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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

White Balance

Just a little extra to add about the last two exercises in relation to white balance. The white balance setting is essentially what the camera dose to calibrate or neutralise the source colour temperature (Making whites look white!); so for example in the colour temperature exercises (remember these were done some time ago in relation to this update!) The settings on the camera  (Auto Daylight etc.) are there to match the ‘general’ light conditions to the camera’s sensor thereby getting ‘correct’ colour for the scene. i.e. the  daylight setting taken in the mid-day light tend to have more neutral tones (less colour cast).

Something I’ve learnt since this exercise last year is how important understanding this is. It could be argued that shooting in a RAW format it is very easy to correct colour casts in post production, and while I do use this technique and find it useful, I don’t believe it is as always simple as that all the time.

For example If you are shooting in an environment where there are different light sources and or changing light temperature i.e. natural light  coming through a window with fluorescent light in the room also what’s is the camera going to do in Auto white balance? is it going to be accurate for every shot? probably not and it’s going to be more difficult to correct in post production.

Another area to consider is that of commercial product photography. This is VERY important to have the correct colour temperature for the light source to show the product’s correct colour. I have experience this myself during the colour Assignment from last year (note the changes were made post production on raw files straight from camera it was originally shot in AWB).

Here is the first is the original taken at Auto white balance setting as shot from camera the second is the same shot on a daylight setting




Here is they are again together.

5400K 5500K 5001K
Photography London Photographer London Photographer

Note the subtle difference between 1 and 2 basically automated settings from the camera; they have a slight ‘orange’ cast in the first one and more red in the second building. The third has been colour corrected using a point in the image that I know should be neutral (white sign for example) to balance from (something I’ve seen a lot of photographers do to get correct balance). So which one is correct?

At the time of submitting this for assessment I used what the camera thought it should be from the AWB (number 1) but to a commercial customer how do we know the correct one from the other… Well I expect the client will know and therefore we should make sure that whatever our balance setting is in camera or in post production is the one they expect… In hindsight I don’t remember the building have an orange cast, or red cast; so is it could be the corrected 3rd version (note the colour temperature is 5001K) being the most accurate to how my eyes saw it, but the only way I could confirm this is to return to the location under the exact same light conditions (British Weather), the same time of day and even the date (Anyone got a flux capacitor?) to be sure. Not very viable for a commercial photographer who’s livelihood depends on his work…

I guess to sum this up is really just to say that despite technology helping us ‘correct’ images it is still better to get the correct white balance at the time of taking the shoot to know that what we ‘see’ with our eyes matches what the camera ‘see’s as close as possible at the time!

Wherever possible I will use a grey card to set my camera’s balance from at the location, or where not possible I use a neutral point in the image (that I know should be so). This will save me a lot of time post production and the confidence that a client will get what they paid for.

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