How To Get Your Photographs Color Right With Kelvin


How To Get Your Color Right With KelvinAre you ever frustrated with the color of your photographs? Does the light you see with your eye look completely different than the light you capture with your camera? Are you sick of the ugly yellow of photos in  your home?

You are not alone.

Getting your white balance right is something  everyone with a camera deals with. You can settle for overly yellow photographs of your indoor scenes or you can take control of your camera and produce results you love.


So, why does this happen in the first place?

Light has color. Each light source has a different color.

The light YOU see does not look the same as the light YOUR CAMERA sees. Your eye adjusts for any funky differences between a fluorescent bulb or a tungsten bulb or an LED light. You camera doesn’t make those adjustments without your help.


You have a few options for adjusting your camera’s white balance settings:

  1. You can choose to go with Auto White Balance (AWB).
  2. You can set your white balance for the particular light you are in.
  3. You can set a custom white balance in each light situation..
  4. You can also adjust your camera’s Kelvin setting for the lighting situation your subject is in.

Why so many ways to get to a result? Choice is good. Also, each method has slightly different results and different steps to remember.


Auto White Balance

Setting your camera to AWB is going to be okay most of the time. Your camera is taking a guess and it gets it right a lot of the time, but not every time. Auto White Balance has a more limited range of adjustments than some of your other camera options.


noun_163481noun_104788-2Basic White Balance Settings (Those cute little icons)

Your second choice is a more precise setting of your camera’s basic white balance functions. Select the cloud if you are shooting in shade, the sun for direct sun. You get the idea. Easy enough, right? While it is good, it is not as precise as other methods. Your camera is still making its best guess for you. You also MUST remember to change your setting with each new lighting condition.

So how do you make it more precise?


Custom White Balance

With a few steps and a white piece of paper or a neutral gray card, you can set a custom white balance for the light you are shooting in. You must reset a custom white balance when you change your light source. It’s a few steps to get you accurate color.


  1. Put your white paper or gray card in the same light your subject will be in
  2. Shoot the paper or card
  3. In your menu settings, find custom white balance
  4. Set your photo as the custom white balance reference (this process will differ for each camera make and model)






Your last option is faster than a custom white balance and just as accurate. Setting the Kelvin temperature for your light, is a quick adjustment of your settings once you know the temperature of the light. You don’t need extra equipment, you only need to know the temperature of the light you are shooting in. Commit your most common light sources to memory and you are set.

A candle – 1000K

Tungsten Light – 2000K

Daylight – 5200K

Overcast Sky – 7000K


For most cameras there are two simple steps:

  • Move your white balance indicator to K (Kelvin)
  • In your menus, find Kelvin and adjust the temperature. They will range anywhere from 1,000K to 10,000K.

If you are using LED light, check the temperature for your LEDs. Each LED light is manufactured with a Kelvin equivalent color temperature, so your LEDs in the kitchen will look different than the LEDs in your living room.

This info graphic from Totally Rad can help too! Save it to your phone, for quick reference.


If you have an android phone you can also grab a handy app to help you remember temperatures, White Balance Color Temp Meter.  And yes, it’s the first time I found an Android app, but no IOS equivalent!


noun_158355What About RAW?

Shooting in RAW is going to give you the most information for the most control over your white balance when editing. If you start with a more specific white balance adjustment when shooting, it will speed up your RAW process. Remember though, when shooting in RAW, you will need to edit your photos! When your photos really matter, it is a great choice to make.



Your assignment today?

Play with your white balance settings, give Kelvin a try. See what you find. Then report back here with your findings! Best of luck!



  1. amanda tea

    i just have to share that i laughed at the title for the article for one reason… dads name is Kelvin lol.

  2. Kari ploysa

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been relying on photo editing software to balance my white balance lately. . Not the best way to do things.
    This had helped me remember to get it in the camera. The android app looks interesting. So many people love it or hate it.
    And because of your article, I found our my phone has all the professional camera settings on it! I can’t wait to mess around with that too!


  4. Kristin Baker

    Thanks! This is my biggest struggle at the moment…or at least the one I am most aware of. Thank you!

  5. When I’m organised I use this method, but lately I’ve been relying on AWB and editing in Lightroom. This article has prompted me to use Kelvin again. Thanks Katrina!

  6. Julie Bush

    Such an interesting article. I will definitely be using this information in the future. Thank you !

  7. Tracey Gehring

    I have found myself using the Kelvin adjustment lately over everything else! After looking at lots of photos that have certain temperatures while processing, it kind of stuck in my head where I need to be for each lighting situation – or close to it in my educated guess, lol. I’ve hardly had to adjust temps when I’m RAW processing and that makes me happy! 😀

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