Whether you are shooting video or stills, working with a 5D Mark II can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re stepping up from a Canon Rebel or a more automatic camera.

One of the questions I get asked most often is about white balance – “What do you set your white balance at?”  Good question.  And there is no one right answer because every situation is different and everyone has their own opinion on what looks good.

I’ve laid out my opinions below.  Feel free to use this as a reference, but shoot often and make your own decisions!  The more you shoot, the more opinionated you will become!


What is your custom K for the following… Sunny day? ie 5800 or the 6000s?

I usually shoot around 5800 to warm it up a touch.  Standard outdoor K setting would be 5600 on most cameras.

What custom K do you normally feel safe using?

Overcast day?

Depending on how cloudy the day is, 6300 is probably my average.

Sunny w/ clouds?

I’d still keep it at 5800 if my subject is in sun.

Indoors daylight mixed tungsten and daylight?

Probably more like 4800.  I’d error on the side of being warm here.  Skin tone looks bad when it’s too cool.

Tungsten? 3200 or 3800?

I usually shoot at 3400 for tungsten on a 5D, just to warm it up a bit.  Keep in mind, the color temperature of bulbs can shift throughout the bulb’s life – They tend to get warmer as they age.  And don’t forget that they get warmer if they are on a dimmer and are dimmed down. In general, I’d think 3800 would look too warm in most situations.


Depends.  If you want to exaggerate the warm look, set it at 7000 or higher.  If you’re looking to cool off some of the warm colors the sun is dropping on your subjects, cool it down by dropping it to 4300 or even less.

What color temp you would use if you had a room with no lights on but with lots of daylight coming in from the outside?

You would use a daylight color balance… 5600-5800.  If there are blue walls, then maybe more like 6300.  If the room has more warm colors, you would error on the cooler side, so 5600ish.

And you were shooting indoors like in a retail shop with possibly some fluorescent lights about but mostly daylight?

That’s the toughest call.  If the fluorescents are the green kinds, 4200 is best.  If they are the blue fluorescents, then you need to warm it up, so something like 5600.  Best to look at a monitor here.

What if there was daylight mixed with fluorescents?

Probably 5000.  But again, it depends on what has more influence.  If your subjects are by the windows, your best bet is to balance for that.  If they are more under the fluorescent lights, then aim closer to 4200.

Would it be 5800 again for daylight indoors too?

Yes.  If there are no tungsten or fluorescent lights.

How do you gage what to do in a simple room with daylight?

If the light is from the sun, then my original suggestions for outdoor light apply.

** Keep in mind you can always use an external professional HDMI monitor to take a look at your color (such as the Panasonic 910).  Then you know what you’re really getting, and you’re not relying on the color-inaccurate LCD on the back of the camera. **


If I am interviewing three subjects on a couch (shooting video on the 5D) and I need some light in addition to daylight pouring in from a window.  Would a 650 with a Chimera soft box be good to use on the opposite side of the window?  Would you ever justify using two 650 lights with scrims during an interview where you have daylight coming  in or do you think 2 lights would be overkill because you have that window with natural light?  I want to make the best of the natural light in the room but also want to make sure I light everyone well enough.


Your best bet is to use an HMI to solve this problem.  HMI’s are daylight-balanced lights (5600K), which will match the color temp of the outside light.  The most popular and effective light is the Joker 800W with a small Chimera.  Rents for about $300/Day.  They are used all the time for that situation.  This is your best bet.

If you cannot afford that, you can use a 650, or better yet, a 1K with a Chimera.  But I would suggest using a 1/2 CTB gel over the Chimera to split the difference in the color temperature from the outside light (reading 5600) and the tungsten 650 (which is 3200).  A 1/2 CTB Gel over the light will make the light on your subject’s face about 4200K (which is half-way between 3200 and 5600).  Then set your white balance to 4200 (or maybe 4400 to warm it a bit).  The light from the window will appear blue-ish, but not crazy blue.  You can place a Full CTB Gel over the 650 or 1K, but you will loose a lot of light, and the window may appear blown out.

Also, I would avoid using two key lights.  You might get strange double shadows.  I’d recommend using a bigger light (like a 1K or the HMI Joker) over two lights anytime.


Also, are you using the technicolor cine-style picture style for DSLRs or the Neutral setting that is low contrast?


Depends on how you are post-processing the footage.  If you will be spending time color correcting, it’s a good idea to shoot a bit flat (Neutral) to allow you more choices in color correction.  However, I usually use “Standard” which gives it a bit of punch since not a lot of color correction is usually done.  If I was shooting a short film, I probably would go “Neutral.”


What is the best color setting combination to use for picture style when shooting video?


The best way to decide what color/contrast settings to use is to shoot your own test footage, digitize, and decide what you like.  Coming up with a “look” for a particular project is half the fun!

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