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03-11-2007, 12:33 PM   #1
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White Balance help

I need some help with white balance. I've started shooting raw lately and have been using RawShooter (with the modified exe file) to process my photos. Usually I use the eyedropper to pick a neutral spot with good results. While processing my owl photos (pictures in the "Post your photos" forum) I had a hard time finding the correct white balance. If I picked a patch of snow, the white balance temperature would be over 12000. If I pick some other neutral area I get a better result but the snow has a blue cast to it. Maybe it's supposed to, I don't know.

Any advice? Thanks.

03-11-2007, 03:30 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by slick100d Quote
I need some help with white balance. I've started shooting raw lately and have been using RawShooter (with the modified exe file) to process my photos. Usually I use the eyedropper to pick a neutral spot with good results. While processing my owl photos (pictures in the "Post your photos" forum) I had a hard time finding the correct white balance. If I picked a patch of snow, the white balance temperature would be over 12000. If I pick some other neutral area I get a better result but the snow has a blue cast to it. Maybe it's supposed to, I don't know.

Any advice? Thanks.
It is what it is.
The snow is white in our minds. In reality the light hitting the snow comes from the blue sky. You see this all the time if you look for it: some shadows have a blue cast, pictures taken in the mountain (ski vacation...) shows this all the time.
There is no way you can get white to look white when different parts of the picture have different light sources. So, it's supposed to to look like that, yes.

If this is a big problem for you you have to start post process (PP) your pictures more selective. The raw converter works with everything in the picture. In an image editing application you can select the snow and desaturate it, or you can choose different parts of the picture and make subtle color changes, or a combination of this.

One thing to remember is that everything doesn't have to look like it does in theory, or in our minds. Noone will have any objections to some blur, some color casts, some minor framing errors, and so on, as long as you get a good picture on the whole. The blue color cast in your owl picture here:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-your-photos/4001-finally-got-my-owl.html#post33201
is nothing that bothers me a bit. You got the owl and that's what counts here. The rest of the picture is just some context and we see, in a snap, that it is winter and that the owl is sitting in a tree. After that we look at the owl.

(And when looking close we see some back focusing and that is more disturbing than the snow. The twigs behind the owl are sharper than the owl's head and that's the only problem with this otherwise nice picture. That is the very first picture. In the first picture in the second set you nearly nailed it. That picture I can really like. Here the snow is more blue again but it is, again, no problem at all.)

imho,
03-11-2007, 03:43 PM   #3
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Hi Slick!

I'll agree with Jonas here. You nailed that owl with that "peekaboo" shot. You got enough of the "white" stuff for us to know that it's snow and it was winter, yet all the snow in the background and the shade was blue and I didn't care for it.

If you are looking to balance the white, I'd look into a coffee filter as your cheapest solution as suggested in this thread.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/3117-manual-wb-coffee-filter.html

I gave it a go and it works well. It does give the snow a very very slight bluish cast, but not so much that I'm concerned.

Hope that helps.
03-11-2007, 06:17 PM   #4
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Jonas, thanks for the informative post. It's not a problem for me, I just hadn't run across this before. I guess I could do like you suggest and select parts of the image and correct the color cast. Sounds like a lot of work. To be honest, the first time we saw the owl, I was to excited to think much about composition, etc. It was when he came back that I took more time and got some better images. Of course it helped to have the window open!

Alvin, I had read about using a coffee filter for white balance, but I figured I didn't need to worry about it when shooting raw. I guess you would use it for a baseline white balance then copy it to all the images as a starting point. Or am I missing something?

Still learning. Thanks for the help.

03-11-2007, 06:24 PM   #5
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White balance

Hey Slick,

I know that everyone has their own view of WB, but I thought I'd share mine: white balance really should be thought of as color balance, or color preference- if it looks good, it is good. I just dial away until I get something that's satisfying. I think that reading some of Ken Rockwell's thoughts on "what is art" and others on his website (Kenrockwell.com) made me a firm believer in this method. I've even started to pay attention to how my eyes perceive light and color and how the brain integrates a series of glances into a mental image. Since a camera can only capture one of those glances, it therefore can't interpret reality the way our mind can. Ergo, the image it creates is subjective and within the purview of creative license. On a more practical note, I can never get all of the colors I see in the picture to exactly match those of the original subject anyway, no matter how hard I try.

I present all of this at the risk of sounding pretentious, not to try to say that my way is best, but to explain my conviction. Having confidence in this approach has taken away uncertainty and frustration and has given me the patience to keep tweaking until I'm happy. I really hope that helps, and sorry for the Magical Mystery Tour through Strawberry Fields.

John
03-11-2007, 06:50 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by slick100d Quote
Alvin, I had read about using a coffee filter for white balance, but I figured I didn't need to worry about it when shooting raw. I guess you would use it for a baseline white balance then copy it to all the images as a starting point. Or am I missing something?

Still learning. Thanks for the help.
Forgive me if I ramble. I'm terribly tired tonight because of this daylight savings time stuff (checking my network to make sure it didn't trip).

The camera will use the custom WB (using your coffee filter) as the baseline for what is white. This should hopefully minimize the tweaking required in post-processing because you did the WB adjustment before shooting.

The problem with using custom WB in the camera is that you have to readjust the WB in the camera for each shot as the lighting changes. eg. moving from sunny to shady location, or going from outdoor to indoor and vice-versa.

This is why a lot of people will use AWB in outdoor shots then switch to incandescent for night time (under streetlight) or indoor.

Oh, I hope I made sense here.
03-11-2007, 07:05 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by slick100d Quote
-snip- To be honest, the first time we saw the owl, I was to excited to think much about composition, etc. It was when he came back that I took more time and got some better images. Of course it helped to have the window open!
I would have done the exact same thing. Honestly I don't care much for bird pictures but I would love to get close to an owl like that.


QuoteOriginally posted by slick100d Quote
Jonas, thanks for the informative post. It's not a problem for me, I just hadn't run across this before. I guess I could do like you suggest and select parts of the image and correct the color cast. Sounds like a lot of work.

Alvin, I had read about using a coffee filter for white balance, but I figured I didn't need to worry about it when shooting raw. I guess you would use it for a baseline white balance then copy it to all the images as a starting point. Or am I missing something?
Yes, it is a lot of work and seldom needed.

For coffe filters, Pringle lids, grey cards and plain office laser paper I would say you just don't need it when shooting raw. Sometimes it is good, like in product pictures, to have a firm starting point. But then you often need a Gretag Color Chart anyway to get it all right.

No you are not missing anything. When you found good settings for the white balance and color cast in the raw converter you just copy and paste the settings to all the pictures in the same series (taken with no changes to the light). It works just fine.

Again, for the color balance and your owl pictures you did fine in my opinion. The owl looks good (and the color settings are thus just right) and the rest is what it is. It's not always a grey card tells everything: I want my pictures to look in a way making them look good to my eyes. Sometimes people comment on them and thinks they are too warm. Ok then - I like them a bit warm most of the time. A grey card often tells me something else but I don't have to obey. I can crank up the color temperature slider in my converter a few hundred degrees to get it right.

As you can see I believe a hobby to be fun, not an excercise in science or theories. Most of the time I even prefer the world in B&W!

regards,

Last edited by Jonas B; 03-11-2007 at 07:06 PM. Reason: 15min between Alvin and me here, do I type slowly?
03-11-2007, 09:05 PM   #8
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John, I understand exactly what you (and Jonas) are saying. I usually use the eyedropper first and most times it looks good. Sometimes I go back and mess around and find a better setting. That's one of the things I really like about RawShooter. You can have tabs of the same picture with different settings and easily compare them. I have bookmarked the Ken Rockwell site. It looks like there's lots of good reading there.

Alvin, I'll have to try the coffee filter. I've used custom white balance many times. Shooting kids indoor activities always involves lighting with odd temperature combinations. Since shooting raw I no longer have to worry about it but it would be nice to have the custom setting as a starting point.

For the record, the first four owl pictures had a white balance temperature just under 11000; the next pictures where at 7700.

Jonas, I agree about the hobby being fun. I've had more fun with my K100D than all the cameras before it (well, maybe ).
As for black and white, I haven't tried that yet. It almost seems more difficult than color!

Thanks again,

Steve

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