Using White Balance To Enhance Sunsets or Sunrises

Adjusting your white balance at one time or another is a necessity, it’s one of the reasons professionals shoot using RAW format (RAW gives you more latitude in post processing for things like white balance adjustments).  You can dial in the white balance as close as possible within the camera, even set it manually if you have the time, but fine tuning it in post processing is almost always a good idea.  We’ve all seen the images, great subject but weird orange hue or too blue…  That is your white balance.  White balance can make or break a photograph.  With a slight white balance adjustment you can change the entire mood of a photograph.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 6.30.24 PM

White balance ranges from cool (very blue) to warm (candle light) all depending on the influence of the different light sources present when the exposure is taken.  You can adjust the white balance of your camera before you take a photograph in a couple of ways, manually or selecting the cameras presets (fluorescent, incandescent, sunny, etc.).  Manual adjustment is the preferred method when shooting indoors and it’s not very difficult, typically consisting of selecting Manual White Balance in your cameras settings and then taking a photograph of something neutral grey.


The image below is the exact same image as the one at the top of this article with the white balance adjusted slightly warmer in order to show the difference a few degrees warmer makes.  The sun was setting and it was about 85 degrees and very humid, adjusting the white balance warmer conveys that more accurately.  The image at the top of the article is probably the most accurate.

0713_Sicily_112Too warm?  Maybe (yes), but that’s the beauty of photography… You don’t have to follow any rules, not even your own.

Some would argue that adjusting the white balance in this way creates a “fake” image but I’d counter with – what do you think a black and white image is?  That is the ultimate color (or lack there of) adjustment is it not?  With that being said, don’t get carried away or your image will look fake.

Here is the original image straight out of the camera:



Alternatively, you can adjust your white balance a little cooler like in the sunrise image below.  The morning that this was taken was a little brisk and the cooler white balance adjustment conveys that better than the original (bottom).


The original image is too warm, it doesn’t look good:


As always, it’s best to get your setting correct in the camera so you don’t have to make drastic changes in post processing.  Shooting in RAW is a requirement if you plan on making big changes to your image and retaining the image quality.  Shooting in RAW will also allow you to choose from the cameras preset white balance settings in Lightroom.

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