Light is measured in terms of intensity - to give us the correct exposure - and also in terms of temperature. At different times of the day and in different climatic conditions light temperatures will vary. At dawn and dusk the light temperature is colder - but evening sunsets can add a warm tone to the light. Artificial light is usually warmer than daylight and there is also a temperature difference between different kinds of artificial light. Household light bulbs are a warm orange and flourescent strip lights are cooler but still warmer than daylight. 

The colour of the light will affect the colours in your photographs. You probably won't notice this with the naked eye because our minds adapt very quickly to perceive the colour of the light as neutral, even when it's not.

The camera is less forgiving, and records colours exactly as they are taken.

DSLRs allow us to set our own White Balance for different situations. 

AWB is the safest setting - with the camera working it all out - and in most situations the recorded colour will be very good but there are times when using one of the presets can produce a better result. You might also decide to change the setting for creative reasons. Shooting a portrait with the camera set to Tungsten will give blue skin tones for instance. 


These symbols are universal and represent the different temperature situations you might encounter. You can also set your own custom temperature if you have a colour meter or know exactly what the temperature is. (with artificial lighting )

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AWB

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Bright overcast 6000k

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Shade 5200k

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Flash 

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Tungsten 3200k

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Flourescent 2400k

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You may find that the auto White Balance corrects colour casts when you don't want it to. This can happen with sunsets or landscapes, where the colour of the light is an integral part of the picture.

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