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Basic white balance questions

Apr 16, 2012 6:48 PM

1.) What do you do if you are working on an image that has absolutely no white in it or neutral colors? Maybe the white detail is all washed out, maybe the image is made up of blues, reds and yellows. How do you use the white balance tool in this case?

 

2.) If you have the option of choosing both a white color or grey color to use the white balance tool on, is there a general rule of thumb for using one over the other? Or do you just try both to see which looks better? Does clicking on white result in a better white balanced image generallly than when clicking on grey?

 

Thanks.

 
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 16, 2012 7:46 PM   in reply to media kat

    Most of the time I don't bother with the White Balance tool and simply adjust the image to taste. But if you do need an "accurate" WB, then it's better to use a non-specular non-blownout white. Grey is too far down the tone scale and can be a bit less accurate.

     
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    Apr 16, 2012 8:04 PM   in reply to media kat

    If you have several images illuminated with the same or similar lighting, then find one that does have a neutral area to set the WB, then synchronize all the others to that one.

     

    If there is really only one image per lighting scenario then adjust it until things look right.  Sometimes a particular element is more important than the rest, such as skin or a particular shade of a flower, but sometimes there’s nothing more obviously important and then it’s just up to you, a season-to-taste sort of thing.

     

    I usually have my camera set to AutoWB in case it does a better job of choosing than I do.

     

     

     

    You can try eye-droppering multiple “neutrals” to see if they yield different results.  The reason they might is that there is usually some mixed lighting and different angles to different areas, so while the subject’s skin might be in the shade, the neutral clothing might be at an angle to get more of the sky or more of the grass or more of the flash than their skin, so there can be a reason not to use any of the eye-droppered values and pick something in between.

     

     

     

    Different Camera Calibration’s can make the various colors, so if you change from Adobe Standard to something else, you might want to revisit the WB-balance to make sure the important things look right.

     
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    Apr 16, 2012 8:28 PM   in reply to media kat

    Multiple images with the same lighting have the same WB, so you can shoot an EXTRA IMAGE with the WB-card in it.   You’d want the WB-card to be in the same position as the subject, rather than at a corner because the lighting might be different.

     

     

     

    Photography is an art.  Eyecdroppered or Auto WB is a starting point, not the ending point.  My Canon always shoots a little warm, presumably to make skin a little more tan.   If there is a significantly object that is supposed to be white, then having it be orange isn’t necessarily going to look good, unless there is an obvious reason in the photo for it to be off-white, such as a sunset, or a fire, or an incandescent bulb, or stage-lighting or stained-glass lighting, etc.   Perfect WB can look too clinical.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 1:35 AM   in reply to media kat

    media kat wrote:

     

    1. How would you use a white balance card in a photo to ensure that you can later white balance the image correctly? Would you just place the card in a spot of the image that you can easily crop out later?

     

    2. Is there such a thing as a "correct" white balance? Isn't this a subjective setting based on the mood that a user is trying to accomplish? Lets say that someone wants to make an image feel warm so they add orange to it, two people could end up adding different amounts of orange to the same mage resulting in a different intensity of warm. Is there a right amount or orange? Or is it just however it turns out, and what feels right as you are adjusting the image?

    I don't think White Balance is something we should strive for. It's a very useful indicator, but, as you know, light isn't always neutral, and you may want to capture the light's colour in your photo. Think of hot sunny days, sunsets, stormy weather, and concert lighting. You wouldn't want want to set your WB on a grey card in these conditions.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 9:36 AM   in reply to media kat

    One easy way to do it would be to highlight both images, and have auto-sync enabled.  Then when you click on the white balance card to get the white balance correction it would be automatically applied to the other image as well.  If you don't have auto-sync enabled than you could highlight both images later and use the sync button and choose only the white balance.  Another way would be to take note of the white balance value after you have corrected the one with the card, and simply enter the value into the other image.

     

    I forgot what forum I was in.  In ACR you would just highlight both images assuming they are both opened in ACR, and then do the white balance correction in the one with the card.  If both images are highlighted the correction will take place in both images.  Sorry about the confusion.  The synhronize button works the same way as I described previously . 

     
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    Apr 19, 2012 7:01 AM   in reply to Jeff Schewe

    Jeff Schewe wrote:

     

    Most of the time I don't bother with the White Balance tool and simply adjust the image to taste. But if you do need an "accurate" WB, then it's better to use a non-specular non-blownout white. Grey is too far down the tone scale and can be a bit less accurate.

     

    A non-specular non-blownout white would be best. Unfortunately, such a target is not readily available. The "white" patch of the Colorchecker has a reflectance of about 90% (optical density = 0.05) and is not spectrally neutral, so it is recommended to use the second brightest patch for white balancing with the color checker. It is apparently difficult to make a spectrally neutral white paint. The second brightest patch has an OD of 0.23 (~60% reflectance) and is reasonable spectrally neutral. The darker neutral patches will result in a higher signal:noise in the image, but can work relatively well if your sensor has good noise characteristics, and a darker gray neutral area of an image can be used if a lighter neutral area is not available.

     

    Babel Color used to provide a spectrally neutral white target, but it is no longer being offered. Their web-site FAQ gives useful information on the section on the of a white balancing target. Besides not being spectrally neutral in many cases, the Kodak 18% target is too dark, but can give acceptable results as many photographers have found. The WhiBal target has a reflectance of 50% (OD = 0.32, L* = 75) and is a reasonable choice for white balancing.

     

    http://www.babelcolor.com/main_level/faq.htm#FAQ-white_balance_target

     
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    Apr 19, 2012 10:25 AM   in reply to media kat

    > If I shoot the extra image with the white balance card in it, how do I then use that image with the white balance card to white balance my other images taken in the same location with the same lighting conditions?

     

    use spot metering to meter off the WB card - digital cameras are metering for 12-14% reflectance (some may be even lower, like 9-10%), dial in positive exposure compensation (if you camera meters for 12-14%, you can dial EV +2.66 stops  w/o issues) to increase S/N and take a shot... it does not matter (withing reasonable range, for example do not use anything black ) what is the reflectance of the card itself in such scenario - just get the one that is suffiently neutral and matte

     
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