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Photo Tips > Warming Cards


You can use colored cards to change the color balance of a scene.

Light may be too cyan (blue-green) in three situations.

Situations #1 & #2

Light may be too cyan:

1) In the shade on a sunny day

2) Under overcast skies

For example, shade is often good light for a portrait, say, of Aunt Maybelle.

However, the cyan-colored light can drain the vitality from her face.

Cyan-colored light cancels out red colors.

So, Aunt Maybelle's well-rouged cheeks won't look well-rouged.

Situation #3

A scene may have a normal color balance, but added warmth would improve it.

For example, let's say you're photographing a maple tree in the fall.

You can intensify the reds by warming up the color balance.

Film & Video

Film photographers use amber-colored warming filters (81A and 81B) to warm up color.

Videographers have done the same thing by setting the white balance of their camera with warming cards.

They hold the cyan-colored cards in front of their cameras, and press the Set White Balance button.

You can use warming cards too.

Warming Cards

Warming cards are sets of cyan-colored cards.

They're sold by the companies below and others.



Automatic WB

The above scene has a cyan color cast, which is the color of light in the shade on a sunny day.

The automatic white balance warmed the color somewhat.


Cloudy WB Icon

The cloudy WB icon setting removed more of the cyan.

The shade WB icon setting would have removed more.


Custom WB Setting

I pointed the camera at a white card to get this custom WB setting.


Custom WB Setting - Card #.5

Above, instead of using a white card to set a custom WB setting, card #.5 was used.


Custom WB Setting - Card #1

Card #1 warms the color even more.


Custom WB Setting - Card #2

Card #2 is less useful than the above two cards.


Custom WB Setting - Card #3

Card #3 is too warm for just about any situation.

The manufacturer suggests that this card be used sparingly.

Here are the above examples side-by-side for easier comparison.

Automatic WB q
Cloudy WB Icon q
Custom WB Setting q
Custom WB Setting - Card #.5 q
Custom WB Setting - Card #1 q
Custom WB Setting - Card #2 q
Custom WB Setting - Card #3 q

How to Use

You need to set a custom white balance setting.

Check your camera instruction manual.

When doing a custom white balance setting, you normally point your camera at a white or gray surface.

To warm up the color of a scene, you'll use warming cards instead.

Here are the steps:

1) Activate the custom white balance setting on your camera.

2) Hold a warming card in front of lens.

It's okay if the card is out-of-focus.


3) Press shutter release to record the color.


Until you're familiar with the effect produced by each card, experiment like I did above.

How Do They Work?

When you set your white balance, the camera measures the color of the light.

If there's too much of a color, a color cast, the camera adds the opposite color to negate the color cast.

In this color wheel, you can see which color is opposite another color.

Red Cyan
Blue Yellow
Green Magenta

Here's a mnemonic for the relationships.

Red Corvette BY General Motors