Why I Shoot in Kelvin

  • Ask Anything

A sweet photographer at a recent coaching session said “I’m afraid to teach because what if I change my mind about something and then I’ve taught everyone something that’s WRONG?!” Oh I feel ya girl! It’s humbling being someone who educates. It’s scary to learn new things and then think “Shoot! But I’ve been teaching something different! gah! Now what?!”. You know what I think? I respect leaders MORE when they can back track and admit that they have found a new way of doing things that works better!

The truth is, I was asked two years ago if I shot in KELVIN White Balance and I said “Oh no, I’m just fine using my “SHADE and CLOUDY” setting!”. Welp, almost immediately after that workshop, I started shooting in Kelvin and it rocked my editing world! So I immediately went into my workshop FB group and made an announcement about my new found love for Kelvin! Is it humbling? SURE! But it’s GOOD to be humbled and it’s the right thing to do as an educator! If I didn’t keep learning, I wouldn’t have the right to teach!

So what is KELVIN?! Kelvin is a manual white balance setting on your camera that allows you to manually adjust the temperature setting while you’re shooting! Here’s why I switched:

1. I wanted more control in-camera!
2. I don’t use an expo-disk but I wanted more accuracy!
3. I love warmer images but sometimes “SHADE” was too warm and “CLOUDY” was too cool. I needed an in-between!
4. I wanted to decrease my editing time and keep my images in the purest form possible post processing! (Not having to do drastic color corrections to the raw files)
5. When I shoot with the correct color in-camera, It allows me to focus more on composition while shooting because I’m not distracted by worrying about images being too “orange” or too “blue”!

So do you want to give Kelvin a try?! Here are some things you will want to know!

1. There’s a learning curve! If you’re REALLY new and you’re still trying to figure out manual exposure, maybe wait on the Kelvin setting for now!
2. You can set up a Custom Function to make adjusting Kelvin faster!
3. Learn the scale! You’re going to need to memorize that the LOWER the number, the cooler the temperature and the HIGHER the number, the warmer temperature.
4. Be patient! It takes some time to get used to this!
5. Practice with a just-for-fun shoot before trying Kelvin during a paid shoot!
6. Make sure you’re shooting in RAW. If you have a whoopsie with your Kelvin settings, your RAW file will be fixable but your JPEG will not. So make sure you’re shooting in RAW! …. Always!
7. Set your White Balance setting to “K” and start manually adjusting your temperature setting!

Here’s a look a the Kelvin Scale!

Graphic Credit: Ona Hau Photography 

LCD screen of Kelvin setting on a Canon Mark III:

Image Credit: FStoppers

So here’s an example of when using Kelvin SAVED me! I ran back to check on the girls before the ceremony and they were praying… in a SUPER dark room with VERY orange lamps (tungsten light) and no windows. I didn’t have a flash on me and I needed to shoot it right then. So I adjusted my Kelvin to 2750 and this is straight out of the camera! It’s still a little too warm but the color is awesome compared to an “auto” wb setting! :

Settings: Canon 5D Mark III, 50mm 2.2 2500ISO 1/60 WB 2750

And just because this post needs something PRETTY, here’s an image from Saturday’s wedding!

Settings: Canon 5D Mark III, 85mm 1.8, 200ISO 1/400 WB 6500

xoxo, Katelyn
24 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Janice reply

    Thats looks great. Do you set it accordingly to waht the light is doing. For example if its sunny do you set it to the scale 5500? With the bride and groom photo did you set it to 6500 because it was cloudy?

  2. Megan Kelsey Marcus reply

    YES. I honestly cannot understand how people shoot in Auto!!! And it’s so much easier to edit by shooting in Kelvin! :)

  3. Nicole Salter reply

    I’ve been back and forth playing with Kelvin in college, but have been using auto lately just because they’re RAW and can be fixed in post. You’re possibly convincing me to give it another go ;)

  4. Jenny reply

    I’ve always been content with Nikon’s auto WB + tweaks after, but this makes me want to give it a try. Anything I can get perfect in caemera is a win!

  5. Kristina W. reply

    It’s hard to admit when we didn’t know something or said the wrong thing earlier, but we’re all human and we keep growing!

  6. jamie delaine reply

    Love this Katelyn! I’ve never tried using Kelvin but for sure will give it a go on a portrait session or something now!

  7. Jessica reply

    I love shooting in Kelvin – especially for consistency in editing!! Sometimes I flip to the “Live View” mode and you can physically see how the white balance is changing the color right on the screen before your set it – I use that trick whenever I have a few extra seconds to adjust it :)

  8. Catherine reply

    Wow! Great advice, never heard of this before. I will try it soon.

  9. Ingrid reply

    I left the expo disk to shoot in kelvin early on because I found my images were always too cool. I do have a question though: what setting do you use for your preview? I don’t always feel that what I am seeing on the back of my camera matches what I see on my screen when I upload. Thoughts?

  10. Karen reply

    I keep thinking “I’m going to work on Kelvin this year” … and never do. This is really helpful! Thanks for sharing! :)

  11. Mya Rae reply

    This is really interesting–I hadn’t given any thought to shooting in Kelvin but I love to learn new things also, so I’ll definitely begin practicing!

  12. Jared reply

    I love using Kelvin to set white balance! One thing I found helpful when learning to use the scale was to utilize the “Live View” function if possible. It shows the effect of changing values as you change them. I’m not sure if this works on all DSLR’s but it helped me get a feel for what temps work in different situations. :)

  13. Terry reply

    How do you know how much adjustment to make? Do you take a picture and then look and see if it seems right on the back of camera?

  14. How to Create a Quick & Steady Workflow » Lifestyle Blogger + Wedding Photographer reply

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  17. Erin reply

    I was just wondering if you had tried a whibal card instead of kelvin? I’m just wondering if I’m in a room with windows, overhead lighting and “twinkle” lights… What do you do in that situation? I’ve been using my whibal card but I’m wondering if kelvin would be quicker. I only shoot in raw and I use manual all the time, so learning curve is no biggie for me. Thanks! Your pictures are heavenly!

  18. Renee Harrell reply

    I’m a little confused…you say the higher the kelvin number the warmer the color…? This chart is upside down unless you mean to correct your color balance by dialing in the exact opposite range to what lighting condition you are shooting in…yes? I have tried them all and I too like my images a little warmer…very good article!

  19. Celia reply

    As I am seating in my office reading this short article, I decided to grab my camera and try it myself. It is 9:40 pm and my office light is making the room look a bit orange. I set my camera to kelvin 2630 and I could not believe the difference. It was amazing! I can’t wait to try it in different times of the day. Looking forward to your next consistency course, since I couldn’t enroll this time.

  20. Emily reply

    What Kelvin do you set for flash?

    Do you set based off of the room then gel your flashes so it’s consistent or to you leave them bare and set to something different. I’m having a hard time with this one without taking soooooooooo many shots (and I still haven’t gotten it, haha).


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