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White Balance Tools

Last updated 2010-01-12 - Send Feedback
Related: how-to, technique

Get the white balance right, and most everything else falls into place!

When I’m shooting outside, I can easily choose an appropriate daylight color balance later when processing the RAW file. I typically leave my camera white balance set to Daylight (5200°K) because I always shoot RAW.

However, the histogram is more accurate if you set a white balance close to what the actual illumination is, but other than that there’s no need to worry about it when shooting.

It’s not always easy to guess what the correct white balance, so it’s worthwhile to take along something which can be used to set a gray point later, for white balance. For a long time I’ve used a mini Macbeth Color Checker card, but now I tend to carry a SypderCube. For the SpyderCube and other options, see my Acessories list.

So-called “correct” white balance is sometimes not the goal: no one will be pleased seeing a beautiful sunset go neutral!

Show below are two useful options for portability. I like the SpyderCube because it can (literally) go into the creek.

One white balance tool: SypderCube
XRite ColorChecker Passport

Leave well enough alone

Don’t even try to white balance something like this—use Daylight and leave it at that. In this case, the garish red is true to the eye; gel filters were placed over the up-lights for a special event, so white balancing would not be appropriate anyway. The blue sky is accurate as well. The church is lit by another light source, perhaps sodium vapor lamps. Correcting it would not match my perception or be pleasing, so I’d leave it alone, too, even if it were photographed by itself.

 

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