How to Fix White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw

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May 7, 2021
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White balance, in regards to photography, is one of those areas that’s sort of confusing for people to grasp. I think you can wrap your head around it a bit if you think of white balance as the method cameras use to adjust for color temperature. I’ve written about white balance on this site, so you should definitely read up on it.

Fixing White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw​

The thing about digital cameras is that sometimes they don’t get their white balance settings correct. Perhaps there’s not enough light or there’s a mixture of temperatures of light. In order for a camera to take a photo, it needs to make a color temperature selection. Once it does, the photo is captured. If the setting the camera chose if off, the resulting photo can look off as well.

Dealing with white balance issues in Adobe Camera Raw is a painless endeavor. And really, once you’ve got your photo open and ready to edit, it’s only a matter of seconds until the picture looks just as good as you’d like it to. In addition to Camera Raw’s white balance tools being a utilitarian feature, they’re also a creative feature. You can accomplish many pretty neat styles and looks, simply by adjusting the color temperature of a photograph.

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to go about adjusting white balance and color temperature in Camera Raw. Like I said, once you’re open and ready to edit, it’s as easy as pie.

A Word About White Balance​

I want to mention one thing about the topic of white balance as it refers to photography. It’s important to understand that the color temperature of a photograph doesn’t always necessarily need to be accurate. When I edit many of my own photos, I like to increase the temperature a bit, in order to portray a warmer mood. I enjoy warm photography and oftentimes, it just looks better. But while I say that a good white balance is in the eye of the beholder, it should also be somewhat accurate to begin with. Once you grasp what the photo is “supposed” to look like, you can move on and get creative from there. The eyes like to play tricks during photo editing and life gets much easier if you start at the beginning.

My Photo​

Oddly enough, I took some photos a few nights ago that ended up with horrible white balance. When I first looked at them, I just thought the photo came out bad. It wasn’t until I realized that my camera had selected the wrong auto-white balance setting that things began to come together. The photos I took were of salmon (fish) and were on top of my stove in a frying pan. My light source was merely the stove light, which is only a 40 watt equivalent CFL bulb. I guess that low light, mixed with a dark background confused my camera. Here, take a look at the original.


I think we can all agree that this photo looks really bad.

The White Balance Tool​

Camera Raw has got a really handy tool that can help fix white balance issues – fast. It’s called the “White Balance Tool” and it’s located up in the top tool bar. To access it, you only need to click the icon. If you like keyboard shortcuts, can you simply click “I.”


Now, the trick about using the white balance tool effectively is that you need to find something that’s neutral in your photo. Something that’s supposed to be grey or white is perfect. If you activate the white balance tool by clicking the icon and then use the dropper to choose an area of the photo that’s supposed to be white, you’ll see the entire coloring of the photo change to a (hopefully) more accurate representation of what the color temperature is supposed to be.


Since I didn’t really have any neutral areas in my photo, I chose to click on the edge of the pan (circled in red), which had some light reflecting off it. While the photo white balance was adjusted and looks a lot better, it’s still not perfect. I’m going to go ahead and adjust a few more sliders.


I think this is about as good as I’m going to get it. I’d say it looks pretty good.

Pre-Set White Balance Options​

Since I’m working with a JPEG file in this post, all the pre-set white balance options aren’t available. But if they were, they would be quite similar to the options available in a DSLR camera. Unfortunately, all I have to work with are three options – “As Shot,” “Auto” and “Custom.” We’ve already seen the As Shot option in the original photo above. We’ve also seen the Custom option. That was just me editing the white balance by eye. Now, let’s take a look at the Auto option and see what Camera Raw thinks the white balance should look like.


I’m going to be honest with you here when I say that this looks the best of all. Sometimes Camera Raw doesn’t get this one right, but in this case, it did. I think this photo now looks as accurate as it’s going to get (again).

The reason the Auto white balance option can be the best choice is because Camera Raw searches the image for something neutral. When it finds it, it bases the color temperature off that piece of data. Sometimes, a computer can analyze better than a human, as we can see in this case.

Using a White Balance Grey Card​

As I mentioned above, finding the correct neutral area of a photograph can be a tricky task. You can see how I missed the mark with my effort in doing so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some way to take the guesswork out of doing this? Well, you happen to be in luck because photographers have already devised a method that offers extremely high accuracy when working with color temperature. It’s called the “Grey Card” and the solution only costs a few dollars.


The card I purchased cost around $10 or $20 and is made by DGK Color Tools. As you can see from the photo above, you can choose from three cards – white, grey or black. For our purposed in this post, grey will work fine.

If I had thought ahead while shooting my salmon photos, I would have taken the first picture while holding up the grey white balance card. This way, I would have something I knew was neutral in the photo. After that, I could click away as much as I’d like because, during my shoot, the lighting wasn’t going to change. Just FYI – if you’re going to use the grey card approach, it’s important to take a new photo with the grey card in it every time you change lighting.

The photo I took above with the cards in it can be used as an example of how this method works in Camera Raw. If I use the white balance tool, all I need to do it take a color sample anywhere on the grey card. That’s my neutral area. I’ll do that so we can see what happens.


As you can see, nothing drastic happened, but the color temperature and tint was changed. Instead of “” values, we’ve now got “+13” and “+8,” respectively. And I’d say the color looks better because of those changes.


May 7, 2021
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Adjusting White Balance of Multiple Photos In Adobe Camera Raw​


I’d like to begin this post by telling you that the techniques I use for batch-adjusting white balance in Camera Raw can be used for any type of editing. For example, if you wanted to edit the saturation or contrast of multiple photos simultaneously, you can follow the instructions I’m about to give you below. I’ve merely chosen to focus on white balance because it’s a popular topic and extremely helpful to those who take many photos under the same light conditions, such as wedding, portrait and food photographers.

In this post, I’m going to use a few sample photos I just took a few minutes ago. I regularly shoot food photography under two distinct light conditions – one, where the light is too warm and two, where the light is too cool. I’m constantly adjusting white balance for these photos. It’s rare that I ever let a single image go through my editing process without evaluating this setting.

If you would like to follow along, you’ll need a gray card.

The test photos I shot for this project were taken in RAW mode. When using RAW mode, there is more information for Camera Raw to use while editing. It can also edit non-destructively, so it’s of value to take photographs this way. And since cameras don’t apply any sort of auto-white balance adjusting while in RAW mode, it’s perfect for our uses today.

My Sample Photos​

Like I said, I just took these random shots a few moments ago. I ran around my kitchen looking for items that were somewhat vibrant in color so any differences in white balance were apparent. This is what I came up with:


If you look at the above thumbnails in Adobe Bridge closely, you’ll see that there are two batches of photos, each leading with photos of my gray cards. The first group consists of photos 1-6 and the second group consists of photos 7-13. I even named the files appropriately.

Now, if you look at the thumbnails again, more specifically, photos 1 and 7, you’ll see that the gray cards look strikingly different. This is because they are under two different sources of light – the warm and the cool.

Batch Editing White Balance​

Since there are only two sources of light, I’m able to edit each group of photos all at once. This is the real benefit to using a gray card. There’s no guessing involved. It is what it is. The trick is to take a single photo of the gray cards under that particular light source before beginning any photography. This way, you’ll have a sure-fire neutral color captured under the light source you’d like to edit from.

To edit the first group, I need to select (click and highlight) each photo in that group and then open them all in Camera Raw by clicking the round Open in Camera Raw button in the top toolbar (circled in red).


After editing this first group, I’ll be repeating this exact step for the second group.


As you can see, the gray card in the above screenshot doesn’t look very gray. It looks more like it’s brown. So it only follows that each object photographed under this light conditions has a degree of inaccurate warmth added to it as well.

By the way, if you’re following along and don’t see the column of thumbnails to the left of the center photo, you need to either double-click on the left panel or click and drag it out to the right. The entire divider is clickable.

Selecting the Images​

The begin my editing, I want to select all the photos in the left column. So to do that, I’ll select the first image, which happens to by the one that’s currently displaying in the center panel, hold down Shift on my keyboard and then select the last image in the column.


If you look in the left column now, you’ll see that all the images are selected. What this means is that whichever edit I make to the image that’s currently displayed in the center panel will be applied across all selected images. In this post, I’ll be editing white balance, but like I mentioned earlier, if I went ahead and made any other edit to this photo, such as saturation, lens distortion correction or exposure, each of those would affect every photo that’s highlighted in the left column.

Choosing the White Balance Tool​

The next step is to select the White Balance Tool from the top toolbar.


It looks like a dropper.

Applying the White Balance Tool​

To adjust white balance by using the White Balance Tool, I need to take a color sample of something that’s neutral gray. If I wasn’t using a gray card, I could guess which area of a photo is gray, but since I’m using the card (which is the reason for using it), I can simply go ahead and click anywhere on it. By doing so, the white balance will automatically be corrected in this first photo and every other selected photo. Take a look at the difference.


And if you look closely, all the thumbnail photos have been corrected as well. It’s that easy.

What Next?​

From here, I can either save these photos outright or open them in Photoshop for further editing. It’s really up to me. I can even continue on with my editing in Camera Raw.

Batch Editing the Second Group​

This group isn’t as much fun. The white balance wasn’t terribly off, so we’re not going to be able to see much of a change. I’ll still go ahead and edit the photos. Let’s take a look at this next group after I launch them in Camera Raw from Bridge.


If I go ahead and select all the photos in the left column and use the White Balance Tool again, we can see the corrected images.


Like I said, there isn’t much of a difference. If we look at the values in of the Temperature and Tint sliders over to the right though, we can see that the temperature has changed from 4900 to 4750 and the tint has changed from +17 to +27. Just because we don’t see much of a difference on the computer screen doesn’t mean there won’t be much of a difference in print or another output medium. It’s better to accurate correct white balance than eyeballing it with the risk of being off.


May 7, 2021
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Adjusting White Balance For Night Photography in Adobe Camera Raw​

Night photography can be very deceiving. The colors you’ll capture through your camera can sometimes be wildly different than those you’d expect to see in the real world. A lot of times, these altered colors are represented via a shifted white balance. Things can be much too warm or much too cool. The reason for this is that when a photo is taken under artificial lighting, a color cast can result. I’m sure you’ve seen photos like this. Photos that are way too orange and red or way too white and blue. While these images may look very cool (neat), effect-wise, they can be corrected quite easily if you’d like them to more accurately represent reality.

In today’s post, I’d like to use Adobe Camera Raw to work through correcting the white balance of a photo that was taken at night. As you’ll see below, the photo has an orange color cast that needs to be corrected. While this post will be brief, there is one critical tip that every photographer needs to know when making these types of corrections and I’ll cover that tip below.

Demo Photo​

This is the photo I’ll be using for this post. As you can clearly see, it’s too orange. At first glance, I thought it looked pretty awesome, but as I continued to explore the image, I decided that corrections and other enhancements can be made to make things look a lot better.


Opening in Camera Raw & Using the Upright Tool​

Whenever I open a photo that contains buildings in it in Adobe Camera Raw, the first thing I do to it is make sure it’s not distorted in any way. Even if the image looks good to the eye, it’s a good idea to use Camera Raw’s Upright tool so see if it can be straightened any. To read posts I’ve previously written on this topic, please click through below.

Fixing a Crooked Image in Adobe Camera Raw

How To Use Guided Upright to Correct Lens Distortion in Adobe Camera Raw

Also, if you aren’t familiar with how to open an image from Adobe Bridge into Camera Raw, please take a look at these posts.

How To Open Files & Photos Into Adobe Camera Raw

How Can I Open Multiple Photos From Adobe Bridge Into Camera Raw?

As it turns out, after I used the Upright tool on this photo, the buildings only shifted a small amount. I probably could have gotten away with not using the tool at all.

Correcting the White Balance of the Night Photo​

Before I begin with this section, I’d like to point you in the direction (again) of another post I previously wrote. This time though, I wrote about white balance in general and since I’m discussing the same topic today, I think it’s a good idea you review the concepts behind things.

Can You Fix Photo White Balance With Adobe Camera Raw?

I cover a lot of material in that post, so it’s a good idea to give it a once over.

Okay, so I’m going to talk about three different methods for correcting white balance in this photo. The first method is to simply push the Temperature and Tint sliders back and forth inside of Camera Raw. Both of these sliders reside in the right column.


This actually isn’t a bad idea and I use it often. I do a lot of food photography and oftentimes all I need to do to correct the white balance of an image is nudge the Temperature slider to the left just a hair. Many food photographs end up being too yellow straight out of the camera, so this is a good correction to make. The Tint slider is more challenging to work with because it works in tandem with the Temperature slider. Pushing that one by hand isn’t the greatest idea.

The second and probably the most simple method for correcting white balance is to choose the Auto option in the White Balance drop-down box.


As you’ll notice, there are currently only three options in this drop-down. That’s because I’m working on a JPG file. If I were working on a RAW file, there would be many more. That’s not a concern right now, so forget about that part.

If I choose Auto from the drop-down, Camera Raw does a pretty good job at fixing things up. I’ll do that now. Let’s take a look at the photo.


I think that looks pretty good. Since I have no way of knowing the true color values of the objects inside of the photo, I’ll have to live with this. This is what the new values for Temperature and Tint look like though.


The new values are -41 and -25 respectively, so we know there is definitely something wrong with the original photo. Camera Raw just told us there is.

The third option I’ll discuss today is to take advantage of the White Balance Tool that’s found up in the top toolbar.


The way this tool works is simple. It’s shaped like a dropper, so in essence, it takes a sample of any area that you would click on with your mouse. That sample is compared to neutral gray and if it’s found to be different than that gray, Camera Raw will change it accordingly. For example, if a neutral image had an orange circle in it and you clicked on that circle with the dropper, you’d be telling Camera Raw that the circle should really be neutral. Camera Raw would correct this situation by adding blue to the image in an effort to balance out the over-orange. This is the same if you were to reverse the orange and blue. Also, if you were to click the gray that surrounds the circle with the dropper, nothing would happen because you’re essentially telling Camera Raw that the gray is supposed to be gray, which it already is.

Night photography is tricky to deal with because of artificial light, as I mentioned above. It’s tough to determine what type of object is truly neutral when it’s being flooded with orange light, as things are in this case. The trick is to find something that you know is really neutral gray, white or black. As long as there’s no color in the original object, it’s okay to click on it to use as a grounding point.

To get an idea what what I’m dealing with in this photo, I’m going to refer to the one I just posted above. The one that I used the Auto White Balance option on. In that photo, I see that the buildings do indeed contain some orange, so I wouldn’t want to click on any of them with the dropper. The sky has blue in it, so that’s out. The only things I can see that appear to be colorless are the two gray rooftops that are located at the bottom of the photo and the tall thin building at the center of the photo. I’ll go ahead and click on the left rooftop, where there isn’t that much orange light.

This is the output of the image and the red circle is where I clicked. Also, the new values of the Temperature and Tint sliders are -50 and -45 respectively.


I think this looks very good. When compared to the original, I can see how much more realistic the corrected image is. I’ll keep things like this and move on.

I do want to mention one more thing before I head into the next section. Be very careful when clicking on what you think is black with the dropper. Oftentimes, what looks like black, isn’t black. To test this out, just try clicking on “black” a few times in a sample image and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Black is never black, unless you 100% know it is. Like, if you’re using a color card or something comparable to that.

Making the Image Pop​

Just for fun, I’m going to apply some of the principles I discussed in one of my old posts to bring out some color and contrast in this photo. If you’re curious about what I’m referring to, please click through the link below. I explain everything and what I wrote can truly help you with making your photographs look much better while using Adobe Camera Raw.

How To Make A Photo “Pop” With Adobe Camera Raw

Let’s see what the final photo looks like.


Now that looks good!

If you’re curious about the sliders values I used, take a look below.


I also cranked up the Amount slider in the Sharpening panel to 150, which is full throttle. I did this because the image is so small and it’s only being used for the web. I would never normally sharpen so much.


I hope I clearly explained how to correct the white balance of an image that was taken during the night. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!