Lightroom Ultimate Guide – White Balance

In photography, White Balance is a scale of the primary colour intensities measured in degrees Kelvin. When post-processing it is important to render neutral colours correctly. This is particularly noticeable in portraiture, where the human eye is very adept at recognising if skin tones are incorrect. White Balance is often used during post-processing in a creative/aesthetic way, for instance in Landscape Photography to add warmth or coolness to an image.

Colour Temperature Table

Table 1 below, shows the correlated colour temperature of common light sources, and we will refer to this table later in the article.

Colour TemperatureLight Source
1000-2000 KCandlelight
2500-3500 KTungsten Lamps
3000-4000 KSunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 KFluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 KElectronic Flash
5000-6500 KDaylight with Clear Sky
6500-8000 KModerately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K  Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky 
Table 1 – Colour Temperature Table

Lightroom White Balance Controls

White Balance

In Lightroom the White Balance controls can be found by navigating to the Development Module and selecting the Basic panel.

Lightroom provides two different colour treatments, one of Black & White and the other for Colour images. Fundamentally they both work in the exact same way.

Colour Correction Pippette

First of all, let’s look at the basic workflow to correct a colour cast in an image – Colour Correction. This is where we take an image and select a point that should be pure white. As a demonstration, the following video uses a photograph of a colour card. As captured from camera, the White Balance is slightly off, and there is a yellow colour cast.

Using the Pipette tool, we select the white tone by left-clicking on the white area of the image, and Lightroom automatically corrects the White Balance for the complete image.

This is the most basic use of the White Balance tool in Lightroom. You obviously don’t need an image with a colour card in it! Just select the point in any image you are post-processing at a point that should be white, and Lightroom does the rest.

White Balance Profiles

If you are working with a RAW image file, Lightroom gives you a set of selectable White Balance profiles. These are accessed from the top right-hand side of the White Balance section in Basic Panel, by left-clicking the “As Shot” text to the far right of the “WB:” icon.

White Balance Profiles

The short video below gives a quick demonstration for each of the profiles. These are a great way to correct the balance in an image to match a shoot. Let’s say for instance, that you were shooting an image in daylight, but you had the camera set to Cloudy. The preset profiles allow you to do this. Another example is you perhaps want to give the impression that the image was shot in specific lighting conditions.

Colour Correction Sliders

In the centre of the White Balance section of the Basic Panel are two sliders. One is labelled Temperature, the other Tint. Again, if you are processing a RAW image, the Temperature slider allows you to directly adjust the temperature of your image to match the Kelvin temperature scale between 2,000 and 50,000 degrees Kelvin. If you are not working in RAW, you get a scale of -100 to 100, but the principle is the same, in terms of the adjustment range.

The Tint Slider is useful to correct any colour casting either from camera, or as a result of white balance or tonal adjustments you have made during processing. Some people also use it aesthetically, for example in golden hour landscape shots to enhance colour.

Profile Browser

The Profile Browser is like an extension to the White Balance Profiles covered above. You access them by left-clicking the square icon at the top right-hand corner of the White Balance section in the Basic panel.

The following quick video scrolls view the different options, which by default are:

  • Adobe Profiles
  • Camera Profiles (The native settings for the camera the photo was taken on)
  • Creative Profiles

From personal experience, I like some of the Adobe Profiles, particularly as a baseline setting for further edits. In fact, if you know your way around the Basic section of the Develop Module, including the White Balance Profiles, and the Tone Curves, then you basically never need to purchase another preset again.

Be sure to check out some more of our Lightroom Articles and How-to Guides. Here is a selection that may interest you:

Lightroom Tone Curves
Lightroom Tone Curves

If you can master Lightroom Tone Curves, you will never need to purchase another Lightroom preset. With a little practice and experimentation, you will soon be a Tone Curve champion.

Lightroom Presence
Lightroom Presence
(Saturation & Texture)

The Lightroom Presence sliders enable you to adjust the texture and saturation of your images, and are part of the standard controls used in post-processing

Lightroom Histogram
Lightroom Histogram & Tone Adjustments

Understanding the Lightroom Histogram forms the foundation of all post-processing you will ever do in Lightroom


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