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Thread: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Hello: my name is Tom Sampliner in Cleveland, Ohio. I am president of a brand new photography club that is specializing in nature and related topics.

    I would like to ask those of you who have been into digital photography about the types of devices and techniques you use for obtaining spectrally neutral color balance. There are so many different devices, software programs etc. What experiences are you folks having using Expodisc as a snapon attachment to obtain spectral neutrality? What about the X-Rite colorchecker gray scale devices?

    Who like me wants a device for their camera rather than sitting at a computer with a plug in software doing color correction only after the shooting? We welcome all advice and experiences-thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:29 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    What exactly am I supposed to say?
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:29 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Hi Tom,

    I've used pretty much all of the techniques, so I'm probably in a good position to give you a bit of feedback.

    At the end of the day, it really comes down to either white balancing "in camera" or in post processing. Personally I usually just include a gray card (I use a WhiBal card) or a Gretag Macbeth colour card (either 24 or 115 patch versions). In post processing this makes it really easy to adjust the white balance; all I need to do is open up all the images at once in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) - select the shot with the spectrally neutral reference - white balance the shot with the WB tool (one click) - click "select all" - click "synchronise" - and then choose the white balance subset. So just a few seconds to correctly white-balance up to several hundred shots. I just did a little timed-test for you - there were 69 shots in one of my studio shoots from last week - it took me 50 seconds to white balance all of them from this reference shot ...

    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Outdoors it's just as easy to use a gray card ... you can either use it as a spectrally neutral reference for adjusting in PP afterwards, of if you want to go to a bit of extra trouble, you can set an in-camera custom white balance - but - it's harder because the card is relatively small and you need to fill up around 80% of the viewfinder for it to work - and that won't get you the same ratio of ambient to fill-flash.

    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    The Expodisc was a great little invention (I have two, but don't use either) - they work really well for some situations, but don't work at all in others. If you're shooting candids outside or are in a situation where you're totally controlling the lighting (off camera) then all is good - but if you have a camera-mounted flash for providing fill flash then you're sunk; you can't use an expodisk for white balancing or exposure as you have to point them back towards the lightsource, and obviously it won't capture the changing colour temperature not the effects on exposure, of the flash. So great for some styles of shooting (I recommended one to "Alis" here just the other day), but you have to understand their limitations.

    To be honest, so long as you understand the limitations of the various options, it really doesn't make a lot of difference which you use - they all produce similar results quickly and accurately.

    Hope this helps
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:30 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    What exactly am I supposed to say?
    How about "What Colin said"
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:30 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Hi, Tom;

    I use a small gray card (I have a ring of gray, white, black). I've thought of getting an expodisk, but I rarely set up custom white balance. This is partly because I use a pocket-sized gray card for convenience. But mainly it's because regardless of white balance, I'm always going to shoot RAW, and I'll postprocess every shot. I have a basic workflow that includes some sharpening (see When/How to Sharpen), usually cropping, and conversion to JPG. So getting the white balance right in the camera doesn't buy me much: it's more steps to set a custom white balance than it is to get a neutral reference (in the shot or a separate shot) and use it in the postprocessing flow.

    I just saw that Colin described it in great detail while I was typing one paragraph: so I'll say, "What Colin said."

    Cheers,
    Rick
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:30 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    What Colin said.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:31 PM.

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    What Colin said; but I normally don't use a card or anything, does it show? Actually you can line up the colours at the RHS of the histogram but mostly I just keep moving the temperature up until I get something I like.

    But I think the best advice is:

    What Colin said.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:31 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Hi Tom

    Welcome to CiC. I see you are President of a new camera club. I'm sure folks here would love to hear about it - some of them may even live in your area. What camera do you use?
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:32 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Could you please further explain why you have decided to not use the expodisc? Did you try it and find it did not perform as advertised? or is it only useful in certain situations, and if so which?
    In order to perform nature shots outdoors where lighting conditions change not only from subject to subject, but also as clouds and passage of time occurs, do you find you must continually reshot your spectrally neutral gray card for the next batch of shots on any given subject?
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:32 PM.

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    Re: Introduce Yourself & Welcome Other Members (2)

    Hi Rob: thanks for your reply. About my camera club, we formed in January and meet at the local Cleveland Botanical Garden the fourth thursday evening of the month. We are primarily, but no exclusively interested in nature. Therefore, we typically have as subjects flowers, birds, animals nature scenery and usually out of doors. However, there are some institutional setup opportunities such as here at the gardens either indoors or out. We have novice to experienced amateurs. My camera is the Sony Alpha 100 for digital and for film, which I also still do, is the Minolta X-700 series. The latter led me to sony when early on there was still confusion as to what lenses transferred over to Sony.(my bad as they say)

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    You guys have me worried now. You could be seeing my whites less than Daz white and you rotten lot didn't tell me I was airing my grubby Y-fronts on a public forum. It appears a lot of paraphernalia and jiggery pokery is needed to get your whites right. I (wrongly) thought that adjusting the white balance slider by eye in raw conversion would suffice. I think I may need to look into this more closely.

    Steve
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:33 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sampliner View Post
    Could you please further explain why you have decided to not use the expodisc? Did you try it and find it did not perform as advertised? or is it only useful in certain situations, and if so which?
    Hi Tom,

    I think there's a bit of an "air of confusion" surrounding the Expodisk; many seem to think that you simply put it over the end of the lens - point it at the subject - take the shot - and set a custom white balance from there, but that's not how they work. If someone did that whilst taking a shot of a red fire engine they would end up with a gray fire engine ... so what one needs to do is turn the camera around and point it back towards the light source so that the colour of the light SOURCE can be white balanced.

    If the light is only coming from one source (eg the sun) then they work very well, but as is more commonly the case (or perhaps SHOULD be more commonly the case), fill flash plays a vital roll in capturing a quality shot - but how can you accommodate that with an Expodisk? If the flash is camera mounted then it's obviously going to have an effect on the colour temperature of the subject, but there's just no way you can take that into account when using an Expodisk. Same goes for mixed lighting situations (eg an indoors shot where there's light from, say, a tungsten and a flourescent light source (perhaps with a little fill flash thrown in for good measure).

    So in mixed lighting situations, the mixed lighting will produce a composite colour on a gray card when can then be white nalanced with reasonable accuracy ... but there's no way you can do it with an Expodisk. So for me - sexy as the Expodisk is, more often than not, a gray card gets the job done in a far greater range of real-world situations.

    In order to perform nature shots outdoors where lighting conditions change not only from subject to subject, but also as clouds and passage of time occurs, do you find you must continually reshot your spectrally neutral gray card for the next batch of shots on any given subject?
    It's usually not that critical ... if you have 1 reference shot with a gray card then usually you can subsequently measure something (eg a white T-shirt) and make the appropriate offset adjustments (eg white balance the gray card - white balance the T-shirt in the same shot - see how much the colour temperature changes - white balance off the T-shirt for subsequent shots, but apply the same offset).
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:33 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    I (wrongly) thought that adjusting the white balance slider by eye in raw conversion would suffice.
    Doing it by eye is usually fine for things like landscapes (when the "correct" temperature is simply the one that "looks best") (a technically accurate colour temperature for a shot with a setting sun would look horible. It's a bit like if you take a shot of someone by candlelight; you'd EXPECT the skintones to be yellowish because we call know that candlelight is a yellowish light).

    There's no law that says you can't white balance normal (daytime / flash etc) shots by eye, but most people aren't very accurate at it - which I've verified in my own tests. You'll get something that looks fine - adjust it correctly - and usually notice that you were "off" to a certain degree.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:34 PM.

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    Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Depending on the subject I decide the way to work.
    Portraits and weddings I usually adjust by the eye. Important however is to keep the colours look the same on all images.
    With product shoots I use the "oldfashioned" colour temp meter. I found one on some time ago for a bargain and this piece of equipment works very well.
    On Market places you will find them nowadays for not to much money. If correct colours are a must I can recommend this.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 30th April 2010 at 11:34 PM.

  16. #16

    Re: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Thank you hansm, finally a mention of a colour temp. meter. I have a compulsion with getting it correct in the camera. I have been using digital for a few years and have used most of the WB tools, except the colour temp. meter. It seems like a logical, accurate and quick tool. The reluctance has been the cost. Are they any more accurate and useful than the in camera WB features or all the other tools?

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    Re: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Hi Richard,

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Sundberg View Post
    I have a compulsion with getting it correct in the camera. I have been using digital for a few years and have used most of the WB tools, except the colour temp. meter. It seems like a logical, accurate and quick tool. The reluctance has been the cost. Are they any more accurate and useful than the in camera WB features or all the other tools?
    I'm not trying to be contrary (well, maybe a little) but here's what I currently think (although I'm always wiling to learn/be put right) ...

    I can see this working for some people all of the time, many people some of the time and a few people not at all

    Talking of digital shooting, my point is that if what your shooting dosn't allow you to get an incident CT meter into the subject's light, it's pretty useless and shots will have to be WB corrected during RAW processing anyway. Since that is a 'no loss' process compared to getting it right in camera, and some shots will have to be done in RAW anyway, my questions are: why change the RAW workflow, why not just always do it the same way, in PP from a grey card or if that's not possible, from something 'known' in shot?

    If there is such a thing as a 'spot' WB meter, what's the difference (apart from calibration) of using that over letting he camera do it through the lens?

    Am I missing something?

    Intrigued,

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    Re: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post

    If there is such a thing as a 'spot' WB meter, what's the difference (apart from calibration) of using that over letting he camera do it through the lens?
    It would be nice to be able to point the camera at a gray card from a distance - "spot meter" it - and then tell the camera to "make it so", but as far as I know, it hasn't been invented yet. I could pass it on to Canon, but I'm still waiting on my last 10 or 12 suggestions to be implimented, so I'm not holding my breath

    Colour meters in a fill flash situation would be "interesting" - one would have to measure the temperature of the light during an actual exposure to ensure that the correct mix of flash / ambient light was used. For further reading, you might like to have a look at what Sekonic write (sales pitch for their colour meter).

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    Re: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Colour meters in a fill flash situation would be "interesting" - one would have to measure the temperature of the light during an actual exposure to ensure that the correct mix of flash / ambient light was used. For further reading, you might like to have a look at what Sekonic write (sales pitch for their colour meter).
    This is the one reason I've considered a color meter. I have gel holders for my flashes, and I have the package of flash-sized gels for color correcting. Right now, I just use green and CTO, based on looking around and saying, "Hey, that looks like a flourescent light" (or tungsten).

    If I understand the process, though, I should be able to read the ambient color temp from the meter, know what the color temp of my flash is, and that will tell me what mired gel to use to shift the light of my flash to match the ambient light. At that point, relative intensity shouldn't matter.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: Would appreciate some discussion on white-balancing equipment & techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by timo2 View Post
    I have used this as well, but find it difficult to get results in Apple Aperture.
    Any guidelines?

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