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Author Topic: A Question of White Balance  (Read 6691 times)
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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There is no rule! No - wait ...


« on: February 06, 2010, 08:15:19 AM »
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Thank you for spotting a light on the topic.
Here are my recent thoughts and personal suggestions / solutions for this problem.

I stopped caring about "correct" white balance too much after I understood,
that always shooting a metamerism free grey card and/or a colorchecker
simply helps me to completely destroy the light atmosphere.

I started shooting in auto whitebalance mode all the time and now choose the whitebalance
I find appropriate in the RAW converter later. I shoot a gray card to be able to kill the light to neutral
and then compare it with the daylight setting, which gives me colorized images in case of colored
light situations, like tungsten or light before sunrset.

The problem which I see is, that though the eye can auto whitebalance on its own to a certain degree,
the color of the light still has an important role in the look and feel of the scene we take.
If I shoot/adjust everything autobalanced / grey-card-neutralized I'd not get the warmth of the tungsten light
or a candle or the cold blue light right before sunrise, but not correcting at all gives me way too extreme colors.

What I do now is to look how the color would look if I use the grey card for white balance and how the whitebalance
would be changed if I used the daylight setting in the RAW converter. So I get a sort of measurement of the color
temperature at shooting time and can now moderately adjust the whitebalance between the extreme color of the non
whitebalancing daylight setting and the neutralizing greycard mode and adjust it somewhere in between to my liking.

I don't have any sort of color temperature measuring instrument. Just my Canon G11 and a Color Target / Gray Card.

Hope I didn't confuse it too much, but it seems to work not too bad.

To illustrate this I uploaded 4 variants - all processed with "Auto settings" in C1 and afterwards each got its individual whitebalance.
The image was taken on X-mas afternoon in a very subdued light in the blue hour before sunset whith a completeley covered sky - blue light.
Camera whitebalance at shooting time was set to "cloudy".

Whitebalance: "as shot = Cloudy"
[attachment=20058:IMG_0455...ownsized.jpg]
Whitebalance: "daylight (set in C1)"
[attachment=20059:IMG_0455...nsized_1.jpg]
Whitebalance: "corrected with a greycard taken on a shot immediately before the image was taken"
[attachment=20060:IMG_0455...nsized_2.jpg]
Whitebalance: "auto (in C1)"
[attachment=20061:IMG_0455...nsized_3.jpg]


I personally like the "daylight" setting most, though it is quite extreme.
It reflects most the cold atmosphere of that day.
For a print I'd probably convert to b/w or reduce the blue color a bit in direction of the "cloudy" setting or take down saturation.

Cheers
~Chris
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2010, 08:40:16 AM »
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I'm not sure why you need a grey card at all ...

Since you seem to recognize that the 'right' white balance is the one that looks the most pleasing to you relative to your intended output, why not leave the grey card at home?
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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There is no rule! No - wait ...


« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 08:57:16 AM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
I'm not sure why you need a grey card at all ...

Since you seem to recognize that the 'right' white balance is the one that looks the most pleasing to you relative to your intended output, why not leave the grey card at home?

Actually I'm leaving it at home more and more often ...
But sometimes I like to see the object "neutralized" as one of many measures of exploring it.
And for portraits I am happy to have the colorchecker with me, since skin is something special.
For reproductional purposes of course it would be mandatory ( I don't do repros).
But for my type of photography, indeed I can omit it often.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 09:15:30 AM »
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Indeed. Some folks seem to feel there are two "rules" of good landscape photography:

1. Only photograph early or late in the day because the light is so gorgeous then, and

2. Always set white balance with a WhiBal (or comparable) so you can destroy that beautiful light and make the scene look like mid-day.   

I, too, stopped using my WhiBal after a few days once I realized I was no longer getting the sunset warmth that daylight film gave.

I agree: Season to taste!

Eric

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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my website. New images each season.
Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2010, 09:27:50 AM »
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Quote from: Eric Myrvaagnes
I was no longer getting the sunset warmth that daylight film gave.

Since reading that recent Kodachrome emulation thread, I've created quite a few "film profiles" of my own using the DNG Profile editor to try and find exactly that ...

I take a synthetic Color Checker file ... apply various film effects and/or filters to alter the color response ... load into the DNG Editor ... make a recipe ... reverse the adjustments ... open a camera DNG ... apply the recipe .... output profile for use in ACR and Lightroom.  Most digital film emulations seem to combine three elements - grain, color and tone curve.  I take only the color response and leave the grain and tone curve for their own adjustment.  I'm looking to isolate some of that film-like color response.

Combining the base Adobe Standard profile for my camera with at least some of the color response found in some classic films has produced some nice profiles that have some familiar characteristics ... and to get them looking the most familiar, I combine them with a daylight color balance in post.

They are better saturated options for those kind of conditions than the Camera Vivid or Camera Landscape settings in Lightroom.

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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2010, 10:57:14 AM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
Since reading that recent Kodachrome emulation thread, I've created quite a few "film profiles" of my own using the DNG Profile editor to try and find exactly that ...
Here's an example ...

All images processed the same except for the color profile ... the WB is set to Daylight.

The bottom three images come were processed using the stock camera profiles in Lightroom - from left to right they are "Adobe Standard", "Camera Standard", "Camera Landscape".

The top four images were processed using four different film profiles I made.  The the two on the left are "from" one manufacturer and the two on the right "from" another.  One is Kodak and one is Fuji.

Can you guess which is which?
[attachment=20063:color_profiles.jpg]
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KeithR
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2010, 11:24:29 AM »
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When ever I read about WB I often am amused at the topic and how passionate the arguments get as to what is a "right WB", especially after the segment that Michael did on LLVJ #19 about the X-Rite Passport. After creating the profile and applying it to the image, he says(with reference to WB) "...season to taste, as is always the case with these things...fine tuned a lttle bit to give it the color toneality that I want...". I adopted this philosophy a long time ago and have always carried a mini color checker card in my camera bag, but have generally used it only in rare instances and only as a starting point. Lets face it, after all is said and done, no matter what the "correct" WB is, we generally(when shooting RAW) "season to taste".
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fredjeang
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2010, 12:45:38 PM »
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I generaly set mine to cloudy or a pwb close to it because I've noticed that it is the most easily malleable
in C.one. In Raw is the season of taste as said before,
but many press photographers, specialy the 1D's shoot only jpeg files,  russet's season...    

Fred.
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madmanchan
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2010, 01:03:32 PM »
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I still tend to use a gray card as a starting point. It's rarely where I want to end up, but it gives me a consistent starting point. Depending on what I'm shooting, I have certain preference for warm/cool, etc. that Michael was referring to. I then add this bias on top of the reference. For example, for outdoor shooting I'll often apply the gray card to minimize casts, then add about +500 to the temperature.
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DaveCurtis
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2010, 01:09:35 PM »
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For landscapes, I shoot Raw and auto whitebalance and then process in Lightroom as soon as possible.

I adjust the white balance a soon as possible after taking the images, trying to remember what the light was like at the time and how I 'felt' about the scene.

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John Camp
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2010, 02:56:03 PM »
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If you know where "neutral" is with a grey or white card, or a color checker, or a whibal, and have some kind of grip on normal color temps during the day (or temps that you want) -- the temps of full sun at noon, open shade, cloudy, early morning/larger afternoon, etc., you should then be able to quickly dial in the actual color, instead of screwing around trying to get it by playing with sliders & etc. The problem with large eye adjustments is that your room probably isn't neutral, your monitor probably isn't exactly neutral, and you wind up with your main subject looking okay (to your eye) but then you notice in your print that somebody has purple hair, who doesn't. All of this, of course, only if you want to shoot your subject in actual colors. If you prefer to choose your colors, then you don't have to worry about it. You can see the results of the latter at any postcard stand featuring pictures of the Grand Canyon. It's much purpler than you remember. 8-)

By the way, why is this thread in this forum?
« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 02:56:56 PM by John Camp » Logged
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2010, 01:23:01 AM »
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Quote from: John Camp
By the way, why is this thread in this forum?
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/balance.shtml

 
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barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2010, 08:16:28 AM »
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This is a very good topic of discussion. I've be alarmed at how many seem to shoot on AWB, even more disturbed at some photographers who put to print images that clearly have WB that is neither accurate, in some cases wildly wrong (esp local press shooters!, worst offenders of all)

There is no right or wrong, but there is looks awful, and looks decent.

I'd say it's better to be a bit warm, than a bit cool. WB can be used for creative effect too, but blue cool skin tones tend to look nasty

I use a WB lens cap, and mostly Kelvins. I got out of the bad habit some suggest, just auto WB and shoot raw. Never hurts to get it to a good starting point, than wildly off. It's an often overlooked aspect of photography, not sure why..it can make a big difference to some shots.

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bjanes
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2010, 10:28:11 AM »
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Quote from: KeithR
When ever I read about WB I often am amused at the topic and how passionate the arguments get as to what is a "right WB", especially after the segment that Michael did on LLVJ #19 about the X-Rite Passport. After creating the profile and applying it to the image, he says(with reference to WB) "...season to taste, as is always the case with these things...fine tuned a lttle bit to give it the color toneality that I want...". I adopted this philosophy a long time ago and have always carried a mini color checker card in my camera bag, but have generally used it only in rare instances and only as a starting point. Lets face it, after all is said and done, no matter what the "correct" WB is, we generally(when shooting RAW) "season to taste".
The fact that Michael needed some further adjustment of WB to achieve the desired results does not obviate the fact that use of the Passport WB and profile got him much closer to the desired result and simplified the whole process.

If you look at the shooting conditions in the LLVJ #19 review, you will see that Michael was shooting under overcast conditions and on the floor of a forest with autumn green and yellow foliage. The ambient daylight would have been blueish, but would have been modified by reflection and filtration by the foliage. The main WB slider in ACR or LR (temperature) adjusts along the Planckian locus of a black body radiator. However, only direct sunlight corresponds to black body radiation, and the blueish tint of an overcast sky is from Rayleigh scattering and is non-Planckian, as is the effect of the surrounding foliage. These effects would require use of the Tint slider, and there are innumerable combinations of the temperature and tint sliders.

Another question might concern whether or not Michael might have gotten comparable results merely by using a Whibal or similar card for a custom WB, and not bothered with the custom profile. Perhaps, but one should remember that ACR performs WB by interpolating between profiles for daylight and tungsten, both on the Planckian locus. With non-black body illumination, this might not give optimal results. Perhaps Madman Chan could comment.
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2010, 11:04:35 AM »
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Quote from: bjanes
These effects would require use of the Tint slider, and there are innumerable combinations of the temperature and tint sliders.

Exactly, and that's why I want to have a known spectrally neutral reference in (one of) my "under foliage" type of images. One may come up with something that looks reasonable after a bit of fiddling about with Tint and Temperature, but nothing beats getting it to neutral first, and then adjusting it from accurate towards pleasing (with usually only the temprature control). It's the efficient way to do it.

These types of shooting scenarios can also happen in urban surroundings with colored buildings, or under mixed lighting (especially when discontinuous spectral lightsources are added to the mix).

Cheers,
Bart
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EduPerez
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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2010, 02:29:46 AM »
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Speaking of white balanced, I have always wondered how could I get a "neutral" white balance, one that showed the scene as it was taken without any kind of "compensation".
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2010, 03:47:00 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
Speaking of white balanced, I have always wondered how could I get a "neutral" white balance, one that showed the scene as it was taken without any kind of "compensation".

I'm not sure if I understand your question. An image is either white balanced or it is not. The white balance may be off-the-mark when the scene didn't offer good enough clues as to what the spectral composition of the illuminant was, or the algorithm was not effective. A camera by itself doesn't have a good color balance (it's usually not a goal for the manufacturer), it needs postprocessing (Raw conversion and white balancing) to achieve a usable result.

Cheers,
Bart
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EduPerez
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2010, 04:27:50 AM »
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Quote from: BartvanderWolf
I'm not sure if I understand your question. An image is either white balanced or it is not. The white balance may be off-the-mark when the scene didn't offer good enough clues as to what the spectral composition of the illuminant was, or the algorithm was not effective. A camera by itself doesn't have a good color balance (it's usually not a goal for the manufacturer), it needs postprocessing (Raw conversion and white balancing) to achieve a usable result.

Cheers,
Bart

I was thinking of how to obtain an image without any white balance at all. In my camera, I must select a white balance, be it "auto" or any of the other presets; and in any RAW developer I have tried, again I must select between "auto", a preset, or my own value. Some software (dcraw) can output files using a "flat" white balance, but then the camera's response is not taken into account, and pictures are very greenish.

Sometimes, I would like to see a photograph exactly as the real scene was: if the light source was predominantly red, I want to see white objects as red. Probably, the best approach would be to find the white balance for an theoretical illuminant with a flat spectral composition... if that makes any sense at all.

Thanks.
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Ed Blagden
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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2010, 04:38:47 AM »
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This all makes me wonder how on earth we managed back in the days of slide film - somehow a colour temperature of 5200K (at least for outdoor) seemed to work just fine in almost every outdoor situation.  Don't get me wrong: I love digital, am not a Luddite and would never go back.  However I sometimes think that one unfortunate side effect of digital is that we all spend far too much time worrying about things which don't really matter very much.

And speaking of WB related things which don't matter very much in the grand scheme of things: I live at high-ish altitude on the equator and have noticed that AWB tends to produce a reading 500K to 1000K below where it would be at sea level in more northern latitudes.  For example a sunlit outdoor scene in Nairobi (~6000 feet, ~1 degree south of the Equator) might give me a AWB setting of about 4500K and a similar scene in southern England would give me around 5200K.  Anyone have any idea of the physics behind this?  Not that it matters very much.

Ed
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2010, 07:26:30 AM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
Sometimes, I would like to see a photograph exactly as the real scene was: if the light source was predominantly red, I want to see white objects as red. Probably, the best approach would be to find the white balance for an theoretical illuminant with a flat spectral composition... if that makes any sense at all.

I understand, but that's not how the human visual system works. We mentally correct (WB) the image, and our camera doesn't. That's why shadows look so blue in an image that's color balanced for daylight, and we didn't notice it when we looked at those same shadows as we shot the image. When we look at a piece of white paper, we will always see it as white, regardless of the dominant lightsource (Tungsten of daylight), the camera will show it as a color cast.

It's a similar 'problem' as with the eye's adaptation for light and dark areas in a scene. The camera doesn't alter the exposure dynamically thoughout the scene, our eyes do.

Cheers,
Bart
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