Try This Secret Photoshop Trick for Better White Balance

Adjusting white balance can be such a pain, especially when you get it horribly wrong while shooting. When you edit your photos, you’re probably doing what any other photographer is doing: creating a curves adjustment layer and using the presets to select the black and white points. Photoshop normally does a good job of giving you a head start to correcting the white balance. However, not all photos respond well to that approach:

The extreme sampling points of black and white don’t always get you the results you want, since this approach is essentially a linear adjustment, a compromise of sorts, that pretty much throws color accuracy out the window. This clever tutorial by Graphics Geeks, shows you how to fix your white balance by sampling mid-tones. The steps are pretty interesting and don’t even require that you use a 50% gray card as a reference point.

How to Adjust White Balance

  1. Create a new layer.
  2. Fill it with 50% gray.
  3. Set the blending mode for this new layer to Difference.
  4. Create a threshold adjustment layer.
Adjusting white balance quickly

Slide the threshold slider almost to the left to reveal the tones matching 50% gray.

  1. Drag the adjustment slider almost all the way to the left.
  2. You’ll notice that small patches of the image are now filled with black. These are the areas that closely match with 50% gray.
better white balance adjustment using gray sampling point

Sample one of the areas that are closet to 50% gray.

  1. Select the color sampler tool and sample one the above patches of black. Ensure that the sampled point was directly lit by the main light source.
  2. Hide the gray and threshold layers.
  3. Select the curves adjustment layer.
  4. Use the gray point preset and select the 50% gray sampled point in one of the above steps.
using 50% gray sampling in white balance adjustment

Comparison between the extreme point sampling (L) and 50% gray point sampling (R).

You’ll notice, hopefully, that these steps created a smart curves adjustment to give you a better white balance adjustment—much better than sampling the extreme points you normally do.

So, is this a better technique than sampling the extreme black and white points? On first look—definitely yes. But is it accurate? Not really. There are green shadows and magenta tones. White balance is a subjective thing, so it needs a human touch to fine tune. Plus, no matter how clever the software becomes, it seems nothing can beat the photographer’s eye when it comes to finer adjustments.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

4 responses to “Try This Secret Photoshop Trick for Better White Balance”

  1. debbie says:

    Does this work in Element? Im trying, however, when I try to use the curves gray pointer, it is not active. The white and black are active.

  2. Walt Mateja says:

    Excellent… Thank You!

  3. Matthias says:

    But WB is still fare off!!! pink toilet?!

  4. Aditya says:

    Thanks for that, worked really well… :D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever