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05-07-2010, 08:38 PM   #1
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setting custom white balance

I am new to using a DSLR and a bit confused how to use and set the custom white balance. Can anyone provide some basic explanation of how to use the custom function? Or point me to a good web source for learning how to do this? I don't find the manual as helpful as I would like! Thanks in advance!

05-07-2010, 09:35 PM   #2
SpecialK's Avatar

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Go through the menu to the custom WB setting. Fill the frame with a white or gray paper or card and take the shot. The camera will use that to determine the WB adjustment.

If you shoot RAW, you can change nearly all the processing settings, except ISO, later to suit the image.
05-07-2010, 10:05 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Wow, I can see why you're confused. It looks like 4 simple steps in the manual, but doesn't even explain where to point the camera at first.

First, some concepts. Your eyes adjust to most light sources and you don't really notice their color differences. The camera can't do that normally. It has a setting for Auto White Balance, AWB. This is generally fine for outdoor daylight and flash use. It doesn't work as well indoors, because indoor lighting can have strong colors outside of its range. That's what the chart on page 182 is trying to say. The most likely offender is tungsten light. The AWB system works best in the 4000K to 8000K range and tungsten is well outside that at 2850K. (I explain why below, just accept that for now.) You can take a test photo under tungsten light to see for yourself. When the camera is set to use AWB, everything will have a yellow cast.

The instructions on p. 183 sound complete, but the real instructions are on p. 185. I suggest starting with something white or close as your subject that fills the frame. A white wall is ideal, a white piece of paper works too. That way you can follow the simpler instructions for using the full frame. (Later you can play with moving the selector around a complex scene to find something white.) Skip tuning for now also, just accept what the camera gives you. When you get the camera to set a custom balance, take a photo similar to your AWB test photo. It should look a lot better.

You can go back to the other adjustments when you master the simpler process. Selecting a smaller area is handy when you don't have something to fill the frame. Fine-tuning is sometimes necessary to balance two different light sources or retain some character of one source. For example, I have a big window looking north. In the winter, I get light from this that's about 6000K-7000K. If there's a lamp on in the same room, that has light from a compact fluorescent at 3500K. A subject might be lit by both sources, so I can use fine tuning to balance that out somehow. Photos shot in a coffeehouse or under streetlights look odd with perfect white balance. Fine tuning adds back some atmosphere.

That should be enough to get you started. I actually skipped all that with my first DSLR by shooting RAW. That allows the white balance to be completely altered in software. It's easier for me.
05-08-2010, 04:05 PM   #4
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Thanks for these responses! I find just reading the instructions without some explanation of the "why" and "how" leaves me frustrated, so this background is really helpful. I was trying to take a picture of some food in my kitchen and getting an unappetizing yellow cast, but now I am getting a much more white background, though I still need to figure out the fine-tuning. Thanks again! Jeff.

05-09-2010, 09:06 AM   #5
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I just noticed that I forgot to explain why Auto White Balance has a limited range. It's sunsets and sunrises. If the AWB range extended to cover tungsten, sunsets would look awful.

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