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White Balance

Lesson 1
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Lesson 2
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Lesson 3
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Lesson 4
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Lesson 5
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Lesson 6
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Lesson 7
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Lesson 8
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Lesson 9
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Lesson 10
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Contributed By Glen Berry

  1. Kelvin Scale
  2. Daylight is Blue, Tungsten is Orange
  3. The Camera Must be Told what is White

If one can answer the question “Why is the sky blue?” you’re already half way toward understanding the need to White Balance your camera. The answer is that sunlight is blue. We see the color of the light because it is reflected back to us from particles in the atmosphere.

The second half of understanding White Balance comes from the follow-up question: “If sunlight is blue, why doesn’t a white object illuminated by sunlight look blue?” The answer is that your eye tricks you into seeing white as white even if they color of the light is blue.

Light from different sources have different color qualities. The color quality of light can be measured in degrees on a scale called the Kelvin scale. The Kelvin scale is also used for temperature, which leads to some crossover in terminology from color. Hence, the measurement of the color quality of light is also referred to as “color temperature”.

Please have a look at the chart below. This chart is a representation of light on the Kelvin scale with different light sources represented with their relative color temperature. Please note that the color temperatures of various light sources are approximate.


  • The Kelvin Scale, measured in degrees, is a scale of the color temperature of light.
  • Different light sources have different colors. Our eye fools us into seeing them all as the same.
  • The camera must be explicitly told what is white. It can guess with automatic settings but as with exposure and focus, you need an operator to verify and manipulate these settings.
Introduction to Cinematography
Responsibilities of the Cinematographer and main areas of focus.
Composition and Mise-en-Scene
A description of mise-en-scene as well as how and why we want to create powerful compositions to display on the screen.
Focus and Depth of Field
The importance of focus, factors that effect depth of field and how to critical focus.
Shutter Speed and Aperture
A discussion of latitude, stops and the effect of shutter speed and aperture settings on exposure.
White Balance
The color quality of light , the Kelvin scale as well as the how and why of properly calibrating your camera.
Clapboard and Camera Log
How and why to mark your shots as well as maintaining a camera log.