The joy of proper white balance.

CanonFanBoy

EOS 5D SR
Jan 28, 2015
4,105
1,650
Irving, Texas
I was taking photos tonight without flash in very low light ( Canon 35mm f/1.4L II and 135 f/2L) of my wife, daughter, and grandson as they decorated the Christmas tree. I've almost never shot indoors and always figured that AWB was good enough. I was not happy at all about the results. The wall colors were way off, and skin tones looked bad. It was a mess.

Then I started to play with the manual Kelvin settings. Wow! I was able to get the colors and mood to look exactly like my eye was seeing them. Very exciting for an amateur like me. I really need to explore and learn my settings better. I can see how this might also be used as a powerful creative tool.

You more experienced photogs already know this for sure. There might be some newer folks who, like me, never played with that. It really is a great thing to figure out.

One question I have: Is there a quicker way to dial this in other than trial and error? I have a good Sekonic light meter and color checker passport I have not learned to use yet. Would that help? I have some cognitive deficits that make it hard to learn new things and also affects short term memory (accident three years ago). I have to write myself notes a lot and sometimes forget why I wrote them or what they even mean the next day. That's why I don't know my gear as well as I should.
 

hne

Gear limits your creativity
Jan 8, 2016
301
17
Flip your ColourChecker Passport to the grey page, point that towards dominant light source and take a photo of it. If you take a picture where it covers a significant part of your frame, you can tell the camera to use custom white balance from that, otherwise you can use spot white balance off of it when developing your RAW files.

Another way of setting whitebalance in post is to know that human skin midtones are very colour stable at pretty much spot on 20° hue. Go outside the range of 19-21 and the subject would pretty much look sick, sunburned or just plain wrong. Unless of course you're using coloured light for an effect, but then you don't care about accurate white balance anyway.
https://www.toolfarm.com/blog/entry/skin
 

Pippan

EOS M50
Mar 30, 2016
45
0
hne said:
Flip your ColourChecker Passport to the grey page, point that towards dominant light source and take a photo of it. If you take a picture where it covers a significant part of your frame, you can tell the camera to use custom white balance from that, otherwise you can use spot white balance off of it when developing your RAW files.

Another way of setting whitebalance in post is to know that human skin midtones are very colour stable at pretty much spot on 20° hue. Go outside the range of 19-21 and the subject would pretty much look sick, sunburned or just plain wrong. Unless of course you're using coloured light for an effect, but then you don't care about accurate white balance anyway.
https://www.toolfarm.com/blog/entry/skin
Even better, take a photo of the coloured squares of your Colorchecker Passport in the light that falls on your subject, and make a light source profile from it in your raw converter (I assume they all do that, certainly Photo Ninja and Lightroom do). It takes seconds and will give you the most accurate white balance. Then if you want you can alter to taste.
 

SecureGSM

2 x 5D IV
Feb 26, 2017
1,319
313
Guys if I may... considering circumstances... I would consider the expodisc:

https://www.expodisc.com

A 3 step solution.. downright simple. 1,2,3 done. Btw, there are a much more affordable similar (knock off) solutions available that work just as fine. Colorchecker card may be way too confusing at times.
 

CanonFanBoy

EOS 5D SR
Jan 28, 2015
4,105
1,650
Irving, Texas
Thanks guys. I'll give them all a try when I get back to Nevada this week. My passport and expo disk are there. I've had them all for quite some time, but have never used them. Now that I know how important proper WB is... I'm going to have to figure out what works best for me. Appreciate all your comments :)
 

arthurbikemad

EOS 7D MK II
Jul 19, 2015
451
18
UK
For portraits I use the colour checker passport, its amazing how subtle changes in profiles effects an image, viewed one at a time they can often look ok, side by side, another matter. For any product work (not that I do much anymore - I did sell spaceman) I always set WB with a grey card and create a profile, I even profile my meter (no reason to now for my hobby stuff so god knows why I spend out on the latest meters) for as true to life imaging as possible.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,216
782
Over time I have made custom ColorChecker Profiles for my lenses under pretty much all types of light. So I usually just bring my CBL wb tool and sample wb and use a CC profile in raw converting. Easy and superb results. :) I realized at one point I spent nearly all of my time editing wb and adjusting color so I always get it right in camera to begin with, it saves a lot of time and my results are so much more accurate.

IMO every camera needs to come with both a CC and a CBL.
 

sanj

EOS 5D MK IV
Jan 22, 2012
3,203
74
Shooting in RAW and correcting in post has worked for me 98% of the time.
 

Luds34

EOS 6D MK II
May 15, 2014
919
0
sanj said:
Shooting in RAW and correcting in post has worked for me 98% of the time.
Same. Most the time I can do the eye dropper on a grey area. Other times it requires more manual tweaking. Either way, I usually set it for one photo and copy/paste it for the rest of them.

I like the new AWB-W (I think that is it) setting that has mostly eliminated the poor AWB under tungsten. Again, not a big deal shooting RAW, but now it sometimes saves a step.

My only white balance woes comes when I find myself with mixed lights sources that I have no control over. Great opportunity for black and white photos. ;)
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,526
755
In low light, the camera is merely showing the scene as it is. Our brains adjust colors and white balance to our expectations. Thats why its so difficult to get a camera to automatically show colors as you see them.

In low light situations, there tends to be a definite lack of blue light. It so happens that sensors are weakest in blue sensitivity. This double whammy can end up showing a huge amount of noise if you turn up the gain of the blues to attempt to create a white light simulation.

I usually tend to prefer keeping colors as they actually are.
 

drmikeinpdx

Celebrating 20 years of naughty photography!
sanj said:
Shooting in RAW and correcting in post has worked for me 98% of the time.
Same here, but if you are shooting under colorful stage lights or christmas tree lights, you have to let the actual colors stay in the final image. You aren't going to get normal skin tones under those conditions, no matter what you do in Lightroom.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,252
285
Davidson, NC
drmikeinpdx said:
sanj said:
Shooting in RAW and correcting in post has worked for me 98% of the time.
Same here, but if you are shooting under colorful stage lights or christmas tree lights, you have to let the actual colors stay in the final image. You aren't going to get normal skin tones under those conditions, no matter what you do in Lightroom.
And the charm of a picture made under Christmas tree lighting comes from the colors, so of course you don't want them neutralized. For me the goal is to adjust the picture so that it looks like the scene looked to me when I decided to take the picture.

Some of you here helped me get my head around what to do about white balance on pictures I made of fall leaves near sunset. I wanted the pictures to look like it was near sunset, and not noon. I was shooting RAW, but still wanted a good starting point for my ACR adjustments. For that, using the daylight setting or just starting from the daylight preset in ACR worked quite well. I think it was a difference between 5200 and 5500 Kelvin and maybe a +10 of magenta.

For Christmas tree light pictures, if I couldn't get things quite to suit me with those two sliders, I'd tweak some of the individual colors in the HSL pane.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,216
782
Still, that’s the beauty of the ColorChecker, you can “warm” and “cool” the wb with the tuned grey spots without color tint.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,216
782
I have a question;

When adjusting WB in Lr, I can adjust color temp and tint. But in camera I can only adjust color temp, how does the camera handle tint when choosing Kelvin manually?
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
7,912
1,054
119
Viggo said:
I have a question;

When adjusting WB in Lr, I can adjust color temp and tint. But in camera I can only adjust color temp, how does the camera handle tint when choosing Kelvin manually?
No you can adjust tint too. Page 186 of the manual.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,216
782
privatebydesign said:
Viggo said:
I have a question;

When adjusting WB in Lr, I can adjust color temp and tint. But in camera I can only adjust color temp, how does the camera handle tint when choosing Kelvin manually?
No you can adjust tint too. Page 186 of the manual.
Yeah, I’ve tried that earlier, but shifting the Kelvin temp when looking in LV I don’t really see a blue/yellow/green/Amber shift, it just looks warmer and cooler, whereas I’m changing Kelvin temp in Lr I see a tint right away.

Anyway, I use a CBL because I hate wb tuning quite a lot ::)
 

CanonFanBoy

EOS 5D SR
Jan 28, 2015
4,105
1,650
Irving, Texas
privatebydesign said:
Viggo said:
I have a question;

When adjusting WB in Lr, I can adjust color temp and tint. But in camera I can only adjust color temp, how does the camera handle tint when choosing Kelvin manually?
No you can adjust tint too. Page 186 of the manual.
You have a very nimble mind and memory. :D
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,972
502
CanonFanBoy said:
Then I started to play with the manual Kelvin settings. Wow! I was able to get the colors and mood to look exactly like my eye was seeing them. Very exciting for an amateur like me. I really need to explore and learn my settings better. I can see how this might also be used as a powerful creative tool.

[truncated]

Is there a quicker way to dial this in other than trial and error? I have a good Sekonic light meter and color checker passport I have not learned to use yet. Would that help?
100% on how powerful proper WB is. I'll give you my enthusiast goulash of WB management moves for general shooting:

(Professionals, please step away from this post as you will recoil in horror at my bush-league read of WB considerations)


I shoot RAW + JPG always unless you are card / buffer constrained (i.e. shooting high fps work). I leave mine on auto WB as (you guessed it) the RAW file can manage that in post.

I sift through my keepers and funnel them through ACR for my typical 2-3 minute slider tinkering -- not major surgery if I did my job right in-camera. Besides the obvious things you tinker with in post, I toggle between accepting (a) the AWB output, using the (b) 'As Shot' WB option or (c) going in and selecting the WB myself. If I do it myself, I eye-dropper / select a available light gray tone in the scene (hunt for pavement if you can) or I eye-dropper the whites of the subject's eyes and manually adjust the temp/tint to taste.

I also have a gray card in my wallet. Almost never use it.

- A
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,972
502
sanj said:
Shooting in RAW and correcting in post has worked for me 98% of the time.
This. All day.

Full respect to pros who sweat the details on this stuff (for pride in their craft, for demanding clients, etc.) but I generally just push some sliders or eye-dropper a few times until it looks right to my eyes.

- A