I already know what White Balance is (at least enough to get by!) I already know what Custom White Balance is.

All of the pre-configured White Balance options on the Canon DSLRs have meaningful icons - pictures of the sun, clouds, tungsten and fluoro lights, etc.

But the Custom White Balance icon is a mystery to me. It is a round-corners black rectangle upon two white triangles. (There's a picture here from this site.). Update, here is the pic:

alt text

My idle thought after some late-night experimentation with white-balance is: What are these shapes supposed to represent?

[Update: Originally I thought this was just Canon, but answers below indicate other brands use it too, including Pentax and Olympus. I checked quickly before originally posting, and Nikon have a different name for it (Preset), and no icon in the manual I checked.]

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    The sliders in stereo amplifiers that you use to (manually) set the balance between the left and right audio channels? – Jukka Suomela Dec 9 '10 at 15:00
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    It's probably worth noting that the triangles are sometimes drawn as outlines and sometimes filled in... – Matt Grum Dec 9 '10 at 15:42
  • @Jukka - I think this should be an answer, rather than a comment. – ysap Apr 4 '11 at 3:35

Since the other white balance symbols are so literal, I'd say that the Custom one could be related to the activities involved in setting the custom white balance.

  • You need to point a camera somewhere and register what is supposedly your reference point. Therefore the rectangle in the middle of the icon, supposedly representing the act of acquiring a color reference.

  • You can afterwards calibrate your color balance using two axes (Blue/Amber and Magenta/Green), therefore the two triangles in the bottom.

My 2c :o)

  • I have accepted this as the answer, because it strikes me as the most plausible. However, I don't know if it is correct. Thanks André. – Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:21

To me the center rectangle represents the white balance itself, and the small triangles are "cursors: (or sliders) that you would move to say: "here is exactly where I want my custom balance to be, in between these 2 values". Cursors similar to what you have in a caliper.

alt text

  • Interesting idea, Sebastien. Thank you. I can see the triangles in the caliper cursors, but they are oriented differently in the icon. If a graphic designer wanted to represent calipers, I am not sure they would end up with that icon. – Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:20

To me, it looks like a person sitting for a portrait shot, with two lights in front of him/her - as viewed from the top.

(As a software developer I often have to design simple icons. It's one of the hardest jobs I have. I mean, how does one convey the word "Re-synthesize" or "Writeback Cache" in a 32x32 pixel icon? No idea.)

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    As a fellow developer, I wholeheartedly agree! +1 – AJ Finch Dec 10 '10 at 11:40

When I look at it, I see a person - head is the rounded rectangle, shoulders are the 2 triangles. I think it's the photographer, so the implication is that the photographer is setting whatever s/he wants ??

  • Thanks AJ. I did wonder if it was supposed to be a poor rendering of a face, but the other answers suggest not, because it is square on some brands. – Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:12

It's not just Canon. Pentax's looks similar, although the rectangle doesn't have rounded corners and is more like a screen (or photo print with borders). And I've seen it in other brands too, although I can't find an example offhand. So, while I can't say what it means, I can at least confirm that it's widespread, and that the center object probably isn't meant to indicate a person.

alt text


It's probably meant to represent some piece of equipment that no longer exists:


I wonder how long it will be before people don't know what this icon represents!

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    Just like how people already don't know why it's "floppy". :) – Guffa Dec 9 '10 at 23:02
  • good point (sadly) :-( – AJ Finch Dec 10 '10 at 11:40
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    Thanks Matt. I did wonder if the icon represented the controls on some old piece of equipment (enlarger for colour negatives?) That was one reason for posting it here: I think there are enough people with an interest in historical photography equipment to recognise it. – Oddthinking Dec 12 '10 at 22:15

It's white balance, so the white rectangle represent "white" while the two triangles represent a fulcrum, the "white" being "balanced" between them, like a see-saw.


The triangles represent the orange and blue shifts of the 3000k and 9000k light, and the rectangle represents the neutral white in between.

orange,blue shift

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    That seems like an interesting theory, but can you give a little more to back it up? – Please Read Profile Mar 30 '14 at 19:30
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    Also:this image is clearly clipped from something else. What is the original source? – Please Read Profile Mar 30 '14 at 22:15

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