Adjusting White Balance in Lightroom - Digital Photography School

Adjusting White Balance in Lightroom

Lightroom white balance opener

Lightroom has a set of tools that you can use to adjust white balance in your images. To see these at work open an image in the Develop module. At the top of your Basic panel are the white balance adjustment tools.

White Balance Options

The dropdown list will show you some options for adjusting white balance – what is shown here will vary depending on how your images are captured. If you capture in raw then the white balance dropdown list will contain the same options as you have on your camera for setting white balance. If you’re capturing jpg images then there are fewer options – As Shot, Auto and Custom.

Lightroom white balance 1

On the left are the options for a raw image and on the right those for a jpeg image.

The Temperature and Tint sliders also have different units of measure depending on whether you’re working with jpgs or raw images. For jpg images both the sliders range from +100 to -100. If you’re working on a raw image then the Temperature slider shows degrees Kelvin from 2000 – 50,000 and the Tint slider ranges between + 150 and – 150.

Kelvin is a measurement of the color of light – daylight is around 5,500 degrees Kelvin. Lights we consider to be warm or pink/orange in color including tungsten globes are around 3,000 degrees Kelvin and cool lights which are blue in color such as overcast daylight are around 7,000 degrees Kelvin and higher.

Adjust White Balance

To adjust the white balance in the selected image you can select an option from the White Balance dropdown list to use to fix the image or you can use it as a starting point and then fine tune the result.

You can also manually adjust the Temp slider to add warmth or remove it from the image. Drag the sider to the left to add a blue tint to the image (to cool it down), or to the right to add a yellow tint to it to warm the image.

Use the Tint slider to balance out any excess magenta or green in the image. Drag towards the right to add magenta to the image cancelling out any green tint and drag to the left to add a green tint cancelling out any unwanted magenta.

White Balance Selector

You can also use the White Balance Selector to adjust white balance. You can select the tool by clicking on it or press W.

Lightroom white balance 2

From the White Balance toolbar under the image you can select options that make the White Balance tool easier to use. I suggest you deselect Auto Dismiss as you can then click on the image in various places to attempt to fix it. If you have Auto Dismiss enabled you’ll only be able to click once before the selector is dismissed so, if that fix isn’t perfect then you’ll need to select the tool again to attempt another fix. This is a cumbersome way to work so I prefer to disable Auto Dismiss and put the tool away only when I am done with it.

If you click the Show Loupe checkbox then you’ll see a 5 by 5 pixel grid beside the mouse cursor. The center point in the grid is the pixel that you are currently targeting and which will be used to adjust the image if you click. This grid makes it easier for you to pick the correct point in the image to adjust to. The scale itself can be increased or decreased using the Scale option on the toolbar.

At the bottom of the loupe itself are the RGB percentage values of the pixel under the cursor. These values tell you if the pixel is neutral or not. If it is neutral then the percentages of R, G and B will all be equal – if they are not equal then there is color in that pixel.

Lightroom white balance 3

To balance the image using the White Balance selector, click on a pixel that should be neutral grey – not white or black. When you do so, Lightroom will adjust the image so that the selected pixel is a neutral grey and, as a result, all the color in the image will change. At the same time Lightroom adds an entry to the image History for that adjustment. This means that you can wind back the history to return to an earlier white balance fix, if desired.

Lightroom white balance 4

You should be aware that adjusting image white balance is to an extent a subjective assessment – so there is no one value that is “correct”. There are, instead, a myriad of different results that can be achieved so look for one that is it pleasing to you. In most cases viewers prefer to see some warmth in photos as they are more pleasing to the eye if they are warmer rather than cool.

I find that a good approach to take is to experiment with the white balance selector to see the effect on the image by selecting different pixels to adjust to. Then choose the most aesthetically pleasing result.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • Mick Harris

    Hi Helen, some useful tips there. No matter how much I think I know how to use a program, I always have a read of tutorials etc. as there is normally something I have missed, and this is another of those occasions.
    I have been using LR for a long time, but until now I have never seen the “Auto Dismiss” option for the white balance tool! I always wondered why it didn’t operate the same as it did in “Camera RAW” but it did, it was there all the time, I just missed it lol.
    Thanks for that Helen, it will save me a lot of extra mouse clicks :-)
    All the best
    Mick

  • http://freedomhas.blog.163.com/album/ Anson

    Dear Helen,

    Thank you very much for this little tip. I found the “Auto Dismiss” option and it saved me heaps of time!

    Hope to see more articles about post-processing practical tips like this.

    Cheers,

    Anson

  • http://ezekielphotoblog.com/ Ezekiel e.

    Hi Helen, thank you for this useful article. I have been having a hard time lately when I am in areas where there is a lot of green grass or green leaves overhead making my images brownish green with the camera set on auto WB. I was able to find a neutral pixel in the image using the tip you gave about the loupe. After a few minor adjustments the image has a better balance. Thank you.

  • Shakil

    Helen, I think the introduction could have been a little more descriptive explaining how Lightroom could be a useful tool to adjust white balance, also what exactly the featured image mean. Apart from that, it turns out to be a useful reading. Actually, I run my own blog on Lightroom and recently published a tutorial on “How to adjust white balance in Lightroom 5”.

    Would you like to check it out?

    http://www.productphotographer.co.uk/white-balance-in-photoshop-lightroom/

Some older comments

  • Ezekiel e.

    April 25, 2013 04:17 am

    Hi Helen, thank you for this useful article. I have been having a hard time lately when I am in areas where there is a lot of green grass or green leaves overhead making my images brownish green with the camera set on auto WB. I was able to find a neutral pixel in the image using the tip you gave about the loupe. After a few minor adjustments the image has a better balance. Thank you.

  • Anson

    April 16, 2013 09:45 am

    Dear Helen,

    Thank you very much for this little tip. I found the "Auto Dismiss" option and it saved me heaps of time!

    Hope to see more articles about post-processing practical tips like this.

    Cheers,

    Anson

  • Mick Harris

    April 13, 2013 04:53 am

    Hi Helen, some useful tips there. No matter how much I think I know how to use a program, I always have a read of tutorials etc. as there is normally something I have missed, and this is another of those occasions.
    I have been using LR for a long time, but until now I have never seen the "Auto Dismiss" option for the white balance tool! I always wondered why it didn't operate the same as it did in "Camera RAW" but it did, it was there all the time, I just missed it lol.
    Thanks for that Helen, it will save me a lot of extra mouse clicks :-)
    All the best
    Mick

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