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Thread: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

  1. #1
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    I have always had difficulty in setting the White Balance in Post Processing. It has always been hit-or-miss for me. To resolve the issue, I bought a WhiBal card to include with my shots so this would not be an issue. I even brought it with me on my last photo-shoot. But! I got so involved with composition and a host of other things that I forgot to use it! Both dumb and sad.

    OK. Now I'm back home and sure enough, I can set the Black Point and the White Point, but a lack a solid technique that I can use in post processing to reliably set the White Balance.

    Here is the image that I am trying to get the correct colours with Photoshop CS5. I also have Lightroom 3.6 if I need that. To me it looks too Blue, and it was a mostly overcast, blustery day to start with.

    Does anybody have a foolproof method that can be used to set the white balance in Photoshop or Lightroom?

    Please feel free to edit this image but I would appreciate knowing the steps you use to get it right.

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Frank,

    Lacking a reference point such as your WhiBal card, there is no fool-proof method of setting the white balance. That's because it's a matter of judgement. Hopefully someone will prove me wrong, but I'm not optimistic.

    One thing you could do is to find a pixel that is a neutral color. You can verify that by using a color picker on that pixel and reviewing the RGB values. Once you have done that, you can use that pixel as your WhiBal card.

  3. #3

    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Hey Frank,

    I gave it a try let me know what you think. I took the dropper in LR4.1 and clicked on the front steps and this is what I got. Not perfect but a little better I think.

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing
    Last edited by Carl in Louisiana; 3rd September 2012 at 12:42 AM. Reason: The steps are gray.

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Thanks Mike. Hopefully somebody has a technique for this and if not, I'm hoping that I have learned my lesson and will remember to take out the WhiBal card next time!

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl in Louisiana View Post
    I gave it a try let me know what you think. I took the dropper in LR4.1 and clicked on the front steps and this is what I got. Not perfect but a little better I think
    That looks better Carl, I think. So let me see if I got this straight. You use the color picker for the gray point in Curves dialog, for example, and click on something you think should be white, or more accurately, neutral gray and it will set the White Balance? Sounds both simple and good, at least in theory.

    OK, I tried this on various parts of the white clapboards and window frames and got results that ranged from sometimes better (I think) to much worse. I see the logic of what you are doing. Now I need to find a way to get an accurate spot to click.

  5. #5

    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    No, I used the dropper for WB in LR.
    I did it on the upper part of the step right over the fence as that was a brighter part of it. I read this somewhere and can't remember where. I forget to use my Whibal card also and found this suggestion where ever but it does seem to help. You can then play around with the temp and tint sliders to your taste only it does not take much to change things dramatically. Most of the time I just pick the best gray color in the image and let it go at that, and then kick myself in the butt for not using the Whibal. Gray color like concrete seems to work the best to me.
    Last edited by Carl in Louisiana; 3rd September 2012 at 01:24 AM.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Hi, Frank;

    Nowadays I use an X-Rite Color Checker Passport, which has a white balance card but also has color charts and grey scales that include warmer and cooler variants. It is kind of expensive but I like the hard case and I also am very happy with their ColorMunki Photo for profiling my monitor and printer.

    I just include a photo of the Color Checker using the same lighting as my photo shoot; click on an appropriate grey scale square using the Curves grey eyedropper selector when I am in Photoshop; and then I can just drag the Curves adjustment layer onto any of the other photos from that shoot, taken under the same lighting as the Color Checker photo, and the color is instantly corrected.

    I can do that with the same photo in any program that has a grey point eyedropper; with Nikon's Capture NX 2, for instance, I just save the adjustment file and apply it to other images.

    That doesn't necessarily give me the color correction I want, so I will often also use the Power Retouche filter for White Balance and (usually) apply the 'Color Caste' correction, fading that as necessary (Edit/Fade) until I get the color balance I want.

    I gave up on the Curves eyedropper selection for Black Point and White Point a long time ago, though; they just seem to drag my image colors all over the place.

    Here's an "old school" trick to get the kind of color correction that the Power Retouche filter I like using often delivers:

    1) Pick a white point in your photo that has a color caste you want to eliminate.

    2) Click on it using the Photoshop eyedropper tool (the color picker) so that this color loads into the top color selection square (usually black/white) in the Photoshop tool bar.

    3) Add an adjustment layer over a duplicate copy layer (so you're not affecting the original image) of your photo; using solid color fill, completely fill that layer with the color you picked from the color caste white area of your photo.

    4) Under 'Image Adjustments' use "Invert" to change the color of that fill layer into its exact color opposite.

    5) Decrease the density of the color fill layer (increase its transparency): because it is the exact opposite color of the color caste you are trying to get rid of, when you hit the right density (maybe 5% or something similarly light?) it will completely neutralize the color caste throughout the entire image!

    (NOTE: use the "Color Blend" mode between the inverse fill layer and the image).
    Last edited by John Morton; 3rd September 2012 at 02:46 PM.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Hi Carl, Ah. Tried it in LR and although the basic process is the same, I can see a grid of pixels which makes selecting one pixel much easier. It looks like there is still not a way of knowing for sure which pixel is best to use but it looks like it has the possibility to get closer. Thanks Carl!

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    http://www.photoshopessentials.com/p.../neutral-gray/

    Here's a trick way to do it if you have Photoshop (or PS Elements too?). I thought it was pretty dang clever for the guy to figure this out.
    It is just a little fiddly, but not too bad really. Worth the trouble if it can help out when you don't have a grey card in the shot, nor a perfect white surface for the WB eyedropper.

  9. #9

    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Hi Carl, Ah. Tried it in LR and although the basic process is the same, I can see a grid of pixels which makes selecting one pixel much easier. It looks like there is still not a way of knowing for sure which pixel is best to use but it looks like it has the possibility to get closer. Thanks Carl!
    Your Welcome Frank,
    Just wished I could remember where I picked it up from to give them the credit. That little box of pixels is a neat feature I think.
    I am learning to use the Whibal more often but every now and then forget and then arrrrggg.

  10. #10

    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Hi Carl, Ah. Tried it in LR and although the basic process is the same, I can see a grid of pixels which makes selecting one pixel much easier. It looks like there is still not a way of knowing for sure which pixel is best to use but it looks like it has the possibility to get closer. Thanks Carl!
    I just thought of this, I wonder if you hold your Whibal card up next to the screen if you could tell which pixel to choose then. I will have to go and try that right now.

  11. #11

    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    This one is holding the Whibal card next to the screen and picking the closest color to it.

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Hi, Frank;

    So this is a quick result using a white point on the house, and reducing the inverse color fill layer to 10% before blending it using Color as the blending mode:

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    I also changed the color space to sRGB; but I don't know if it was in Adobe RGB because of the photo or because of some way the version of Photoshop on this (my Internet computer) is set up to open files...

    Well actually that doesn't look a lot different from your original file so I've gone back and chosen a board under the eaves on the front of the house (which looks very bluish) as my base color; the inverse of which is a chocolaty brown, Blended at 33% and again using Color as the blend mode, I get this:

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing
    Last edited by John Morton; 3rd September 2012 at 02:37 AM.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    I don't think this image has a blue color cast, it is oversaturated in the blue channel. The color balance looks correct to me.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Stephen View Post
    http://www.photoshopessentials.com/p.../neutral-gray/

    Here's a trick way to do it if you have Photoshop (or PS Elements too?). I thought it was pretty dang clever for the guy to figure this out.
    It is just a little fiddly, but not too bad really. Worth the trouble if it can help out when you don't have a grey card in the shot, nor a perfect white surface for the WB eyedropper.
    Hi Scott, I've used this link before and it can get us much closer to the correct white balance. When Colin Southern tested this method he found that it may not be as accurate as using a proper gray card. I would have included his excellent analysis here but I couldn't locate the specific post where he provided the details.

    The process you identify in the link is definitely better than my guess work and without a gray card reference may be the best alternative available. Thank you for reminding me, I should have remembered to try this.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by John Morton View Post
    Here's an "old school" trick to get the kind of color correction that the Power Retouche filter I like using often delivers:

    1) Pick a white point in your photo that has a color caste you want to eliminate.

    2) Click on it using the Photoshop eyedropper tool (the color picker) so that this color loads into the top color selection square (usually black/white) in the Photoshop tool bar.

    3) Add an adjustment layer over a duplicate copy layer (so you're not affecting the original image) of your photo; using solid color fill, completely fill that layer with the color you picked from the color caste white area of your photo.

    4) Under 'Image Adjustments' use "Invert" to change the color of that fill layer into its exact color opposite.

    5) Use the Color Blending Mode. Decrease the density of the color fill layer (increase its transparency): because it is the exact opposite color of the color caste you are trying to get rid of, when you hit the right density (maybe 5% or something similarly light?) it will completely neutralize the color caste throughout the entire image!
    Thanks John; now that is really a neat technique!

    I ended up with a brownish result until I saw your second post about using the Color Blending Mode, then it worked a lot better!

    I really like the fact that I can see the light blue color in the fill layer where I felt it should have been white. I can also use the color sampler in the result to see exactly how much closer specific points in the image are to what my eyes think should be ‘white’.

    Thanks for the Tip!

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl in Louisiana View Post
    I just thought of this, I wonder if you hold your Whibal card up next to the screen if you could tell which pixel to choose then. I will have to go and try that right now.
    Thank you for taking the time to give this a try, Carl.

    I would expect that just as you need to use the WhiBal card under the same lighting conditions that the image is taken with, that this approach could be thrown off depending upon the difference in the lighting differences between the actual scene and the location where you are viewing the image?

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    I don't think this image has a blue color cast, it is oversaturated in the blue channel. The color balance looks correct to me.
    Hi Steve, I really don't have a good grasp on how to use Channels to make effective changes to the color tone. Could you elaborate a bit on the difference between having the blue channel oversaturated and having a blue color cast?

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Thanks John; now that is really a neat technique!

    I ended up with a brownish result until I saw your second post about using the Color Blending Mode, then it worked a lot better!

    I really like the fact that I can see the light blue color in the fill layer where I felt it should have been white. I can also use the color sampler in the result to see exactly how much closer specific points in the image are to what my eyes think should be ‘white’.

    Thanks for the Tip!
    You're very welcome, Frank; glad I could help.

    I've added that point about using the Color Blend mode to my original post. I had forgotten that point until I ran through the technique myself and saw what I was leaving out; I half remembered that a blend mode was involved but wasn't positive which one.

    This is a technique I picked up back with Photoshop 7 (before the Creative Suite releases) so it has been a while since I've used it; but as you mention, the really great thing about this technique is that you don't have to try and find a neutral grey (which is a little bit of a problem, since the issue is that the color in the photo isn't accurate): you just need to spot an area where you can definitely see the color caste, and that is easy since that's what the issue is in the first place.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    Frank,

    To try to remove saturation via channels, use the curves dialogue box and add a slight "s" curve to the required channel. This doesn't always work well but just using jpeg it's a quick fix. Here's a quick result,

    Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    I've overdone it just to show the point. This image is quite contrasty and I think the best way would be to sort it out in raw.

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    Re: Setting the White Balance in Post Processing

    [QUOTE=The Blue Boy;240337]To try to remove saturation via channels, use the curves dialogue box and add a slight "s" curve to the required channel.[\QUOTE]

    Hi Mark and thanks for being interested in this issue. I went to the curves adjustment and selected Blue but really don't know the impact of what I am looking at. I tried applying an "S" curve to the Blue channel but had no idea how much to apply so although I made a change, I can't determine if it was right, wrong, or just different. I guess I'm not very artistically 'right-brained'.

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