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My big WB dilemma.

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Dave in Wales, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. Dave in Wales

    Dave in Wales Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 5, 2011
    West Wales
    Been doing a fair bit of reading lately regarding accurate WB.
    The general consensus seems to be that Auto WB just not up to to.

    The solution seems to be to use an Expodisc, white/grey cards or any one of a number of other gizmos to take a WB reading of the ambient light.
    This is OK if the ambient light is going to remain constant for some time, if however it is likely to change then this is a terribly tedious way to achieve a correct WB reading.

    So, it's Auto WB or a tedious selective WB reading.

    Anyone got a really quick way of taking a WB reading?

    The E-M1 goes part way with it's One Touch WB, manual page 59, but the value still has to be registered either 1 to 4.
    Why is it necessary to register as default, if not registered the WB reading taken could simple overwrite the previous reading or registered if required.

    Why with modern technology can the camera not determine the correct ambient WB at the instant before taking the picture and apply that to the scene?
  2. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    shoot RAW and fix it in post ?

    can't recall when I last worried about WB... but thats maybe just me

    • Like Like x 6
  3. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    I shoot jpeg + raw and on the rare occassion that auto WB doesn't get it right I just correct it in Lightroom. I have the jpeg if I need something quickly and the raw to make my own adjustments.With my E-P3 I hardly ever have WB problems, though.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    I gotta be gettin' really old :biggrin:.

    Totally misread the question and referenced a perfect answer for the wrong question.

    Deleted in order not to confuse readers further.



  5. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Auto white balance sometimes results in too cool images IMO. Most of the time it is not too bad. But shooting in RAW allows WB adjusting in post processing. I am using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to build up a profile library for all of my lenses in different lighting conditions.
  6. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Auto white balance usually works pretty well for me and like Bob above, when it doesn't work I just correct it in Lightroom.

    The fact of the matter is that white balance doesn't need to be precise or exact. Close enough is good enough and what's close enough is an interesting question. Our eyes adapt to differences in colour temperature quite well and if you're indoors at night under tungsten lighting you rarely notice that the colours of everything in your room are significantly different to how they look in daylight. An interesting problem is what you do when the thing that attracts you to taking a particular photograph is the way the colours look, like a strong colour cast at sunrise or sunset if you're walking from indoors under artificial lighting to outdoors. You only see the colour cast in the brief few minutes before your eyes and brain adapt so when you take the photo, how do you want it to look. If you use something like a white balance target and set your camera to that, what you'll end up with in your file is an image in which whites look white and the colour cast has disappeared. The colours in the image will not be the ones you saw which attracted you to take the photo. You want the wrong white balance setting, one probably very close to the white balance indoors that you just walked out of, if you want your photo to reflect the way you saw the scene.

    And then there are those times when you simply want to change the white balance for effect, not for accuracy.

    I've tried shooting the scene first with a white balance target in it and then without the target, using the target in Lightroom to determine the correct white balance, and then adjusting the actual image, the one shot without the target in it, to the right white balance setting and found myself often unable to really pick a difference because I'd shot the scene using auto white balance and while setting the white balance based on the target changed the temperature and tint settings a little, the result was barely noticeable and didn't really affect the look of the image.

    One thing I'll warn you about, however, is that if you're going to use a white balance target like the x-rite colour checker, make sure you put it in a part of the scene that's receiving the light you want the image balanced for. Colour temperature will be different in shade or shadow to what it will be under the lights or sunlight. If you're shooting a sunny landscape, put the target in a shady area and use the result you get from that for your sunny landscape scene, it will look decidedly off. Using things like white balance targets or the like and using them badly will have you wondering why anyone would ever bother using anything other than auto white balance.

    Basically, auto white balance works pretty well most of the time these days. Shoot RAW and adjust the image in processing if necessary. There are times when trying to be more precise than that is worth the time and effort but it's rare that most of us really need that level of precision. There are professional jobs when it's absolutely essential but the rest of the time close enough really is good enough.

    As for why can't the camera get it right, the answer is simple. Unless you have perfectly dead even lighting across the whole scene with no shadow area at all in the scene, there will be variations in colour temperature across the scene. The camera doesn't know what part of the scene is most important to you and it also doesn't know where you were looking immediately before you saw the scene or what colour temperature your eyes were adapted to at the moment you took the photo. There's absolutely no way a camera can nail the colour balance in a scene exactly the way you saw it every time. No matter how smart they try to make the system it will still get it wrong some of the time and most of the time it's not going to be far enough "wrong" to make a difference anyway. Take a look at the accuracy of the camera's light meter results. My camera's have around 5 different light meter modes and I can get pretty much identical results with all of them provided I know how to use them but how often do we find ourselves adjusting the exposure of the image in processing? When we adjust highlights and shadows separately, we're really giving one exposure to the highlights and one to the shadows. Because of the dynamic range of the scene compared to that of the sensor, there's no "accurate" exposure which will give us what we want without us needing to make highlight and shadow adjustments a lot of the time. The camera simply can't get it right all of the time because the sensor is incapable of capturing the full range of the scene. Things are no different with white balance. I shoot with the camera set to auto white balance and I make white balance adjustments a hell of a lot less often than I make exposure adjustments so I really don't think our cameras are doing all that badly with white balance.
    • Like Like x 3
  7. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Yes, I do, but that's for exposure not white balance. Read the palm, open up a stop, and voilà. But it won't tell me if I'm shooting under tungsten or daylight.
  8. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    I dail in a custom balance for what I consider normal daylight around here, 5200K. For the compact fluorescents I use in my house, I do a white balance off a white sheet. I have that permanently set for custom balance 2. Otherwise I don't worry much about it. Film only came in a few flavors, daylight, tungsten, etc. and you could use filters to correct for that. But if your pictures had a blue cast from overcast light, it just got corrected in printing -- or should have,

    Constantly changing white balance is more work than color correcting your photos afterwards -- raw or jpeg. Unless the WB is horribly of a jpeg can be corrected for too much warmth or coolness.

    Anyway, that's my two cents worth. I don't claim it's gospel.
  9. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Ah, I mis-read. Sorry folks!!! :redface:.


  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    The camera can do this. All it needs is a known color in the picture, hence the need for the Expodisc, gray card, or one of those gadgets with the sample color patches/X-Rite ColorChecker.

    Gedankenexperiment: Suppose you are photographing a completely flat, evenly lit, wall that is painted pale blue or yellow. Now vary the lights. Tungsten, sunset light, blue north sky, strobe, ... whatever. Could any instrument looking only at the wall know what the color of the light source was? Of course not, because the instrument (aka camera) can't possibly know what color the wall is supposed to be. (In fact, ranging into the philosophical: What could the word "accuracy" or the phrase "supposed to be" mean anyway when perceived color is determined both by the object and by the color of the light illuminating it? Snow is "supposed to be" pale blue when illuminated by a blue sky, right? Certainly you could not claim that the photo of the snow was "accurate" if the snow was white.)

    Nope. Not just you. Me, too.

    I shoot RAW+JPG but I can't remember the last time I used the jpgs for anything but viewing as large thumbnails in Windoze Explorer. If a photo is worth anything at all it is worth at least a little effort in post.
  11. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    I use an expo disc for quick and dirty custom WB. And the Color Checker passport, to build presets, and batching WB. The funny thing about WB, accurate is rarely what I want.
  12. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Exactly. WB is the same instrument as others to adjust the photo to whatever your goal is.
  13. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa

    to the OP, not to in any way imply I disagree with this, rather than adding to it, when you shoot RAW you actually get recorded in the file what the sensor saw, so you're not actually fixing it in post so much as making the choices the camera may have made any which way you like.

    I prefer to use dcraw as a quick and dirty (often with the -h option for the quick) and by default it seems to do a pretty good job of whitebalance in sunlight.

    if (as was suggested too) you shoot both (which is not actually needed) and leave it on "AWB" you can pull the colour balance preferences out of the files you like when using dcraw (the -v option to show them) and apply them to all the ones shot in the same light.


    PS: I said shooting both jpg and raw was not strictly needed because raw files almost always contain an embedded JPG (which is used for in camera review) which dcraw can pull out (with the -e option) quick as a flash and you have a 1/2 size JPG good for www and email in a blink.
  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Since we're thread drifting to post processing WB, I'll just add a little to this:

    If you're not running Linux and/or don't want to mess with command line stuff (this is the case for me), doing post in Lightroom works is just as easy, maybe even easier. Just load up one photo from a sequence and adjust WB as you like, then select all the photos in that sequence and click a button to apply the same correction to all. As an example, if you're shooting a wedding you will probably have a number of poses of the couple in the same light, same background, etc. You can easily correct them all to taste (I agree with Just Jim on this) in maybe 60 seconds tops.

    One side benefit to this strategy is that there is no need to waste time carrying and messing with Expodiscs, X-Rite panels, grey cards, etc. and it avoids the risk that you end up inadvertently shooting in new light using an old custom WB setting. A second benefit is that Lightroom is non-destructive. If your taste in WB changes tomorrow, you can easily reflect that change in LR.
  15. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa

    just to clarify, dcraw runs well on Windows and Mac OS-X ... the issue with CLI of course holds. But for the sake of typing:
    dcraw -e *.rw2 you can operate on a thousand files in less time than lightroom takes to start
  16. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    Always set WB in post...

    I can't remember the last time I set a WB in the camera. I shoot RAW, Auto WB then set the WB in LR5. In post processing, I try to find something in the image that is white or neutral gray, such as a white shirt. I then click LR's WB eye-dropper on that object, and bam! it's done. I may adjust the WB further in LR to my liking. And, I have placed a piece of white foam board in the scene for the first shot, then used that shot to set the WB in the rest of the images. I often shoot in a church in which part of the room has lots of relatively cool daylight, but the stage area is lit by hot tungsten floods. Trying to set a camera WB to accommodate the wildly varying color temp or using some WB "gadget" is way too much work.
  17. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    Don't think I've used custom WB since my first digital oh so many years ago, I find AWB to be more than close enough for most images and the ones that need it then PS does the hard work.
    I suppose custom WB is useful when the rest of the workflow is not calibrated correctly or your contracted to get absolute accurate colours for a commercial job.
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