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How to Set a Custom White Balance on Your Camera (With & Without a Grey Card)

How to Set a Custom White Balance on Your Camera (With & Without a Grey Card)

Nov 17, 2020

How to Set a Custom White Balance on Your Camera? 

Are you using the custom white balance setting on your camera?

The first thing to do after purchasing a camera is learn how to use it.

It can be very overwhelming learning the right camera settings for your environment because of the different tutorials, settings, cameras, and lens variations on YouTube videos. 

As you're beginning to learn more about your camera settings one of the most beneficial settings to begin with is the white balance. It will determine if your skin tones and colors look normal or if they're off and are making your look awkward.


What is the Purpose of White Balance?

The purpose of White Balance in your camera is so your camera can provide accurate colors based on the temperature of the lighting in your recording environment. 

These hues of light temperature can change from the tungsten-colored hue in a living room that's super warm and cozy versus the early morning images that are cooler and have more of a blueish hue are measured in Kelvins.

The measuring of this hue in Kelvins is how your camera dictates what something should appear.

If you notice in the image below, the wood, sofa, and walls can take on a totally different look based on the white balance tone in your camera.


Kelvins are seen as 5000k or 4500k in your camera when looking through the white balance settings. They can range from 2500K to 9900k in your camera but you'll most commonly use something between the 4000k or 5500k range.

Knowing the proper while balance will help you get more accurate colors while recording a video.

Choosing the right white balance setting will eliminate the unwanted color cast that can ruin your video and will look more natural to the human eye.

You can also set the custom white balance on your camera using a Grey Card. 


What is a Grey Card? 

A grey card in its simplest term is a card that is about 18% gray that when shown to your camera can help the camera identify what your colors should actually be based on the lighting in that space.

Most gray cards come with gray on one side and white on the other. 

Technically, the white can be used to set the white balance (some people even use a piece of printer paper or something white in the video) however I've always found the best results using a gray card on the gray side.



How to Set the White Balance in a Sony Camera

If you are using the Sony a6100, you can see the white balance setting on the first tab, page 9 of 11.

While on the Sony a6400 and a6600, the white balance setting is still on the first tab, page 11 of 14. 

(If you have the Sony ZV-E10, go to Tab 1 Page 8 of 11 to locate your white balance settings.)

The Priority Set in AWB setting will help the camera know what hue shift or color tone to prioritize when you're recording under incandescent lights and your white balance is set to Auto.

I personally prefer Ambience based on my skin tone. 

 For me, it adds a little warmth to the colors of the video vs the White setting which tends to look cooler and has a blueish colder tone. 


Setting Your White Balance Setting Without a Grey card

If you are not using Grey Card, we can set your white balance to the specific Kelvins based on your light bulb's temperature or the light settings on your led lights.

When you select White Balance within your camera menu you'll return to the live view mode and see an on-camera display of white balance setting options.

Scroll until you see the icon that has the letter K with a box around it and a partially shaded circle shape included with it.

Click on the right directional arrow to select the Kelvin's temperature.

You can now scroll up or down to select the specific Kelvins or light temperature based on the light settings on your light bulbs, what you visually prefer from scrolling up and down or match the same settings of your led lights.

I would encourage you to select the same settings as your current led light setup.

If you're recording in a living room or home office and you don't know what those numbers are you can check the box of your current lights if you have them or start at 5000k and see as you slightly increase or decrease what looks best.

For me, I set it t to 4500K because that is the right setting for me based on the lighting setup that I use. 

If you want to know what setting is best for you, check the light that you are using if it’s daylight temperature or tungsten and from there you’ll know what setting you need.

Most light bulbs will either list the specific Kelvins or state that they're daylight temperature or something else.


Setting the White Balance on Your Camera with a Grey Card

When using a Grey Card, make sure to place it where it is not shady and too dark. 

Angle the grey card towards the light so your camera can get an accurate reading of your light source and sit where you intend to while recording.

Note: You don't want to get super close to the camera to take a reading of the light temperature in the space you're recording. Place the grey card directly in front of your face.

To set the white balance using the grey card, select one of the Custom options within the White Balance on-screen menu.

In this example, I'm using Custom 3.

Press the right directional button to highlight the Set button.

Once selected you’ll see a message that will pop up asking you to press the center select button when you're ready to take the white balance reading.

Click the center Select button at the back of the camera and the camera will take a picture showing you the reading based on the placement of the grey card.

Sometimes you can get a bad reading if your camera can't accurately read the grey card which usually means you may be too close not within the focusing distance of the camera.

This is identified by a green-colored image over the screen. When this happens, select Menu to cancel and retake the photo.


Making Minor Adjustments to the Color Shift While White Balancing

Sometimes you'll notice a greenish, yellowish, or even a magenta color invading your video depending on where you are. Hotels and horrid hotel lighting is good example of this.

You can add or decrease how much of a color is located in your video by selecting the right directional arrow to go to the White Balance Adjustment screen.

Go back to the White balance setting menu, choose your Custom white balance setting or the Kelvins setting, press the right directional button and a color grid will populate.

You can use the directional buttons on your camera to add or decrease a color shift. 

To reduce how much of a color in within your video, go in the opposite direction of that color to reduce how much of the color shift is within your video.

To add more of a color shift, to balance things out, move in the direction of a specific color to add more of it to the video.


Final Thoughts

White balance can make or break a video. And while you can make adjustments to your video while you're editing, you want to get as much right in-camera as possible.

Everything actually can't be fixed in post while editing.

White balance can be the difference of your video looking normal and well-produced vs oddly colored and confusing.


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