sure on that front (I shoot Nikon, so it's different) reading what the manual has to offer. In any event, I actually recommend you learn to shoot with shutter priority for sports, better control, less likely to have blurry pictures. You can always switch back to auto for other purposes.

One thing to remember... if you change the setting, don't forget to reset it to auto again when done!


On auto, the camera tries to automatically adjust the overall tone of the picture. I would expect different sources of the problem:

  • the fluorescent light sources are not all the same, then having mixture of light sources causes troubles
  • at large distance photos, there is some dominant color, which tricks the camera into wrong choice of white balance

Regardless the cause, using a photo editor it is possible to correct the white balance. Especially at judo, people should have some white stuff on them, which could be used as reference white spot.


There are several things you can do, but almost all of them require taking the camera off of full auto. If you use the P (Program mode) setting, thw camera will still select the aperture and shutter speed for you, but you will be able to select more options for other things, especially White Balance.

If you are not allowed to use flash at the gym:

  • Set the White Balance (WB) setting in the camera to White florescent lighting. If that doesn't work, use a specific color temperature. Most gymnasium lighting is in the 3500K to 4300K range. You might also need to use White Balance Correction. How to set a White Balance Correction is covered on page 92-93 of the XSi Instruction Manual. You can also set a Custom WB by taking a picture of a white or grey card and telling the camera to use that reference shot for setting the color balance. How to set a custom WB is explained on pages 90-91 of the XSi Instruction Manual.
  • Set the Image Recording Quality to RAW. This requires that you post process the pictures on your computer, but gives you much more latitude in adjusting the color and WB after the shot has been taken. You can use Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) that was included on the software disc that came with your camera. There is even a tool in DPP that allows you to click on a white object and the WB will be adjusted so that object appears white.

If you are allowed to use flash at the gym:

  • The reason the closer shots look fine is the flash has enough power at that distance to overpower the gym lights. When the flash is turned on the camera normally adjusts the WB for the color of the light emitted by the flash. The reason the distance pictures look yellow is because the flash doesn't have enough power to reach that far and even though the camera sets the WB to the color of the flash, the light in the pictures is coming from the gym's lighting that is a different color.
  • For longer distance shots your flash will be more effective if you increase the camera's ISO setting. Just be aware that the higher ISO you use, the 'grainier' your pictures may look. How to adjust your camera's ISO setting is covered on page 57 of the XSi Instruction Manual.
  • An external flash will be much more powerful than the one built into your camera. This will allow you to use the flash from a greater distance. The Canon 430EXII would probably be more than enough for your needs. It can be set to use Canon's automatic flash system known as E-TTL. You can also buy a third party flash that is E-TTL compatible, such as the YongNuo YN-468 II E-TTL Speedlite for about 1/3 the price of the 430EX II.

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