White balance (WB) is one of those topic that people like to argue about when discussing the image quality. However, I find that it’s a non-issue because different people have different sensitivity to colour. Moreover, it’s something that can easily be adjusted in post-process without any loss in detail or overall image quality. Therefore, this section will be intentionally short because I’m a huge believer in shoot first talk later. 😉
WB is basically the image processor deciding which colour temperature is more beautiful based on the ambient light & the subject. The “taste” of the programmer may defer from yours but in general, indoor shots are artificially lit, so the software will try to compensate by adjusting the colour temperature, measured in K.
The higher the K number, the cooler or bluer it looks. The lower the K number, the warmer or yellower it looks. The gold standard is always to try to make it look like ambient sunlight lit the subject.
- Auto – makes florescent/LED light cooler, incandescent light very blue, overcast sky brighter & warmer
- Cloudy (overcast) – makes the picture warmer with more contrast
- Sunlight – neutral, does nothing
- Florescent – makes the picture a bit cooler
- Incandescent light bulb – makes the picture a lot cooler
You can obviously use these settings creatively but generally it doesn’t replace a good filter be it over the lens type or software filter. You only really need this when the Camera app is unable to get the right WB whatever you do. For example, when shooting underwater during a scuba dive.