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Color Checker/Greycard whitebalance too warm

Sep 8, 2011 9:54 AM

Hey guys!


I recently purchased a color checker passport for a reference photography trip, but I'm having trouble whitebalancing my images with it.

Here's my process:

  1. take a number of shots in one location
  2. shoot color checker passport in same location - approx. 1 arm-length away from the sensor
    alternatively have color checker passport lying/standing next to subject
  3. back at the computer generate profiles from the photosh of the color checker passport
  4. apply profiles to all pictures from the same location
  5. whitebalance all shots from the same location, using the second brightest patch on the macbeth chart


My problem is that most of my shots turn out way too warm:


It kind of makes sense, because it was a clear, sunny, hot day, but most images look waaay to yellow and the color balance with the macbeth chart yields color temperatures of 8000K and above!

I was wondering if laying the color chart flat on the ground could cause this problem, because it would reflect mostly blue skylight.

I have one shot where the chart is facing slightly sideways and using that as a white balance target got me much better results (~6000K).


Should I generally have my white balance target be facing sideways or should it face the same direction as the surface I'm shooting (which makes sense to me)?

I'm also somewhat disappointed with the color improvements of the chart-based color profiles - there seems to be only a slight difference to using the Nikon D90 profile inside ACR - blues become a little stronger. Does that mean my camera is just well calibrated, or am I doing something wrong?





  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2011 10:33 AM   in reply to harefort

    When you put your ColorChecker in the shadow then you mustn't wonder why the sun-lit areas will come out too warm.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2011 10:52 AM   in reply to harefort

    Blue sky shade is very "hot" color temperature wise, as you've discovered.  It's the traditional bride's white dress problem, move her to the shade and all looks ok to the eye but the camera will record her white dress as light blue.  If you white balance off of the color checker neutral patches in the shade, then the sunlit portions will appear yellow.  If you white balance off of the neutral patches in direct sunlight, then objects in the shade will have a blue tint.


    IMO blue in the shade appears more natural than overly yellow sunlit objects, unless the shade object is somebody's face.  The best "solution" is to place the subject in reasonable shade without a lot of bright sunlit areas in the image.  Or get up early and use that beautiful morning light.


    Richard Southworth

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2011 11:17 AM   in reply to harefort

    The ideal chart angle is 45 degrees to the illuminant, and head on to the camera.  However, it shouldn't be very sensitive, as long as the illuminant is not head on.  I suspect in the shot where you are handholding the color checker the light striking it is a combination of blue sky and reflection off of whatever you're wearing.  And setting it down on the ground may well pick up a lot of green light from the grass.


    Lighting 101, you've got to check out your environment carefully.  Best bet is to have somebody hold it out in front of them, off of the ground and only receiving the light that eventually will illuminate your subject.  Or prop it up somehow, get it away from reflective surfaces.


    Richard Southworth


    Added by edit - the shot with the color checker up against the brown box will certainly "pollute" the light striking the cc.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2011 11:37 AM   in reply to RASouthworth

    I downloaded your image where you are hand-holding the cc, assigned sRGB to it, and poked around measuring rgb values.  The neutral patches on the cc measure very close to neutral, i.e. R=G=B.  However, the shady part of your socks are way off neutral, so for whatever reason you did not have consistent illumination on the entire scene.  Again, I suspect reflection from your clothing or something similar, biasing the cc illuminant.


    Richard Southworth

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  • Noel Carboni
    23,478 posts
    Dec 23, 2006
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 8, 2011 3:18 PM   in reply to harefort

    One of the guys who runs another site has developed a thing that's basically a diffusing filter (I think it's called a ColorRight or something very similar) which measures the light reaching the front of the camera.


    It's not too terribly different than an "auto white balance" in the camera, except that it takes into account a wider field of view than what reaches the sensor in general.  I won one in a photo contest, and it does work as advertised.  Surprisingly well in some situations.


    Since it's not measuring the illuminant (of which you have multiples of varying temperatures - sun, sky, reflected light) but rather the lighting of the overall scene, maybe it could help you with tricky lighting situations such as what you're describing here.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 10, 2011 11:11 AM   in reply to harefort

    > whitebalance all shots from the same location, using the second brightest patch on the macbeth chart


    actually, formally, you should use a dedicated WB patch for that... patches are on the chart are not that neutral = eport.pdf

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