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Thread: Does white balance matter in RAW?

  1. #1
    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Before you all start throwing rotten vegetables at the computer screen because of the title of this thread, please read the rest.

    So let's say I'm shooting in RAW. Does it matter what in-camera white balance I choose before I take the photos? Does it make a difference in the actual image? Or is it just something that Photoshop can look at as a guideline when processing the photo later?

    For example, if I took an outdoor photo (in RAW) using the daylight preset and then took the same photo with the tungsten preset, will there be any difference in the actual pixel information recorded to my memory card? Can I go into Adobe Camera Raw and get the exact same result from both exposures by merely choosing the same white balance after the fact?

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    No it doesn't. The camera records whatever setting you happened to be using, but when you convert the image you can choose whatever white balance you want. You can even set the white balance to match a previously photographed image if you want.
    Last edited by McQ; 20th November 2010 at 01:59 AM.

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Hi Justin,

    In short, "what shadowman said".

    To expand on that just a little, all cameras pass metadata along with the image data, and one piece of this metadata is the white balance recorded by the camera (right or more usually, wrong). From that point it's up to the post-processing package to do what it wants with it; Photoshop uses it as a starting point (one of the few metadata tags that it honours), but either way, it doesn't affect the capture (only the in-camera jpeg shot that you see on the review screen).

  4. #4

    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    I have always understood (although I might be wrong) that a RAW capture is just that - the data recorded at the time the shutter was opened. The camera metadata is also included, and a 'snaphot' jpeg review image for viewing. Whatever settings you make to the camera, the RAW file is still just the RAW data. For example shooting in RAW with 'monochrome' set will produce a colour RAW (as the camera saw it). WB only changes an image file when you shoot in JPEG. Just because you load a RAW to Photoshop (or whatever) and see something different, doesn't mean it actually is different. It isn't - the whole point of RAW is that the data stays the same (as shot). You are simply manipulating how it looks. If you shot a landscape on a cloudy day, you might switch the camera WB to 'cloudy' which will change the WB for a JPEG. But if you shot it in RAW it would just record exactly what it saw - the sensor doesn't know it's cloudy! Photoshop might apply any WB setting to your loaded RAW file so it looks like you intended. But that isn't the same as the data actually being changed - which it isn't.

    Someone tell me I'm wrong...

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Hi Justin - I agree with Shadowman and Colin. However, the white balance will influence the image you see on the camera's display, a JPEG interpretation of the RAW image. This is, in turn, may influence what you do as the photographer at the time. You may decide to alter other parameters as a result of what you see on screen, and those may not be so readily altered in post-processing. But, ultimately, it's your choice.

    Cheers

    David

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by David View Post
    However, the white balance will influence the image you see on the camera's display, a JPEG interpretation of the RAW image. This is, in turn, may influence what you do as the photographer at the time. You may decide to alter other parameters as a result of what you see on screen, and those may not be so readily altered in post-processing. But, ultimately, it's your choice.

    Cheers

    David
    I agree with the content of the above posts (not just the one quoted) and would only add the advice to leave it on Auto WB, so the embedded jpg is close to the right CT, as will be the one on the back of the camera. Where's the downside to that? (as it avoids the issue David raises)

    Cheers,

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Doesn't white balance have a small effect on exposure? You can clearly see the histogram of the color channels , increase and decrease exposure when you change the white balance. Sometimes resulting in clipping, and if you clip a color channel, you're loosing information. So I think in many cases, a bad white balance can and does hurt an image, even in raw.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 29th June 2010 at 10:05 AM.

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Hi Steve,

    If you viewed clipping of highlights on your camera's monitor you would correct the exposure setting not the white balance setting. The white balance affects the image (color temperature) as a whole, the exposure setting affects the highlights, shadows, and midtones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    Doesn't white ballance have a small effect on exposure? You can clearly see the hystogram of the color channels , increase and decrease exposure when you change the white ballance. Sometimes resulting in clipping, and if you clip a color channel, you're loosing information. So i think in many cases, a bad white ballance can and does hurt an image, even in raw.

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Think I've just proved this to my own satisfaction. I did think that RAWs taken with the "wrong" white balance generated different images when corrected, as I'd seen some very different results coming off the software, but on reflection, that was possibly because of other changes I'd made to exposure, fill light, blacks etc.
    Anyhoo, when we were in Aussie, I spent a whole day doing outdoor stuff with WB set to Flourescent. Only one image taken on the correct WB, which was "daylight".
    I just went and altered the WB of two practically identical images, one on flouro and one on sunny, and there is no difference in colour what-so ever. So now I am among the believers.

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Hi Steve,

    If you viewed clipping of highlights on your camera's monitor you would correct the exposure setting not the white balance setting. The white balance affects the image (color temperature) as a whole, the exposure setting affects the highlights, shadows, and midtones.
    Just one caution here: if the histogram you see on the camera preview is based on the embedded jpeg, a wildly wrong WB could cause clipping to appear in one channel, where the RAW would still be correctly exposed. So you might end up over- or under-exposing to get rid of the apparent clipping...
    This can easily happen when you're photographing a scene in coloured light (theathre...)

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    Doesn't white balance have a small effect on exposure? You can clearly see the histogram of the color channels , increase and decrease exposure when you change the white balance. Sometimes resulting in clipping, and if you clip a color channel, you're loosing information. So I think in many cases, a bad white balance can and does hurt an image, even in raw.
    Hi Steve,

    Some things to keep in mind ...

    1. The camera's metering doesn't measure red, green, and blue channels - it just measures the overall light intensity.

    2. What you're seeing on the camera review screen is the resultant after the white balance compensation has been applied.

    3. What you see on the review screen is a jpeg, that usually has a strong tone curve applied, so it's usually not particularly reliable.

    4. Clipping of a channel at one white balance setting, but not at another isn't an indication that the sensor channel is fully saturated - it's more a case of not being able to apply enough compensation (which is in essence what colour temp is all about).

  12. #12

    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    What you see on the review screen is a jpeg, that usually has a strong tone curve applied, so it's usually not particularly reliable.
    Yes, quite. And that's why you take a shot, do the chimping business, and think 'Hey, that looks good'. Then when you load the RAW file to PS it looks ghastly!

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Yes, quite. And that's why you take a shot, do the chimping business, and think 'Hey, that looks good'. Then when you load the RAW file to PS it looks ghastly!
    ... and then you set the correct WB and "hey presto" - no?

    Oh dear ... (wicked smilie)

    (I still say putting it on AutoWB will avoid this most of the time)

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Yes, quite. And that's why you take a shot, do the chimping business, and think 'Hey, that looks good'. Then when you load the RAW file to PS it looks ghastly!
    It's worse in the studio -- not only do I get to chimp on a 40 inch screen, the clients get to chimp too!

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post

    (I still say putting it on AutoWB will avoid this most of the time)
    I leave mine set to AWB most of the time - works well in the studio, but often with sunsets I'll set it to manual and dial in a compensation whilst using live view so that what I'm seeing on the camera matches the real scene.

  16. #16

    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    It's worse in the studio -- not only do I get to chimp on a 40 inch screen, the clients get to chimp too!
    Give 'em a banana!

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Give 'em a banana!
    Or I could put Beethoven on the sound system ...

    Bananana Bananana Banananananananana BANANANA BANANANA BANANANA-NA-NA! BANANANA!

  18. #18

    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Or I could put Beethoven on the sound system ...

    Bananana Bananana Banananananananana BANANANA BANANANA BANANANA-NA-NA! BANANANA!
    Now you're just sounding like a sheep... don't get me started on that again.

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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Now you're just sounding like a sheep... don't get me started on that again.
    How on earth did you come up with that? A sheep singing Beethoven would be Baaananana ...

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Does white balance matter in RAW?

    Whoa, this thread got wildly off track since I last checked it.

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