Monday, May 19, 2008

White balance

Although most cameras have an Auto White Balance function, I have always felt that better results were available with a little manual intervention. If your camera lets you select a white balance setting, then this usually provides a more successful outcome than letting your camera decide for you. If you are taking a series of shots, then Auto White Balance has the potential to give you inconsistent results; whereas, if you set your camera yourself (to say, "Outdoors", for example) then all your photos will have the same white balance.

A few years ago, I wrote a tutorial on White Balance Technique for the on-line camera group that I belong to. If you are interested in getting more out of your camera, or just interested in photography generally, why not visit the site - just click on the link to to right of this column.

A couple of points about white balance three years on from when I wrote the tutorial. Camera functions have generally improved, and I am sure that Auto White Balance has too, but I still don't use it. The instruction manual with my Nikon camera still indicates that there are colour temperatures where Auto White Balance is not effective, so I choose to set the WB myself. I shoot Raw images, and then fine tune WB in post processing.

I have a new favourite method of selecting white balance, and that is by using a WhiBal reference card to provide a WB point that I can use in post processing. I find this an easier and more consistent process than anything I have used before, and it takes virtually no time at all. You just include the WhiBal in at least one photograph taken under each relevant lighting temperature, and then use the White Balance tool in your photo editing software to adjust the all the images taken under those conditions. Simple!

In my examples at the top, the image in the left was exposed using the camera's daylight WB setting. You can see that I have included the WhiBal card in the picture, so I opened the image in Photoshop and used the white balance tool to click on the gray area of the WhiBal. The result is in the image in the right. The image is a bit cooler overall, and you'll notice that the WhiBal is showing its actual neutral gray colour instead of the brown/grey tones in the first image.


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