Adjusting White Balance in Lightroom

What is White Balance?

White balance is the colour temperature of an image, as it was captured by your camera. It is one of the most impactful adjustments you can make to a photo in post-processing and there are multiple ways this seemingly simple adjustment can change a photo. White balance adjustments are responsible for creating that cold distinctive cinematic look, and creating warmth in the most beautiful sunset photos. Making creative adjustments to the white balance is also where the gorgeous presets you love so much draw their incredible power from!

White balance starts the moment you take your photos. Your camera is not able to read the colour of the light like it can read the strength of the light, so it needs you to tell you what to do. This means telling your camera what the colour of the light is like in a setting so it can compensate accordingly. Most cameras will have the following white balance options that you can set before you take your photos: Auto, Flash, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Kelvin.

If your photo does not turn out exactly how you thought it would, or you need to make adjustments to the white balance in post-processing, there are multiple ways you can do this in Lightroom.

How to Adjust White Balance in Lightroom

Method 1: Using the Eye Dropper

To start, select the eye dropper icon in the Basic Panel of the Develop Module in Lightroom.

As you hover over your image, a colour grid will appear. On the bottom of this grid, you will see the RGB values of the area you are hovering over.

Move the eye dropper to a “neutral” area of your image (like the whites of the eyes, or a grey piece of clothing, etc.) where the RGB values are almost the same. Click this area, and Lightroom will automatically adjust the white balance of your image. You may need to make small adjustments after this, but this eye dropper will make most of the necessary white balance adjustments.

This is the best option for adjusting white balance if you are editing a JPEG.

Method 2: Lightroom’s Preset White Balance Options

Did you set the white balance in your camera, but then after you took the photo, did not like the way that option may the image look? If you shot in RAW format, you will have the same preset white balance options available in Lightroom that you did in your camera! (If you shot in JPEG or are editing a JPEG, you will only have two options here: Auto and Custom.) Once you have opened your photo in Lightroom, simply go over to the “WB” drop-down menu in the Basic Panel and choose a different option. Just like with any preset Lightroom setting, you can make small adjustments to the white balance as needed in order to achieve the best result for your image!

White Balance preset options for JPEG images.
White Balance Preset options for RAW images.

Method 3: Manually Adjust Temperature and Tint Sliders

If you image only needs a few minor adjustments, or you need to make small adjustments to a preset option, you can manually adjust the white balance by using the Temperature and Tint sliders below the WB drop-down menu.

The Temperature slider alters the colour temperature of the photo. Sliding this setting to the left will make your image cooler, while sliding it to the right does the opposite and makes the photo warmer.

The Tint slider will adjust a magenta or green tint your image may have. First use the Temperature slider, then use this slider to neutralize any remaining green or magenta tints left in the image.

Setting the white balance will not only allow you to see colours as they were at the time of shooting, but will also help you understand how to be creative and adjust temperature and tint freely. While is is possible to adjust the white balance on a JPEG image, just remember that you will have much more freedom to adjust the settings if you shoot in RAW. Shooting in RAW leaves the white balance as an open parameter that you can finalize in post-processing without loss of quality. As you get more confident in your editing skills, feel free to get creative with your white balance adjustments and create a truly unique image!