RAW white balance

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,250
281
Davidson, NC
When shooting RAW, does the white balance setting make any difference, or does the setting just come along for the ride in the RAW file as a suggested value that software will use when opening the file? That sounds like a stupid question even to me, but I’d appreciate a serious answer.

During the "Golden Hour" today, during my last extra hour of sunlight for the year, I went out on the deck and on down to my back yard and made some pictures of the fall leaves in the nice light. I left on AWB. Of course the camera chose a low color temperature setting to try to make the light look white, and thus negated much of the time of day look.

In ACR I tried to set a white balance to approximate the look I saw when I shot the pictures. Before I tried using the sliders, I looked at the daylight and flash settings, and they came closest to restoring the natural look. Would there be any advantage to setting daylight WB in the camera in the first place? Or will I just wind up with the same look I would get with ACR with the sliders on the same settings whatever the WB was set on?

Do any of you use special techniques to try to maintain the look of the ambient lighting?
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,904
1,043
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stevelee said:
When shooting RAW, does the white balance setting make any difference, or does the setting just come along for the ride in the RAW file as a suggested value that software will use when opening the file? That sounds like a stupid question even to me, but I’d appreciate a serious answer.

During the "Golden Hour" today, during my last extra hour of sunlight for the year, I went out on the deck and on down to my back yard and made some pictures of the fall leaves in the nice light. I left on AWB. Of course the camera chose a low color temperature setting to try to make the light look white, and thus negated much of the time of day look.

In ACR I tried to set a white balance to approximate the look I saw when I shot the pictures. Before I tried using the sliders, I looked at the daylight and flash settings, and they came closest to restoring the natural look. Would there be any advantage to setting daylight WB in the camera in the first place? Or will I just wind up with the same look I would get with ACR with the sliders on the same settings whatever the WB was set on?

Do any of you use special techniques to try to maintain the look of the ambient lighting?
You got it!
 

Zeidora

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 15, 2015
668
10
If you are interested in faithful reproduction of colors, then you still have to do WB even when shooting RAW. In that case you will not touch color temp adjustment during RAW processing. Say you shoot an all green lawn. How green was it? Which shade of green? If you do not do a WB before, you may adjust to some sort of green, but not necessarily the one that the lawn actually was. [I side-step here the effect that brightness has on color value, and all the caveats with camera and screen calibration and gamut of output medium. I also assume a black-body light source].
If you have some objective white/grey/blacks (or other known colors) on your image then you can adjust precisely after the fact. But much easier to do a WB before.
If you don't care about faithful colors, then go wild during editing, and forget about WB.
If you shoot IR or UV, you still want to do WB, because range of the adjustment options are limited in all RAW converters I've ever used.
This might be helpful:
http://www.clickinmoms.com/blog/color-by-kelvin-a-better-approach-to-white-balance/
 

SecureGSM

2 x 5D IV
Feb 26, 2017
1,308
302
somewhat controversial article by clickinmoms...
one can perfectly get away shooting in AWB RAW provided colorchecker card was used.

setting white balance in camera does not guarantee an accurate, true colour reproduction.
yes, you set you neutrals ( whites, greys, blacks) right, but what about your reds , blues, purples?

one need more than a simple two way adjustment (kelvin plus green magenta shift). colorchecker card provides multipoint curve adjustment that ensures much more accurate colours.

that said, precise colour calibration will kill the golden hour lighting character completely. that is easily fixable though.
 

Pippan

EOS M50
Mar 30, 2016
45
0
Combine what Secure said with what you surmised. Taking a photo of a Colorchecker and making a light source profile in your raw converter of choice (it takes seconds) will give you the most accurate colour. If shooting in the sun, the light source profile will always be the same except towards the beginning and end of the day when atmospherics will alter it. To retain good golden hour hues, use the profile from a Colorchecker photo taken in the sun around midday.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,212
773
I find it much easier to use a WB tool before shooting, my tools are a CBL wb and a ColorChecker Passport. I can’t stand trying to tweak wb in post. Being colorblind makes it very difficult and I spend too much time not getting it right.
 

Maximilian

The dark side - I've been there
Nov 7, 2013
2,629
442
Germany
neuroanatomist said:
I view white balance like exposure – I tweak in post to taste.
+1
A calibrated monitor is necessary for that of course.
If you intend to be really accurate use a grey card.
 

drjlo

EOS 6D MK II
Mar 27, 2012
805
5
Viggo said:
I find it much easier to use a WB tool before shooting, my tools are a CBL wb and a ColorChecker Passport. I can’t stand trying to tweak wb in post. Being colorblind makes it very difficult and I spend too much time not getting it right.
For "casual" shooting, I tend to just tweak WB in post. But for more serious/prolonged sessions, it saves me a lot of time in post just to use my Colorchecker before shooting. Skin tones of various races are especially tricky otherwise IME.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,250
281
Davidson, NC
Pippan said:
Combine what Secure said with what you surmised. Taking a photo of a Colorchecker and making a light source profile in your raw converter of choice (it takes seconds) will give you the most accurate colour. If shooting in the sun, the light source profile will always be the same except towards the beginning and end of the day when atmospherics will alter it. To retain good golden hour hues, use the profile from a Colorchecker photo taken in the sun around midday.
Yes, that seems to be more to my point. Most of the advice I’ve been given here would seem to do more of what I’m working against. I don’t want a gray card to look gray. Your midday sun suggestion would seem to be what I was trying to approximate by choosing the corresponding ACR preset, which gives 5500 degrees and +10 magenta, as I recall. Then I tweaked.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,250
281
Davidson, NC
privatebydesign said:
stevelee said:
When shooting RAW, does the white balance setting make any difference, or does the setting just come along for the ride in the RAW file as a suggested value that software will use when opening the file?
You got it!
Thanks for the confirmation. That made sense to me, but I was afraid I was missing something.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,250
281
Davidson, NC
stevelee said:
privatebydesign said:
You got it!
Thanks for the confirmation. That made sense to me, but I was afraid I was missing something.
I had some other related stupid questions, and in my search on the web, I came across this page http://www.photographersadventureclub.com/raw-files-sensor-native-color-space-camera-processing/ that I found helpful.

Interestingly, he suggests a reason for always using daylight white balance when shooting RAW, to help with consistency in batch post-processing. If Lightroom or ACR is using different starting points for color balance on each picture, then the batch will give inconsistent results, even through the RAW files have not been altered in any way by the auto white balance setting. The downside, he says, is that the previews on the camera screen will look weird when the picture was made under very different light. One could of course use the tungsten setting for the whole bunch made in tungsten light and have the same advantage. It's not like you are going to use batch processing with the same settings for pictures made in very different lighting anyway.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,904
1,043
119
stevelee said:
stevelee said:
privatebydesign said:
You got it!
Thanks for the confirmation. That made sense to me, but I was afraid I was missing something.
I had some other related stupid questions, and in my search on the web, I came across this page http://www.photographersadventureclub.com/raw-files-sensor-native-color-space-camera-processing/ that I found helpful.

Interestingly, he suggests a reason for always using daylight white balance when shooting RAW, to help with consistency in batch post-processing. If Lightroom or ACR is using different starting points for color balance on each picture, then the batch will give inconsistent results, even through the RAW files have not been altered in any way by the auto white balance setting. The downside, he says, is that the previews on the camera screen will look weird when the picture was made under very different light. One could of course use the tungsten setting for the whole bunch made in tungsten light and have the same advantage. It's not like you are going to use batch processing with the same settings for pictures made in very different lighting anyway.
I always used to shoot in a fixed Kelvin value for the same reason, however now with the 1DX MkII's I really like the AWB-W setting so shoot that a lot of the time too, it depends how critical the cross session continuity is. For something like a wedding where I want accurate control over the color of the brides dress I'll still use a fixed Kº value, normally 5,500, for stuff where the color isn't critical I trust the AWB-W setting to get me more than close enough most of the time and certainly if you are outputting jpegs is a vast improvement on previous WB capability. If I shoot a concert it will be both RAW and jpeg on AWB-W so I can upload good quality Jpegs and still have malleable RAW files.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,904
1,043
119
Sporgon said:
For the record I shoot at 5200K in raw all the time, but then I use much older gear than privatebydesign who has now joined the up-to-the-minute club ;D
;D It took me long enough, but you know that!
 

global pillage

I'm New Here
Jun 20, 2014
12
0
FWIW:

I always leave camera on AWB by default.

When I shoot artwork for repro (1/3 of my income), I use a colorchecker chart. Always. Match all in post.

When I shoot people (another 1/3 of income), I sometimes use a colorchecker, but usually not. Nice thing about AWB in this situation is that WB changes slightly every exposure. If I take 500 pictures of someone in a space, chances are that one of the AWB guesses will look best. This is often not "accurate" WB, but most flattering. I then select all and match color settings. Sometimes I have to tweak individual ones to match as color sometimes changes one moment to the next. I'm talking to you, clouds.

When shooting for myself (pretty much zero of my income), I never use a colorchecker. I just figure out to taste.

One note, relating to an above comment: I do a lot of timelapse and shoot RAW as original frames. Sometimes 1500-2000 frames all on AWB. I just synchronize color settings in ACR and have never found it to drift. I vaguely remember something from back in the stone ages of RAW processing availability that to have truly consistent color through a long series of exposures, you would want to manually set the WB. I used to do that. Now I don't bother because I can see no difference.

Hope any of this is helpful.
 

drmikeinpdx

Celebrating 20 years of naughty photography!
Color Checker Passport

I spent a lot of time setting up the parameters for the Color Checker Passport. It works fine in a consistent color shooting environment, but I found that my work is anything but consistent due to light reflecting off colored surfaces.

I often pose models on colored fabric, which makes their skin close to the fabric take on that color. The walls inside the rooms where I shoot often have pretty intense color that does the same thing.

When I shoot outdoors it can get really complicated. There is one secluded waterfall I like to use where different parts of the model's skin will be tinted yellow, green and blue. The yellow and green come from the thick vegetation. The blue actually comes from the waterfall itself. It works like a big white reflector, but it's reflecting light from the blue sky!

The Color Checker Passport appealed to my OCD, but didn't have much practical value for me. If you work in an all black and/or white studio it would probably be great.
 

geekpower

EOS 80D
Feb 22, 2015
187
0
imo outdoors is easy. sunny, chose daylight, not sunny, choose shade. done.

indoors is where it gets complicated, because your flash is almost never the same temp as the ambient lighting, and this is not something you can correct in post.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,212
773
geekpower said:
imo outdoors is easy. sunny, chose daylight, not sunny, choose shade. done.

indoors is where it gets complicated, because your flash is almost never the same temp as the ambient lighting, and this is not something you can correct in post.
I use gels 8)
 

geekpower

EOS 80D
Feb 22, 2015
187
0
Viggo said:
geekpower said:
imo outdoors is easy. sunny, chose daylight, not sunny, choose shade. done.

indoors is where it gets complicated, because your flash is almost never the same temp as the ambient lighting, and this is not something you can correct in post.
I use gels 8)
indeed, but doing so takes time/effort to set up correctly.