White Balance: Get better colour from your webcam
In the video here you’ll see examples of using Auto White Balance and Manual White Balance with the Logitech C920 WebCam.
White balance is the photo and video term for colour balance.
If the colour is balanced properly, then it will look natural and neutral, and you won’t have any colour casts. A colour cast is when there is a very dominant tone in your photo or video. Look at the first photo in the series below. It has a “cool” or “blue” colour cast to it.
When you start shooting video and learning about colour, you may not notice colour casts. This is because our eyes do a lot of correcting for us. But when you put images and videos side by side, it’s easier to see. Over time you will tune your video making skills, and be able to spot a colour cast right away.
If you’re using a regular camera (instead of a webcam) you can set up an “in camera custom” white balance. That is what I do when I’m shooting with my other cameras. But with webcams you don’t have that choice. So you have to do white balance manually, or if you’re lucky, your Auto White Balance feature will put you close enough to neutral.
Do some of your own tests first
When you first set up your webcam, try using the Auto WB setting and record a test. If it doesn’t look quite right, then adjust the White Balance slider in the web cam’s app. I’m demonstrating the Logitech Camera Settings App for Mac, but the Windows version will also have a white balance adjustment. Look for it. Experiment.
Here are my tests from the video above
From the tests above, you can see that Auto White Balance was good enough in this case.
For comparison, I’ve recorded test videos using my computer’s built in webcam, and it does a terrible job on auto white balance, so you’ll have to test for yourself. If you want to see HOW terrible, you can see samples in this blog post.
What does Auto White Balance (AWB) do?
When you are using AWB on ANY camera, the camera takes all the colour in the frame and tries to neutralize it. Sometimes AWB works great. But sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work for you, then use one of the apps to make white balance adjustments.
In my video and photography work I use a white balance tool, such as the X-Rite Color Checker for video.
Here’s the colour wheel
The colours of photography and video are:
- Red, Green, Blue – also known as RGB
- And their opposites, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow – aka CMY
Opposite colours neutralize each other. Note the warm and cool colours that are opposite each other.
- Red – Cyan
- Green – Magenta
- Blue – Yellow
That’s why in the video above I had to be mindful of getting too much yellow added, due to the solid blue background. It helped that I was wearing a shirt with some white in it, and my hair and face are warmer colours, so the image area was only about 50% blue. That was probably enough to keep it from making my face too yellow.
If I shot this on a yellow background, the opposite would have happened – my skin tone could have gone bluish if I was using AUTO white balance.
The Mac version of the Logitech Camera Settings app, doesn’t have a lot of control over colour. But it might just help you out of a bad colour situation.
Check out all the blog posts in this mini course: