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How to Set Custom White Balance

Published: 10/09/2021

Are you getting frustrated with the yellowish tint on your images? Using white balance does the trick, although setting the wrong one can result in unnatural-looking colors. This is why we're teaching you how to set custom white balance to display the colors of your real estate photos accurately. 

How to Set Custom White Balance

To set a custom white balance, pick the appropriate shooting mode and exposure settings. Frame the shot against a neutral or white background as a reference. Using the same light for the shoot, set the camera to custom white balance to apply the settings for the rest of the photos.

However, creating your own white balance settings can feel complicated at first. Let's go over the steps in creating a customized white balance for your real estate images.

Steps on Setting Custom White Balance

You may encounter tricky lighting situations when photographing properties. However, knowing how to set a custom white balance would help you achieve an accurate portrayal of the scene's colors.

LCD screen of a black Canon camera

Select the Exposure Mode and Focusing

Similar to using an external flash, you first need to choose the camera's exposure mode. Use Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program. You can't use Bulb or other fully automatic modes when customizing white balance.

Modify the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, if necessary, to achieve the correct exposure. Furthermore, it's ideal to choose manual focusing to help the camera focus better on a balance card or neutral background.

Frame the Shot

Compose your shot using a standard white balance target. You can use either a reference card, a white wall, or an 18% gray background for the camera sensor to calculate the best color temperatures for the scene's hues.

After that, check if you can see the center autofocus point and 6 surrounding points. 

Take a sample photo of something white under the lights you'll be using for the rest of the shoot. You can use the ceiling, wall, a piece of paper, or anything white or grey as the reference.

Set the Camera to Custom White Balance

From your camera's shooting menu, choose the custom white balance or press the white balance button. Pick the sample shot from earlier by pressing the Set or OK button.

All photos you will take in the same lighting scenario should turn out neutral with natural colors. Try reshooting the subject when there's an obvious color bias. Some camera models have a fine-tune screen, which allows you to tweak the settings further.

Cameras typically store the custom white balance settings until you use them for the next time. If you need to move to another room or change external lights, you must change the custom white balance settings again to avoid color casts.

What to Do If You Don't Have a Neutral Scene

There are times when you won't have a neutral background as a reference, or you don't have a gray card. While you can fix the white balance during post-processing on Lightroom, you can save time by adjusting the settings on the camera right away.

  • Depending on your lighting system, you can use the Kelvin scale to decrease or increase the values to set the white balance.
  • If you're a Nikon user, go to the shooting menu, select white balance, then choose the color temperature. Then, adjust the temperature that's appropriate for your lighting conditions. 
  • For Canon cameras, use the Kelvin scale adjustment from the shooting menu.

About 40% of people respond better to visual information. Thus, seeing a well-taken real estate photo lets buyers visualize the property better and develop an emotional connection. Troubleshooting your white balance settings can mean the difference between unnatural and professional-looking real estate pictures.

Understanding White Balance in Real Estate Photography

White balance refers to how cool or how warm the colors look in your real estate photos. While the best DSLRs normally reproduce the colors of the subjects the same way they are in real life, there are times when you would accidentally get color casts.

Woman smiling while looking at camera LCD

For instance, the light may appear bluish on a bright sunny day when the subject is under a shade. Such color differences can turn off potential buyers. This is why you need to customize the white balance settings to make whites look white again.

DSLRs generally include white balance presets, including Auto, Fluorescent, Tungsten, and Daylight. However, a custom white balance setting enables you to photograph properties with true-to-life colors.

When to Use Custom White Balance in Real Estate Photos

Automatic and semi-automatic white balance modes work well in most shooting conditions. However, there are certain situations in real estate photography where it's much better to customize the white balance.

  • Shooting exteriors means facing constant and quick changes in color temperatures. The correct white balance can combat the reflection of lights or color contamination.
  • When doing night photography, you'll need to assist the camera sensor to best represent the colors without the light source affecting the scene.
  • When there's light coming in from outdoors and adding artificial lighting indoors, the light rays can confuse the camera's sensor, causing unnatural-looking colors. 
  • Taking panoramic shots may involve moving lights or changing colors. You can fix this unwanted color shift using customized white balance settings.
  • Taking bracketed images involves shooting with varying exposure settings. Hence, you may notice yellow casts if you use the same white balance settings for all photos.
  • Automatic white balance modes may struggle for low-light or timelapse photoshoots, casting unnaturally warm colors on the images.
  • When you combine multiple lighting fixtures in interior shoots, then bring in external lights and flashes, this opens the opportunity for color casts to appear.

The combined value of residential homes in the United States reached $33.6 trillion, a 51% increase from the beginning of the decade. As more people look for new homes to purchase, realtors and agents would work with real estate photographers to produce professional and high-quality images.

Conclusion

White balance affects an image's appearance and mode. It's crucial that you use the right settings to ensure you can accurately represent the scene. We hope that this simple guide on setting a custom white balance can help improve the colors of your real estate photos.

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