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Using Manual White Balance

White Balance

For years I used only a camera and housing for underwater photography.  I managed to get some fantastic results.  This was possible by using manual white balance.  White balance is available on all modern cameras now and are easy to use.

Depending on the camera does make a difference on how easy this is to use underwater.  For instance, the latest Canon models allow for one of the buttons to be programmed for setting white balance rather than needing to navigate through the menus.

Most cameras have ‘underwater modes’ in their pre-set functions.  These work on much the same way by defining a different white balance, although at a set depth say 3 meters.  I strongly recommend not using any ‘underwater modes’ on the cameras, these are designed for snorkelling and are usually only effective in the first five meters.  Do not be tempted…

Tips for using Manual White Balance

The camera’s white balance is usually set by aiming the camera at anything within the white spectrum whilst pressing set, i.e. white through the greys (Very useful as buddies scuba tank can be used for other things rather than just alternate air use!)

I first started using the palm of my hand for white balance ‘it’s close enough to white’ and this gave me some good results.  As I started to invest in new gear I moved to an arm slate.  This too doubled as a communication tool so proved to be very useful.  I have also met people wearing white gloves underwater to the same effect.  Any of these methods are acceptable and achieve good results.

Here are some photos that have been achieved with just using manual white balance on an old Canon IXUS 120IS (Not Powershot S110):

Blue Spotted Ray



Once the white balance has been set you will see all of the colours in your LCD display change and adjust to what you are seeing with your eyes…  The issue with only using manual white balance is that the deeper you go your camera will start to struggle to detect the red wave length as it just simply will not exist anymore. The only way to compensate for this is to use external lighting…