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03-22-2017, 09:12 AM   #1
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How Do You White Balance?

I've read/seen a lot of stuff on this and the results sometimes tend to contradict with one another. I'm not asking about using a device that will help you set your white balance (but any advice on that would also be greatly appreciated), I'm referring more to the "Should I set it to auto white balance and fix later? Or set a white balance and adjust later?" I've heard setting a white balance doesn't really matter because you can always fix it later. Do you agree?

How do you deal with this in the following situations?

1) Staying in one place where the light temperature does not change
2) Moving from room to room
3) Inside to outside (artificial to natural)
4) Any other situations I'm not considering?

Does anyone manually set/readjust their white balance in every situation? If so, tips?

03-22-2017, 09:29 AM   #2
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For general shots I will stick with auto. And correct if required. I have a grey card I use for custom , for fluctuating light sources (common at live events I will look for a good grey level in the shot if it needs it. For infrared I do it off something green if available or my grey card
03-22-2017, 09:30 AM   #3
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I always set WB to daylight and correct in post.

03-22-2017, 09:31 AM   #4
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So to be concise in critical shots grey card non critical auto or set manually if you know the temp (like with strobes that are 5600k

03-22-2017, 09:50 AM   #5

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I almost always shoot in DNG format, so use Auto WB and adjust later.

Night sky photography is an exception. I continue to shoot DNG for individual Milky Way photos. For time lapses and star trails, though, I use JPG format to simplify processing, and pick daylight, fluorescent, or manual white balance.
03-22-2017, 09:58 AM   #6
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Auto. Shoot raw and correct if needed. Occasionally I switch it to get better jpgs out of camera for a quick share.
03-22-2017, 10:03 AM   #7

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I shoot only DNG with auto WB and correct in post.
03-22-2017, 10:36 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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I believe that WB is one important factor to get right at capture point, even for RAW. There is an advantage to being able to see the effect on your LCD and compare to critical colours on the subject at the time. With a neutrally calibrated LCD screen this is do-able. The WB setting made on the camera is transferred through RAW metadata and reproduced via the 'As-Shot' parameter in most RAW converter programs, so your own accurate camera-set WB is reproduced by your software. I believe this is a better approach than 'correcting' an inaccurate WB value later on in post processing. At least, I have found the best time to get colours accurate is at the time of capture, when the actual subject and lighting are right there in front of you, to compare with your digital image on screen.

For the situations you mentioned (indoor / outdoors etc) then the WB presets on the camera are the starting points, and then an additional manual tweak if needed for each situation.

03-22-2017, 10:54 AM   #9
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All those white balance assisting devices (lens cap type white domes, cards or reflectors with 18%, black and white, etc. etc) date from a time when even pros had to shoot JPEG, and were naturally paranoid about getting colour right.

It wasn't that long ago when I remember wedding photographers nursed their collection of 96MB, 128MB memory cards. Big spenders could afford 256MB or even (gasp) 512. They didn't get that many shots on a card, and hardly any with raw. So JPEG was necessary.

I've done tests, just for fun, and found you can't colour correct a really messed up JPEG. Accidentally shoot "tungsten" in daylight, and you'll never get it correct no matter how much you play in Photoshop.

So companies saw a need for photographers to custom set their WB and made all those neat gadgets. Some were quite creative, but a consistent feature was about 30-cents worth of plastic, and a $79.95 price tag. Some were even more.

I'm sure it took most purchasers only one event to realize juggling that little (or big) gadget was a real pain.

Today, if I'm not shooting on "AWB", I'll use one of the pre-sets (mainly to just make myself feel good). Any balance errors get tweaked in raw conversion. It's just the way to go.

If I am shooting JPEG for some specific reason, then I use a pre-set if AWB doesn't seem to be working.
03-22-2017, 11:21 AM   #10

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I shoot raw, keep the WB at daylight, and adjust in lightroom when necessary. I find it much easier entering the WB value in Lightroom in batches compared to adjusting in camera as I go.

I carry a passport colour checker dealie which has a white balance target, so if I'm in radically different light than I've been in before or colour accuracy is just super important for what I'm doing, I'll make a custom profile. I'm not around artificial lights very often (except the ones I bring with me), so it's not like I encounter something new very often. I'm usually in sun, overcast, or in a shady wood under sun, overcast, with or without a flash(es), so it's not terribly complicated in my case.
03-22-2017, 12:32 PM   #11
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I shoot raw, so I generally just look for something either white or gray in the scene and then set the color in LR. Or place a gray card in the scene for the first shot and use that in LR to set the color balance. If I want to set it in camera, then I use a white coffee filter over the lens to set the custom color in the camera. For using the coffee filter idea, just google "using coffee filter to set white balance" and you will find lots of articles. I keep a coffee filter in the bottom of my camera bag.
03-22-2017, 01:15 PM   #12
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It is a matter of personal preference. I always shoot raw/Auto WB and correct in post. I carry a grey card in the bag if needed. I usually spend some time in post getting it right on the first image and then replicate in as many as possible (same lightning, location etc).

03-22-2017, 01:54 PM   #13
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-- If you use raw (which you should for this) I don't find any difference--no matter how far of the WB setting I chose--so long as you have a way to set the WB accurately in post.
-- Nevertheless personally I choose the setting that best approximates the condition I am shooting in** (mostly: cloudy [high temp.] if cloudy day, daylight, and tungsten lighting).
-- With film I used a color meter and mired system color filters, but with digital in many cases you can have something in the shot to get a WB from. For my theatre work I use the white of the actor's eye (pick it in Photoshop [PS] Camera Raw).
-- For copying art work, I shoot a gray card, and then set WB by again picking it in PS Camera Raw--or use 3200K bulbs and set the WB to 3200K.
-- For less well characterized situations I suppose Auto WB would be a starting point, but that may be way off due to dominent colors in reflected light so if you need to get it right (whatever that means!!) methods I use/used are:
---- have a white or gray element to pick, or introduce one (gray or white card),
---- use a color meter. Gossen Sixticolor (color meter) is inexpensive (order of magnitude $30 used), and useful, so long as the light levels are not too low. It reads in Kelvin and you need to then set that in your dslr WB, or note the color temperature and set it in post. But I had problems w/ PS CS2 and K20d--the color temperatures were not correct/were not read properly (I have forgotten what the specific issue I had was).
** Not that I have much experience with auto WB, more likely 1) the reading is reflected light so I don't see how it can be a very reliable indication, and 2) I tend to not trust automatic settings.

BTW you say you are not asking about a device--but if there is no true indication (pure white or gray color in the scene) and/or no known light temperature (e.g., 3200K bulbs, or 5500K for mid day daylight)--how do you intend to set the WB? There is no way to do it. As I mention above, you cannot reliably use the reflected light to do it--and you have no other method.

Last edited by dms; 03-22-2017 at 02:06 PM.
03-22-2017, 02:48 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
I almost always shoot in DNG format, so use Auto WB and adjust later.
QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Auto. Shoot raw and correct if needed.
QuoteOriginally posted by 08amczb Quote
I shoot only DNG with auto WB and correct in post.
QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
I always shoot raw/Auto WB and correct in post
03-22-2017, 03:31 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
I have found the best time to get colours accurate is at the time of capture,
I think for most of us that would be impractical.

Typically 10 seconds or so to frame, focus, set Ev and fire...

Last edited by wildman; 03-24-2017 at 01:08 AM.

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