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How to Correct White Balance in Photos With Lightroom (Classic)

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Ever shot an image that, after importing it, just felt a bit off in colors? Maybe it was overly orange as if it was shot in the desert, or too blue from neon lighting.

These issues often stem from white balance being out of step with the colour of light in the scene. Luckily, Lightroom makes this setting easy to correct! In this tutorial, you'll learn how to correct white balance in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

What is White Balance?

Before we start to correct white balance in Adobe Lightroom, it helps to know more about how it works.

Color is described as having a temperature, with a number value expressed in degrees Kelvin, or K. That K temperature describes the warmth or coolness of the light in the image. The scale below helps to illustrate the numeric range (in Kelvin) of color temperature and the corresponding hues.

Color temperature scale
Color temperature is measured in numeric values (Kelvin) ranging from warm to cool.  (Graphic by Bhutajata, distributed under a CC-BY-SA-4.0 license.)

Your camera captures information about the white balance of a scene, determining the color temperature. Many photographers leave this set to "Auto" on the camera and adjust the white balance in post-production.

Every light source has a temperature. I'm sure you've been in a conference room or basement that was lit by halogen (long tube) light bulbs. You've likely noticed that this light source is more bluish and cooler. Conversely, a light source like a candle is warmer and creates more orange tones in the finished image.

When your white balance is set to Auto, it's making judgments about the temperature of the light. It's assessing the scene and inferring a white point for the image, which influences the color of the entire scene.

Light bulbs temperature
Each of these light bulbs gives off light with a different temperature, influencing the white balance of your image.

I think of white balance and its perception as being influenced by three key factors:

  • The human eye's perception, which varies from person-to-person.
  • The display, like the settings on your monitor that shapes how it displays an image.
  • Your camera's capture settings, which apply a color temperature to the image as it is captured.

The last of these, the camera settings, is adjustable in post-production. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to adjust your white balance in Adobe Lightroom.

How to Calibrate Your Monitor For Consistent Color

The difficult part of adjusting white balance is that it can be subjective. We all perceive color differently. Monitors also vary, particularly based on their default settings.

It's impossible to make your image appear exactly the same on every device. But, with monitor calibration, you can use a device to set your screen to a more neutral point. When your monitor is calibrated, finding white balance by eye us is much easier. This is particularly helpful when preparing for printing to ensure your physical copy matches the screen.

Monitor with calibration
Calibrating an image helps you set(Image source: Envato Elements.)

To learn more about calibrating your monitor, don't miss out on From Pixel-Perfect to Print Ready in Photoshop, a course that helps you print. It includes this great lesson on monitor calibration.

 

How to Adjust White Balance in Adobe Lightroom

Let's dive into making white balance adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. We'll cover two easy techniques.

One note before we start working in Lightroom: if you aren't already shooting in RAW, consider switching. A RAW image gives you more freedom to adjust the white balance setting without a loss of quality.

Method 1: Use the White Balance Slider

The Develop module is used to adjust an image's visual settings: the White Balance slider is near the top of the panels on the right side. You'll see a slider that ranges from blue tones to yellow tones. 

Notice that every image you open already has a temperature set. Unlike an adjustment like Exposure, white balance doesn't start at zero. The starting point is the temperature that your camera applied based on the settings at the time of exposure.

White balance slider
You'll find the white balance slider on the Basic panel in the Develop module.

Pull the slider to the left to adjust tones to a cooler (blue) temperature. Pull the slider to the right to shift the tones to a warmer (yellow) color temperature.

White balance adjustment
In this example image, an overly warm environment was corrected by shifting the white balance slider to the left.

This method is usually pretty trustworthy to make small, "good enough" white balance adjustments, particularly if your monitor is calibrated. Read on to see another method based on setting a white point in the image.

Method 2: Use the Eyedropper To Set a Target Neutral

On the white balance panel, you. might have noticed an eyedropper tool. If you've used an app like Photoshop, you know that this tool is typically used to sample an image to determine the color of a pixel or area.

In this case, the eyedropper helps you set the target neutral point. This tells Lightroom "this is a white object in the image, adjust the color accordingly." 

To use the tool, click on the eyedropper. Then, click on a white point in the image. You'll see the white balance slider adjust automatically.

Set target neutral
Use the eyedropper on the white balance panel to set the target white point in an image.

This method is the best way to set your white balance target neutral if you have a white point. Simply point and click, and white balance is updated automatically.

Sync White Balance Settings Between Photos

If you have multiple images made in the same lighting conditions, a quick way to adjust them all is to paste the white balance settings from one representative image to the whole group. Here's a quick tutorial on how:

Don't Use White Balance For Creative Adjustments

What if you want your image to feel slightly cooler or warmer than the real-world image? It's tempting to just pull the white balance slider to cool or warm the image to your desired point.

But the white balance slider is primarily used for correction. It's usually much more efficient to correct your image to a neutral state using the tips you've already seen, plus any other corrections), and then use other panels in the Develop module for creative adjustments.

There plenty of are other tools that you can use to apply creative color adjustments to your image. Here are several ways to get creative with color in your images:

  • The H/S/L panel allows you to control the hue, saturation, and luminance of each tone.
  • Split-toning gives you the ability to apply tinting independently to the highlights and shadows of an image.
  • Curves control the tone curve for red, blue, and green.

Use the white balance slider to To learn more about creative color adjustments, check out the tutorial below.

How to Make Creative Adjustments With One Click

White balance corrections are all about bringing an image to a neutral state. Corrections in Lightroom are easy and get an image back to a real-world depiction of the image.

But let's be honest: the fun of working in an image editor like Lightroom starts when you get creative. Adjustments help you take an image from real-world, to how you remember the scene. 

With so many tools and controls, Adobe Lightroom lets you do everything to transform an image in the editing stage. And on Envato Elements, you unlock an unlimited number of Lightroom presets that you can use.

Envato Elements LR presets
Envato Elements gives you over 1,000 packs of Lightroom presets, each with multiple styles to edit your images.

Let's look at three of the top preset packs that you'll unlock when you subscribe to Envato Elements.

1. Nightfall Dark Lightroom Presets

This set of presets is a great example of the power of creative color. The dark toning styles give a sense of mystery and drama. You can even use this to take a daytime photo and shift it to the middle of the night, all with the power of creative color.

Nightfall dark Lightroom presets

2. 10 Pro Traveler Lightroom Presets

This package of presets is targeted for warm styles. It's recommended for use on travel, vacation, and family photos, but works great for any nostalgia-fueled imagery. There are ten Lightroom presets, all in the style that makes your images pop with one click.

10 Pro traveler presets

3. The Ultimate Lightroom Preset Collection

With over 150 presets inside of one convenient download, this might just be the last package that you'll ever need. This single download includes styles like analog film and color enhancements that help you get creative with color. You'll also unlock essentials for corrections.

Ultimate Lightroom presets

Learn More About How to Use Adobe Lightroo


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