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Questions on setting the white balance


sbeckhardt
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It seems to me there are two ways to use a white balance card:

 

1.  Put the camera in set white balance mode and photograph the card while it covers the little rectangle on the screen.  Now your white balance is set for the current lighting.  It seems to me that this approach is only useful if you plan to use out-of-the camera JPEGs.

 

2. Just take a photo of the white balance card and use it to set the white balance when you process the DNG.  This seems much simpler, but of course you have to process the RAW image.

 

Does the above make sense so far?

 

When using approach #1, does the card have to be in focus?  I ask because if I hold the card at arm's length, it's not in focus unless I go into macro mode.  But if I can just take a picture of an out-of-focus card to set the white balance then I don't have to switch into macro mode.

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Both points 1 and 2 make perfect sense. In focus? Opinions differ. Out of focus lenses *can* introduce color shifts and fringing (CA). That said, my experience is that it is inconsequential, so shoot ahead. What is more important is to hold the card at the correct angle to the light source you are trying to adjust to as "main" light. Avoid glare.

 

But much more important is the fact that in practice, outdoors, there is no single light source. Shadows are always colder than more or less directly sunlit areas. Color casts from surrounding objects will be there. Bottom line: The white balance target is no holy grail. Think about the subject in your picture, and what is the dominant light source. Measure that.

 

I shoot RAW; In general, outdoors, I use Auto and adjust in post. I rarely use the target anymore, unless there is really nothing, no clue at all, in the frame that helps me define the lighting, post shot... Indoors, under artificial light, using the target almost always is beneficial when there is no neutral color in the subject area. But be prepared for surprises. 

 

When shooting JPG (point 1), white balance is essential to getting a good picture. In most daylight situations, Auto on the Q works reasonably well though. But I never shoot JPEG anymore, so I have no experience on that.

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I used to try and get the card in focus but it was not always possible. Now I just make sure that the measuring rectangle includes only the grey section of the card. It works perfectly however, you must remember to redo the measurement when the light changes.

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I use a grey card only for museums when fidelity is key.

in my experience, you have no choice as concerns focussing the card if you stay in autofocus : you enter the setup mode, a rectangle appears in the middle of the image, that must cover the grey card, then you go. I personally wouldn't venture in manual focus correction vs Leica preset...

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