White Balance Made Easy
By adjusting the White Balance settings on your camera, you can make a dramatic impact on your scenic photography. One helpful way to think of this setting is to visualize a Painter mixing various colors on an easel. With photography, the temperature of the image can appear bluish, neutral or warm based on the chosen WB. For outdoor images, there are just three presets I recommend working with. Let's explore each with a series of photos from Bryant Park. Each frame was taken with the same exact exposure. Only the White Balance has changed.
Auto White Balance: This preset has more blue mixed in, making the photo appear to have a cooler tone to it. If you never wanted to explore beyond Auto White Balance, it would serve you well for most outdoor photography as it's a fairly accurate representation of the scene. Still, it can be a bit too neutral, and lacking in vibrancy and pop! The next two options offer photographers more control.
Cloudy White Balance: This is perhaps my favorite WB setting as it retains an accurate representation of the color temperature while adding a hint of warmth to the scene. With the "Cloudy" preset, there is more yellow being added to the mix. This is very effective at adding brilliance to bold colors, and making objects in the shade appear less blue. Greens also become more vibrant, making it an ideal choice from sunrise to mid-afternoon, through sunset.
Shade White Balance: Thinking back to the painter at the easel, the blend not only contains yellow, but orange as well. With this preset, it is very easy to overdo the effect, making a photo look quite unnatural and simply too warm. If your scene already has brilliant colors, you may be better off with the "Cloudy" preset. However, landscapes with subtle touches of color can be beautifully enhanced with the "Shade" setting.
By exploring these three options, you will find that each has their own valid purpose. Based on your own artistic preferences, you may choose to utilize one more than the others. If I was to go back and check the majority of my landscape images, the "Cloudy" preset would prove to be the most heavily used. Still, some of my favorite landscapes were taken in Auto, or Shade. Explore each to see what works best for you.