How to master white balance?

Vik880

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I've noticed a lot of critiques of photos on this forum(mine included) have this phrase somewhere in there: "your white balance is way off"

Perhaps my thinking of what white balance is is wrong, i use it as way to create the depth of colors that i saw when i shot the photo so in pping i'm trying to closely recreate the scene. But how do you do that perfectly? I know the monitor you have has an impact, not sure how significant of one. Any insight on how to nail this very very important detail of photography??
 

Trever1t

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First you can set accurate WB in camera by using a Greay card and Custom WB. Or if you shoot raw you can shoot a grey card for reference later (for each change of light) in post process. Having a CALIBRATED monitor does make a huge difference as well.
 

jwbryson1

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First you can set accurate WB in camera by using a Greay card and Custom WB. Or if you shoot raw you can shoot a grey card for reference later (for each change of light) in post process. Having a CALIBRATED monitor does make a huge difference as well.


^^^ This.
 

amolitor

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First, you must master yourself.

Or, what Trever1t said, that'll work too. I have to say that it's a bit of a mystery to be why a single reference is enough, why does grey work by itself? Why don't you need a red card, a green card, and a blue card? I dunno, but I guess mostly you don't.
 

Trever1t

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Perhaps one of the really scientific minds here can answer that, I can't I just know it works!
 

Derrel

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Sometimes you do not want an "accurate" WB. In fact, many times you want to set the camera manually to a pre-set "Daylight" or "Sunny" WB, and then to allow the warmth or coolness of the light to cause the pictures to look warmer--more yellowish, or orange, or pinkish, or in the evening, cool blue. Using AUTO white balance, the camera will usually try to cancel out the beautiful light of early morning or late afternoon, and your photos will look dull and uninspired. As blue hour approaches, the light is cool..almost blue...if the camera is allowed to run in AUTO white balance, all that magic will disappear. In the spring and summer, we often have odd "storm light", which carries with it very odd hues, and rainbows are often present; this light is best shot using Daylight WB, never,ever auto or custom.
 

KmH

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why does grey work by itself? Why don't you need a red card, a green card, and a blue card? I dunno, but I guess mostly you don't.

Gray works by itself because grey is equal parts of red, green, and blue and has no color cast. R=100, G=100, B=100 is a tone of grey. 18% gray is R=209, G=209, B=209.

White and black are the end points of the gray scale - equal values of RGB. White: R=255, G=255, B=255. Black: R=0, G=0, B=0.
 

amolitor

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A decent grey card is neutral in color. A bad one is not.

Even shooting RAW taking a reference shot of a good quality grey or white card will serve as a useful reference for what the ambient lighting actually was. That, together with judicious use of taste and the needs of the picture, will get you where you need to go.
 

Vladyxa

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First you can set accurate WB in camera by using a Greay card and Custom WB. Or if you shoot raw you can shoot a grey card for reference later (for each change of light) in post process. Having a CALIBRATED monitor does make a huge difference as well.

What would your recommendation be for monitor calibration?

Sometimes you do not want an "accurate" WB. In fact, many times you want to set the camera manually to a pre-set "Daylight" or "Sunny" WB, and then to allow the warmth or coolness of the light to cause the pictures to look warmer--more yellowish, or orange, or pinkish, or in the evening, cool blue. Using AUTO white balance, the camera will usually try to cancel out the beautiful light of early morning or late afternoon, and your photos will look dull and uninspired. As blue hour approaches, the light is cool..almost blue...if the camera is allowed to run in AUTO white balance, all that magic will disappear. In the spring and summer, we often have odd "storm light", which carries with it very odd hues, and rainbows are often present; this light is best shot using Daylight WB, never,ever auto or custom.

This would not apply to shooting in RAW, right?
Then WB can be changed in post-processing.
 

Majeed Badizadegan

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I personally use Auto WB for most everything and when I recognize light that I am shooting in that needs to be corrected, then I may use one of the presets like Tungsten or Florescent or Shade to slightly warm up cold outdoor light.
.

Why would you shoot in AWB when you could shoot the same WB? This way, you will be able to see the subtle changes of light as they happen over the span of a day, as Derrel mentioned.

A gray card is useful because of the digital darkroom. In the digital darkroom, if you've used a gray card, you can sample the gray card that you photographed in your scene and obtain the "correct" white balance. There are many times when I've been shooting a landscape, down in a canyon, or in the waning hours of the day, where neither AWB or Daylight WB is the correct approach. The easiest and most technical approach would be the use of a gray card in these situations.
 

Derrel

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Vladyxa said:
This would not apply to shooting in RAW, right?
Then WB can be changed in post-processing.

I think even when shooting in raw mode, that a white balance should be set, especially when the lighting is "full-spectrum deficient", meaning incandescent, sodium-vapor, tungsten, or "oddball". In oddball lighting conditions, I think it's worth the 3 seconds it takes to set a white balance that is at least "close" to the right one. The camera's internal processing needs to read the Bayer array's RGB data and convert it to something approaching the "correct" color. Nikons are reading the red,green,and blue color data from objects, and also analyzing the reflectivity of objects, as well as reading the overall light value in EV, plus analyzing brightness patterns; having a white balance that actually is at least somewhat close, or at the very least, stable from frame to frame, makes for easier post processing, and I think, might lead to better exposures.

I think in very dim, low-light level situations under say, dim street lights for example, it's better to have a fixed white balance that is even somewhat close, as opposed to say, the utterly WRONG WB, like say Fluorescent set.

Some cameras actually "cook" the RAW data a bit, before it is written to the card. And regardless if a camera cooks the RAW data or not, on EVERY, single frame, the camera must perform a demosaic of the raw data, and "fill in the blanks" for color data that is missing; I personally think it's better to have a fixed, more-or-less correct white balance when one is after the most-accurate and most-consistent color and the best image quality. We're talking about what I consider a "best practices" approach, as opposed to a what-the-heck, let's let it run in AUTO all day and all night long approach, and fix it after the fact. So, no, I do not think what I said above does not apply to shooting in RAW mode. I think it's better to strive for a higher standard at all times.
 

Vladyxa

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Derrel,

Thanks a lot for detailed explanation!

Back to your previous post. I always though that to give warmth to colors I should be setting my WB to "Cloudy". Was I wrong?
 

hirejn

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The answer is so easy, but people fight it. Use a ColorChecker Passport. Done.


It's easy, but it involves some steps and it requires you to shoot in RAW and use Lightroom. It also requires you to purchase the Passport, which is about $100. The reason color is a problem is not only because of monitor differences but differences in how cameras record color. White balance is only part of perfect color. Even two copies of the same model can record color slightly differently. And cameras struggle particularly with blues and purples. When you take a shot, do you later have perfect memory of exactly what each color should look like? You can spend time getting it to what you think is good, fiddling with WB and sliders, but it won't be perfect. If you don't have a perfect color memory, how could you edit to match the colors you shot? What is the exact purple of the bridesmaids' dresses? What is the exact pink of the flowers in the bouquet? Exactly how white was the shirt, or did it have a slight tint? How red was that tulip? Even if you had a sample of the color in front of you, how would you edit to match it on screen, and how much time would it take to match each shot to each sample manually? Is close good enough for you? You'd just be guessing. Also, with JPEG, the camera makes decisions about color and applies its own color spaces and default profiles, which are not as good.


The Passport enables you to fix this automatically. It gives you a white balance target for starters. It also enables you to create a profile for the given spectrum of light. When you apply the profile in Lightroom, you can see the colors snap into place. Then, if you have a calibrated monitor, you can hold the ColorChecker next to the image of the ColorChecker on the screen and it will essentially be a perfect match. So, once you create your profiles, perfect color is a matter of two steps: clicking a WB patch and applying the profile. You can then sync the profile and WB across a group of images. Go to xritephoto.com to learn more.


If you don't have money for a CC or LR, get a white card. Use the white card to create a custom WB in camera. This will get you close but not as good as the ColorChecker. White balance and color profiles are not the same. The color profile applies to a given spectrum of light. Daylight is daylight. So one profile covers it. The WB, however, may change at different times of day or in different locations. RAW makes it so much easier to perfect color but you can work around it. It just won't be as good.
 

Ysarex

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The answer is so easy, but people fight it. Use a ColorChecker Passport. Done.

:thumbup::cheer::thumbup:

Further up in the thread Amolitor noted: "I have to say that it's a bit of a mystery to be why a single reference is enough, why does grey work by itself? Why don't you need a red card, a green card, and a blue card? I dunno, but I guess mostly you don't."

As hirejn further notes the Passport provides those colors as well and will allow you to create an input profile for your camera and you can start taking advantage of the real precision that digital tech affords.

Joe
 

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