Adjust your white balance settings in-camera.
Your eyes adjust automatically to different color temperatures, but cameras can’t. You have to tell your camera the proper white balance for a given scene. While you can do this in post-production, it’s best to get your white balance as close to accurate as possible in-camera. Doing this will save you time in the long run and ensure that you’ve got the proper visual data in your footage to work with when you edit.
This doesn’t mean you have to achieve to-the-degree accuracy. Most digital cameras can shoot in raw format, which leaves a lot of room for editing in post. Hara recommends starting with a white balance preset, like daylight or tungsten, and manually adjusting from there. You can do this in many different ways; here are a few options.
Automatic white balance or manual white balance?
Auto white balance (AWB) is a great choice for beginners. Your camera’s white balance setting is likely good at reading ambient light and making balance adjustments on its own. But if you’re a more seasoned videographer, consider switching to custom white balance to give yourself more control. You’ll also want to set white balance yourself in tricky lighting conditions that can easily fool the camera’s judgment.
White balance cards and gray cards.
Professionals often use these cards to help get the proper exposure and white balance for their shot. “A white balance card is just a fancy term for something that’s white,” says Hara. An official card will give you the most accurate tone and anti-reflective finish, but you can use any pure white object as a stand-in. This card serves as a reference point for your camera, it makes it easier for you to test for the proper balance in situations where you don’t know the color temperature.
A gray card is similar to a white card in that they are both reference points to gauge white balance and exposure. But a gray card is a specific shade of gray made to be completely neutral. This makes it easier for your camera to read the light and choose the best white balance. To use a gray card, simply place it in front of the camera while on custom white balance mode and take a few shots. This is the manual version of using AWB, in which your camera searches for neutral areas in the frame for itself.
“Anytime you mix lighting sources, it’s going to make it hard to find your white balance,” says videographer Margaret Kurniawan. Use a single light source, or match every light to the same temperature to avoid different color temperatures across your scene. You can also use a light meter to get a reading on the temperature. Aim for consistency across your set, lighting, and camera so you can minimize time spent correcting colors in post-processing.