Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 26

Thread: Approaches in White Balance settings

  1. #1
    GiacomoD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Florence, Italy
    Posts
    168
    Real Name
    Giacomo

    Approaches in White Balance settings

    In a previous thread - How to take photos of sunrise and sunset? - the discussion led us to talk about the best White Balance for that particular kind of photos.
    Reading the various posts, I was surprised to see that many of you have a general approach to this problem quite different from mine. So, I started to ask myself if it's worth to reconsider my approach.

    I was convinced that in landscape photography (but, I suppose, also in other types of photography) the general rule was to represent as more faithfully as possible the scene as it appeared to the photographer at the moment of the shot. As a consequence, I believed that it was crucial to choose the appropriate W/B setting (regardless it was done in camera or in PP) for that particular kind of light.
    On the other hand, I see people using an approach that - to a certain extent - can be summarized as "I use the W/B that gives me the result I like more", sometimes even if it brings to misrepresent the reality.

    With this new thread, I ask you all your personal opinion and behavior on this issue.
    What kind of photos you usually take?
    How much importance do you pay to W/B and how free do you feel in playing with it?
    Do any of you make use of specific equipment such as grey cards or Expodisk?

    I hope such a discussion can help confused enthusiast photographers like me

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC
    Posts
    17,884

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    I explain to my friends who are not steeped in photography that I make rather than take photos. To that end, I envision the final photo as much as possible before releasing the shutter. Sometimes my vision matches the physical scene very closely, sometimes not at all.

    All of my camera settings are configured to achieve a capture that is as close as possible to the envisioned outcome insofar as depth of field, focus, exposure and white balance are concerned. I use grey cards only when skin tones are a substantive portion of the image. That's because the perfect white balance is most important to me when skin tones are prevalent. Using a grey card makes it easier to fine tune the white balance during the post-processing, if needed.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 25th January 2013 at 08:48 PM.

  3. #3
    pnodrog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Waipu, Northand, New Zealand
    Posts
    3,346
    Real Name
    Paul

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    The following is a copy of a reply I made to another thread in November AWB Test It maybe worthwhile you looking at the entire thread.

    White balance is ALMOST a myth. The RAW file from the camera contains the colour information existing at the time of exposure. It is our brains that process the colour information subjectively. If you look at an object you are familiar with (a white cat or your hand) under differing lighting it is your mind that recalls the expected colour and adjusts the actual colour to more closely match your expectation. In a sunset we would like a camera to show a white cat as nearly white (we are prejudiced about orange cats) while keeping the full rich warm tones in the sky – our brains can nearly do it, our cameras cannot.


    A camera set on Auto white balance has to compromise or use scene recognition software to try and provide an acceptable result. If we intervene by manually setting white balance we are just assuming more control. It does not guarantee a more pleasing result. In the case of a grey card or grey building photographed on a bright cloudy day we can adjust the white balance to make it look as if taken at any time of day we like. If we take it at night illuminated by sodium or mercury lighting we can not easily correct it and if it was a pink or green building unless I liked the new colours I would probably be converting the photograph to B&W.

    Personally I set my camera to save RAW files and generally leave the camera on auto WB then do any adjustments in PP. In the days of film I would sometimes use a coloured filter to either correct or enhance a photograph but for me now trying to set WB on location is not relevant. I do however sometimes take a photo of a grey card as a reference but in general I am trying to generate an aesthetic result not an accurate rendition of colours for a WB that did not exist under the lighting conditions that the photo was taken.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 25th January 2013 at 08:33 PM.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    155

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Here are the guidelines I follow for white balance...

    If the color of the light is an element of the scene (as with sunsets, candlelight, stage lighting, etc.) then I will use the Daylight preset.

    If the color of the light is not an element of the scene, then I find that a custom white balance always looks best.

    I carry a plastic gray card in my back pocket that I use to set a custom white balance. On Nikon DSLRs it is extremely easy to set a custom white balance. I just press the WB button for 2 seconds, and the camera goes into WB mode. I frame my gray card, press the shutter, and the white balance is set and the camera is ready to go. It's a two-button operation, and I barely have to look at the camera to do it. To me, shooting RAW makes no difference. Just because I'm shooting RAW doesn't mean I can somehow conjure the same WB setting that a custom WB would give me. For me, a custom WB looks "right", and presents the best starting point for further image manipulation.

    While the gray card is in front of the camera (and with the right lighting) I'll also lock exposure...but that's a different thread entirely!

  5. #5
    Glenn NK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    1,510

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Some questions that come to mind:

    1) Do we all see colour the same?

    2) Isn't the colour of light always an element?

    3) Does the colour of light change throughout the day?

    4) At a given instant, does the colour of light vary from one part of a scene to another?

    5) What influences the colour of light?

    Glenn

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    155

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    1) Do we all see colour the same?

    2) Isn't the colour of light always an element?

    3) Does the colour of light change throughout the day?

    4) At a given instant, does the colour of light vary from one part of a scene to another?

    5) What influences the colour of light?
    1. Color is a manifestation of the brain, so there's no way to test what one person sees against what another person sees. But it's a moot point. Unless a person has a specific visual defect such as color blindness, whatever a person sees is "right", as each person will always see the same tones in the same way.

    2. The human visual system performs its own white balance process in order to cancel out color in the light. This is done so that the poisonous snake is always recognizable as the poisonous snake regardless of the lighting. In fact, our visual system will go even further, and will manipulate tone to show us what we think we're looking at. This is Color Constancy and is the basis of the Checkershadow Illusion.
    Checkershadow Illusion

    3. Yes, and so does our personal white balance.

    4. Yes. If you're taking a photo of a building on a sunny day, the sunlit side may look correct, while the side in shadow will have a blue cast. That's because the shady side is being illuminated by the sky glow, which is blue. Your Color Constancy function adjusts the colors for you, and the shady side of the building doesn't appear so blue. But in the image, the shady side will appear a bit blue. Images don't usually trigger Color Constancy functions like lives scenes do. You just have to fix it separately. Not every custom white balance will be perfect. If someone really wants to be anal about it, he can set a custom WB for the sunny side, take the pic, then take another pic of his reference in the shady side. Back at the computer, the shady side white balance can be applied to that portion of the image. Personally I'd probably recompose to avoid the problem altogether because there are also exposure issues with such a scene.

    5. Usually the method in which it is produced. It can also be influenced by what it passes through.

  7. #7
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,423
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    I always shoot in RAW so white balance is what I desire to make of it.

    When I am shooting a portrait (of humans and most dogs) I will include a white balance target in one of the frames. That way, when I am in ACR, I can use the eyedropper tool to obtain a color balance close to what I want. When I say close, I mean that "ACCURATE" color balance is often not the most pleasing. And when I say "most dogs", I have found that using the white coat of my Maltese dogs as a white balance target works very well. After all, that is what I want as white - the dog's coat and I want that white to the exclusion of "correct" color balance of the rest of the image... When I say that the WhiBal card gets me "close" to what I want in images with skin tones, I often prefer my skin tones a bit warmer than I get with absolutely accurate color balance.

    If I am shooting a subject that really needs accurate color rendition - like a product. I will always use the WhiBal card and will depend on the card for accurate color balance.

    When doing most outdoor shooting, I usually don't bother with a white balance target because auto white balance usually places me pretty well close to what I desire.

    When shooting at night, I will capture in RAW (that's obvious isn't it since I mentioned above that I shoot everything in RAW). I don't necessarily use a white balance target because of the various colored mixture of illumination present out of doors at night. I post process that image to what looks good to me.

    I must mention in closing, that eyeballing correct color is futile unless you are working with a calibrated monitor...

  8. #8
    Lon Howard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Silverdale, WA; USA
    Posts
    358
    Real Name
    Lon Howard

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Hi Giacomo,

    I am relatively new to photography so I will be dangerous if I try to get very specific. The most important thing I've learned about WB though concerns the degree of control you have over how your scene is lit. If you have almost no control, such as with outdoor scenes, the likelihood that any specific WB setting (other than auto) will provide a pleasing result is very low. With indoor scenes that contain various light influences, that can be very inconsistent as well if you try to choose a preset. If you have nearly complete control, using WB targets such as the examples Richard gave, can be very effective.

    Because I shoot mostly outdoor scenes, at this stage in my development I've resigned myself to shoot in RAW and set WB to auto, then as Mike says, just make the photo to please yourself. As a newbie, right now I'm making use of color balance and hue/saturation adjustment layers along with layer masks to find a pleasing look. It's not the end all but it helps me in the learning process and that's where CiC proves invaluable.

  9. #9
    GiacomoD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Florence, Italy
    Posts
    168
    Real Name
    Giacomo

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Thank you all for your comments.

    If I understood well, I can try to summarize this subject (with no intention to set neither loose nor tight rules) as follows:

    1) A correct W/B is felt as really important only when we have to deal with skin tones (portraits) or products photos. In such cases, a white or neutral target included in the frame can be used as reference. Lacking this, a reference photo with a gray card is an alternative.
    2) For night shots or in conditions of mixed light sources, it doesn't make much sense to spend time in trying to set it correctly (simply because there is not one correct setting), unless there is clearly dominant light source.
    3) In outdoor/landscape photography, it's more a matter of the photographer personal feelings than anything else.

  10. #10
    pnodrog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Waipu, Northand, New Zealand
    Posts
    3,346
    Real Name
    Paul

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Quote Originally Posted by GiacomoD View Post
    Thank you all for your comments.

    If I understood well, I can try to summarize this subject (with no intention to set neither loose nor tight rules) as follows:

    1) A correct W/B is felt as really important only when we have to deal with skin tones (portraits) or products photos. In such cases, a white or neutral target included in the frame can be used as reference. Lacking this, a reference photo with a gray card is an alternative.
    2) For night shots or in conditions of mixed light sources, it doesn't make much sense to spend time in trying to set it correctly (simply because there is not one correct setting), unless there is clearly dominant light source.
    3) In outdoor/landscape photography, it's more a matter of the photographer personal feelings than anything else.
    I think you summed it up very well.

  11. #11
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    12,336
    Real Name
    Manfred Mueller

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Quote Originally Posted by GiacomoD View Post
    1) A correct W/B is felt as really important only when we have to deal with skin tones (portraits) or products photos. In such cases, a white or neutral target included in the frame can be used as reference. Lacking this, a reference photo with a gray card is an alternative.
    I personally find that I tend to warm up skin tones a touch regardless of the true skin colour is, but will do a custom white balance when shooting jpg portraits and will throw in a shot of a mini color checker card if I am shooting in a studio just to provide a baseline.

    I'm not a pro, so don't do commercial product shots where I need to worry about the proper Pantone colours in the logo or packaging.

  12. #12

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    2,550
    Real Name
    Andre Burger

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Hi Giacomo,

    Settings on a camera for some is important, for others it is less important. Some want to capture a scene as close to what they would like the end product to look like and some capture a scene with the object of “fixing” it later in PP.

    For most Professional Photographers WB is of the utmost importance, according to most of them. To a portrait photographer and a nature photographer WB will be equally important.
    Rendering the colour of a “White Lion” as white would not be accurate. What is the colour of a Leopard’s spots? A Crocodile’s eyes glooming green in light at night would simply not be true.

    Many a debate can be held about camera settings. I believe it is up to you as to what level of competency you desire to reach as a photographer that will determine how important camera settings will be to you. WB is just another camera setting like shutter speed or ISO.

    Johan Pretorius asked me if I would like to be a photographer or a computer operator. I think all of us have a choice – you can decide what you would like to do with your camera and the settings on it.

  13. #13
    GiacomoD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Florence, Italy
    Posts
    168
    Real Name
    Giacomo

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Thank you Andre,
    your contribution is precious to me.
    The reason why I started this thread was mainly to know what were the different approches to this problem within the CiC members and hopefully to decrease my "degree of confusion" on this subject.

    Actually in this moment I'm nothing more than an enthusiast photographer, with a lot of ambitions but with very little chance to become something more
    At present I don't have the ability to read/interprete the light as I would like, so I put myself in an intermediate position between the photographer and the computer operator... I mean that most of the times I need to adjust not only WB but also many other settings in PP. But I wish to improve and do all what can be done in camera "before pressing the shutter release", as Mike and many others are doing.
    After that, I will still be free to play with PP - that's something I actually like - being aware that I already did my best at the moment of the shot.

    Cheers,
    Giacomo

  14. #14

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
    Posts
    468
    Real Name
    Larry Saideman

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Sometimes, when I am looking at my raw file in ACR, I see it as if it were a blank canvas. There are so many possibilities. Where to start? Often the most decisive choice involves setting white balance and tint in ACR. The results can vary so greatly depending on this initial setting, sometimes I finish an image and then return to the original file and repeat with an alternate white balance setting. Then, see how that comes out. Or, using similar but different shots, I will process each with a different wb and tint. One setting may be with an eye to accuracy while another setting may be more playful. There are times I am happy with one particular setting and will use it throughout a set of photos. But, whether accepting or fine tuning, white balance and tint are key elements in my post processing. I once felt apprehensive about making such changes to the 'actual' colors. but I see it now as just a choice. Working with Adobe pushes me in this direction. Since Adobe does not save Nikon's color schemes, I am instantly divorced from my camera settings when I process in ACR. One can hate that and use the camera's software or accept that one is on one's own color island with Adobe. I often find I must alter the wb to move it more to the colors I captured with my Nikon. Since I am the final judge of all this, it is all fun.

  15. #15
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Detroit, Michigan
    Posts
    1,009
    Real Name
    Lex

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    My school of thought, based on preferring to work with the camera instead of my computer, is that one should get as many things "right" in-camera or on-set as possible. That includes white balance, which as we've established is essentially subjective. A 500K change in one's white balance setting can produce a totally different mood. My definition of "right" is what matches the mood you're after or complements your subject, not necessarily matching the temperature(s) of the photo's light source(s). In fast-paced scenarios, I use auto white balance, but most of the time, and for long series of shots in the same conditions, I use custom or manual balances, rarely touching the temperature presets.

    The white balance nightmare scenario is multiple light sources. I shoot indoor sports with a mix of filtered daylight (~5600K), very red tungsten (~3200K), and flash (5600K gelled to around 3400K) lighting. What's correct? After experimenting quite a bit, I settled on two methods. If I get a chance to step on the field before the match starts, I'll use my ExpoDisc and a custom balance, which is an excellent tool of last resort if you're having trouble getting an acceptable balance. That said, I regularly set a manual 3200K white balance in the same scenario. Objectively, that's warmer than the actual light, but falls in line with the common suggestion of balancing shots of people a little on the warm side. In post, I adjust the white balance without looking at the slider, to make sure my judgement of the "correct" balance is aesthetic rather than technical. So after all that effort, it still comes down to what looks subjectively right. That aspect will always be difficult to teach, but suffice it to say that even though I put more effort into white balance than most, it's still totally subjective at the end of the day. Most of my white-balancing effort is actually to make sure my artificial lights (flashes) work with the room's light.

    Intentional shifts in white balance can also be very effective tools. Joe McNally, one of my photographic idols, uses this technique regularly, and to great effect. Usually he lights his subject warmer than their surroundings, reinforcing them as the focal point. So not only is "correct" subjective and light sources different, but changes in light temperature can be a powerful photographic tool.

  16. #16
    GiacomoD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Florence, Italy
    Posts
    168
    Real Name
    Giacomo

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Quote Originally Posted by Brev00 View Post
    Sometimes, when I am looking at my raw file in ACR, I see it as if it were a blank canvas.
    Larry, it happens to me with 80% of my raw files
    But until now I'v never been so courageous to apply the same settings to a whole set of raw files, maybe I will do it when I'll be a bit more skilled...
    Cheers

  17. #17
    GiacomoD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Florence, Italy
    Posts
    168
    Real Name
    Giacomo

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    In post, I adjust the white balance without looking at the slider, to make sure my judgement of the "correct" balance is aesthetic rather than technical
    Thank you, Lex, very helpful comment. i think I took your point

  18. #18
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Glenfarg, Scotland
    Posts
    19,701
    Real Name
    Just add 'MacKenzie'

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    I've managed to get the gist of this thread and see that it's been an interesting discussion.

    As for my approach to the subject. I always use a WhiBal card (and,remember, I mostly shoot to make B & W images). That allows me to start from the 'right' place and after that, it's whatever I want to achieve that dictates what gets done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Graystar View Post
    Unless a person has a specific visual defect such as color blindness, whatever a person sees is "right",
    And as one of those with the said 'defect', well what I see is also 'right' to me. Although it wouldn't be right to you. But I've managed to get to 57 years of age and apart from being rejected for entry to the police about 40 years ago, life hasn't been too much of a problem .......... apart from the idiots who say things like "So what colour do you think my shirt is?" Answer = "I couldn't give a damn!".

  19. #19

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Bern, Switzerland
    Posts
    41
    Real Name
    Reto

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    Hmmm... I mostly take pictures outside (landscapes) and in color. Some time ago, I tried to rely on a grey card based custom balance. Not bad. But outdoors, you often have a variety of light sources (sun, sky, reflections from a coloured ground), so the readings of the grey card depend a lot from its orientation, and there is no definitely appropriate balance of colors. When I take pictures in a forest, the light is more uniform, but the situation is that taking a picture of leaves, I actually picture the main source of light...

    With time, my main concern became to optimize color differenciation, to obtain as many distinct colors as possible in my picture. In this way, I avoid dominant hues. As a result, the pictures may feel a bit cold, since this takes the 'sunny side of the street' bias away that many people like so much.

    The main difficulty I experience is to stay constant in my judgement of colors. The only help I know about is to put printed pictures side by side eventually under various light sources.

    Reto

  20. #20

    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Provence, France
    Posts
    906
    Real Name
    Remco

    Re: Approaches in White Balance settings

    I usually stick to automatic white balance, with a few exceptions depending on the situation:
    theatre/dance photos I set a Tungsten balance, as the scene lighting often is coloured,
    and I don't want that corrected (and the base lights are close to tungsten); and if I need
    exact white balance, I use a colour passport to correct in post production. (And under mixed
    lighting it's going to be a mess anyway, so auto is as good as anything else )

    Note that I do shoot in RAW, so any in-camera white balance is a suggestion for PP, nothing
    more.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •