One friend came to my house with his newly acquired Nikon D90 DSLR camera. He pushed the LiveView button on the back and showed me the scene of my living room on the LCD screen of the camera. The scene looked yellow-reddish overall, just as I expected because of the mixed incandescent and compact fluorescent artificial lighting in the room. My friend commented that he liked the warm and fuzzy colors on the screen. He then proceeded to take a photo, and showed me the image in which the yellow-reddish color was significantly reduced. His comment was that the photo’s color looked worse. He then popped up the flash and took another shot. The yellow-reddish color was completely gone. The photo looked like one taken in bright daylight. The comment from him? The color was bad!
What happened? In the LiveView mode, the camera didn’t seem to correct the white balance for the live image. When a photo was taken, the camera tried to correct the white balance automatically (camera’s WB setting was at Auto) but was not completely successful. When the flash was used, the camera automatically used the color temperature information of the flash for white balance. Because the light from flash overpowered other light sources in the room, the correct white balance was achieved.
This particular friend isn’t the only one who prefers the colors of photos from incorrect white balance. They are mostly attracted by the warm tones. I could have spent time educating them about the white balance but then I realized that photography for them is mostly a hobby. They are not taking photos commercially. If they prefer certain look in their photos then let them have what they want.
So how to get the warmer tones (i.e. incorrect white balance) if you want them?
Don’t use automatic white balance setting. Choose the day light white balance when shooting under incandescent light without the flash. The photos will come out warmer. If you use flash, choose the Shade WB setting or use custom color temp WB mode and set the color temp to 8000K or 10000K. If it is not warm enough, one option will be attaching a filter to the flash that converts the flash light (~5500K) to the color temp of the incandescent light (~3200K) and leave the camera WB setting at Flash WB. The photos will come out very warm.
In summary, if you want the photos warmer, use a camera WB setting that has higher color temperature than the actual light. The larger the difference, the warmer the photo becomes. Do the opposite if you want to get cooler photos.
Keywords: White balance