How to Achieve the Correct White Balance in Lightroom

March 21, 2013

in Before & After, Jean Smith, Lightroom, Photography Tutorials

How to Achieve the Proper White Balance in Lightroom by Jean Smith Photography via

We’ve invited our I Heart Faces Creative Team member,  Jean Smith,  to teach us how to achieve the right white balance in Lightroom.   Follow along step-by-step as she demonstrates 3 different ways to get it right.

Lightroom is my go-to program for all of my basic editing, including white balance correction, if needed. In this situation, I was shooting quickly and didn’t have time to change my white balance settings in camera before this little guy jumped off the bed. So, now I am left with a very blue and unattractive image. Time to correct that white balance in Lightroom!

 “Before” Photo

How to Achieve the Proper White Balance in Lightroom by Jean Smith Photography via

There are three basic ways of correcting white balance. But before we get to correction, let’s talk about some things that can, and should, be done in camera to make your job a lot easier. First, shoot in RAW. If you’re not familiar with the term, RAW, it basically means your camera is capturing all the information required to produce an image, but is not compressing it down into a JPG. Every camera manufacturer (and even model) has its own RAW format. In Nikon, a RAW file has the extension NEF, and Canon files have the extension CR2 (or CRW, depending on what camera you’re using). There are pros and cons to shooting in RAW. The very first thing you’ll notice is that the files are much larger, and will require larger SD or CF cards in your camera, and more hard drive space on your computer. Second, you’ll notice you can’t always open them with any old image viewer, you may need Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture to view the images. The benefits, however, make it all worth it. One of the biggest benefits being the ability to easily make changes to your white balance and exposure after capture. When editing a JPG, the file has been compressed and much of the information discarded, limiting how much you can do to alter the image in post. The RAW file maintains it all. You can adjust white balance at will, as if you had done it in camera. So, if for no other reason than greater latitude in adjusting white balance and exposure, shoot in RAW.

So that brings us to correction. Of course the very first step should be in camera. Try to get as close as you can to a proper white balance in camera. That could be using a gray card to set a custom white balance, or using the preset white balance settings built into your camera. If it’s overcast, try setting the white balance to the overcast preset, etc. That will get you close, but maybe not exactly where you want it for the final image. Or maybe, heaven forbid, you were running and gunning, trying to keep up with that toddler, and forgot to change the white balance, and it’s all over the place. It happens to the best of us. So how do we correct after the images is captured? Here are three different ways.

 1. Auto Preset then eyeball.

This is usually my go-to method. It just seems to work most of the time, and it’s pretty simple. Bring your image into Lightroom, then click on the Develop module. At the top of the panel on the right hand side of the screen, there is a section for White Balance. The default option is “As Shot.” Click the drop down for some presets, and choose “Auto.” You could also choose one of the other options if you don’t think Auto is getting you close. Nine times out of 10, that puts me really close, then it’s just a matter of finessing with the temp and tint sliders to get it make it feel perfect.

How to Achieve the Proper White Balance in Lightroom by Jean Smith Photography via 

2. Eye dropper.

This is another common tool I use. In the Develop module you’ll see an eye dropper in the White Balance section. Just click the eye dropper to select it, then click somewhere in the image where you feel there is a pretty neutral gray color. You may need to click a few times to find the right spot. One area that almost always nails it is the whites of the eye. If I’m struggling with finding a good white balance, I’ll grab the dropper, click the white of the eye and it nails it. You may want to zoom in on the image first to get the eye nice and big, and try make sure to click a nice clean area of the eye.

How to Achieve the Proper White Balance in Lightroom by Jean Smith Photography via

3. X-Rite Color Checker Passport

This is the method I use when image quality and color is essential, for example during a commercial shoot. It’s also the method that will cost you some money and forethought. The X-Rite Color Checker Passport is a card that has several colored squares, which your subject will hold in one of the photos. It comes with a plugin for Lightroom that will then analyze that photo and create a color profile for that camera and shoot. You can then use eye dropper on the gray squares on the card (in the image) to set your white balance. It’s a little more complicated method, and one I don’t use it often, but when color and white balance are essential, it’s the method I always use. The kit comes with full instructions for installation and use.

The nice thing about this method, is I can sometimes cheat. If I used it on a previous shoot in a similar location with similar lighting conditions, I can use the profile and settings on my current shoot and it will often work great.

“After” Photo

The “after” image was adjusted in Lightroom using the eye dropper tool method (sampling the whites of his eye).

How to Achieve the Proper White Balance in Lightroom by Jean Smith Photography via

Happy Editing!


Jean Smith PhotographyJean Smith is a portrait, wedding, and commercial photographer in New Hudson, Michigan. She has a super rad husband (also a photographer) and four awesome little boys who keep life fun and VERY busy! To see more of her photography, visit her website, blog or follow her on Facebook.  Our community will also have the opportunity to learn from Jean at our upcoming Photography Conference for Women in October where she will be one of our featured speakers!


Would you like to be considered as an upcoming Featured Photographer in our “Before & After” photo editing series? Our schedule is filling up very quickly so please contact us if you’d like to be involved.  We only consider those who include samples of their current editing and writing style and links to their blog/website. We love to feature members of our community whenever possible!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Leila April 13, 2015

In this case why the eye and not the big target of that white shirt?


Skye February 14, 2014

Oh my god THANK YOU SO MUCH–the eyedrop tool tip helped a ton!! Thanks again :))


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: