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White Balance - white vs... reality?


Dr. G

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Posted (edited)

One reason I decided to put my name on the list for the SL3 besides that it renders really nicely with M lenses is that it has the best AWB I've seen in any FF camera. These are in-camera JPEGs.

SL2-S with 75 Noctilux wide open 

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SL3 with 75 Noctilux wide open

Edited by Chaemono
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Dr. G said:

Just wanted to see what others might think about this approach.

It is a fine approach.

It basically replicates how color slide film has always behaved for the past 88 years or so. The film has a built-in white balance (usually daylight 5600°K for stills), and the "blue hour" will look overall blue, and under tungsten-filament bulbs, it will look overall orange. But one could buy Ektachrome 64 or Kodachrome 64 - or one could buy Ektachrome 64T, or Kodachrome 40 Type A, which had a significantly bluer rendering , either for accurate color in a studio under "hot lights," or for artistic interpretations of daylit scenes.

https://mattlovescameras.com/kodak-ektachrome-64t-sample-images/

https://www.victorycamera.com/products/8-x-kodak-kodachrome-40-type-a-film-1991

(Cine film is usually balanced for tungsten, since the vast, vast majority of cine scenes are shot in a studio under tungsten flood/spot lights, albeit at a slightly higher and bluer wattage/temperature (ca. 3200-3400k°) than consumer home lighting (ca. 2000-2400°K). But daylight versions are available for outdoor settings)

However, if one shoots in raw formats (e.g. Leica .DNG) - the "WB" set in the camera is completely irrelevant. It does not change the color image data captured and saved on the SD card one iota, except in the "preview jpeg," and as a tag in the metadata along with the other possible in-camera-WB choices, if one wants one's post-processing software WB to always use "As Shot."

Edited by adan
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In my Basic Color Photography class (PHTO 103, ca. 1973), the professor (a "fine art" photographer by choice, with a commercial background) described four kinds of "accurate color."

1) Scientifically-accurate color - the light from the image (in print or on-screen) exactly replicates the wavelengths of light that were reflected from the original subject.

2) Technically-accurate color - gray cards are gray, white cards are white, black cards are black, and certain "standard" colors match pre-defined values (image link from wikimedia.)

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3) Visually-accurate color - the average person can hold the picture up in front of the original subject in the same lighting, and say "Yep, looks right to me!"

4) Emotionally-accurate color - the color reproduces what it was about the scene that prompted the emotional response in the photographer that led to taking the picture.

The first two can reproduce "objective reality"- in theory, and for a given value of "reality."

In practice, things are a bit messier. This was an attempt at (1), from 1891: https://www.alternativephotography.com/lippmann-colour-photography/

The third is what most people want from photographs, or at least accept by default.

The fourth is where things can get to be artistically interesting.

Take your pick.

 

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14 hours ago, adan said:

4) Emotionally-accurate color - the color reproduces what it was about the scene that prompted the emotional response in the photographer that led to taking the picture.

that is the one most spectators will care about....

This is all and good in photo if you have the RAW file, but in video, it has to be an intentional decision, as it does not offer as many editing options.
In any case, it is about controlling all your lights and getting what you intend. 

If you have different light sources consider a colormeter and using filtration on does lights.

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I never use the auto white balance anymore nowadays. Sticking to 5600/4300/3200k manual settings. Outdoors normally 5600k, mixed lighting 4300k and in full evening, indoor tungsten based conditions 3200k.

Takes out one variable and gives me great results. :) 

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2 hours ago, adan said:

But what some drongo does with a scanner after the fact has nothing to do with the film's inherent WB.

Great posts, Adan (as usual). Can’t agree more. 

I may add that the colour craziness one sees in film scans quite often (more the rule than the exception) are mostly attributed to difficulties to neutralize the orange mask and make black black and white white.
In professional film scanning, I‘m talking filmmaking here, there is a complex colour science in place to neutralize the orange mask and convert the negative. Similarly important is the person behind the wheels, the colourist, who white and black-balance the scene and give it in a later step the intended mood. 
All of that must be replicated in a stills workflow, which only will pan out as it should if i) either the lab has a proper colourist working for them (only the big names have that for a premium price) or ii) the home scanning photographer has a deep understanding of what is going on. Until then colour negative images look off which is often confused with „film look“. 
Done correctly, film stills look superior to most eyes in terms of colour reproduction. That’s why Nolan, Taratino, Spielberg and half of Hollywood prefer shooting on film (and me, too).
 

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Posted (edited)
On 4/14/2024 at 7:52 PM, Dr. G said:

Just wanted to see what others might think about this approach.

This is basically what most cinematographers do, except when shooting in a tungsten-lit studio when a day-light interior should look like day light. Then the correct setting would be dialing in 3200 on your Alexa or use Kodak 5213/19. That, BTW, is the reason why there are tungsten-balanced film stocks for filmmaking ( @adan referred to that above). Competent guy in the video, BTW.

On 4/14/2024 at 7:52 PM, Dr. G said:

I came across this video about white balance today and part of it makes sense to me. 

 

If you want to find out how well your camera white-balances a shot automatically, check out the blacks/very deep shadows value in the image. Often, they are not neutral but are tinted. In C1, the Levels tool can be set to independent RGB values, making your blacks black and whites white when using the Auto function (proper colour grading software in filmmaking has this option too). That way, you’ll get fairly neutral neutrals, which is essential for optimal colour separation. 

Edited by hansvons
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I did slide film and it was fixed to daylight,  Most images came out as I saw them.  I could use an redish filter for indoor images.  Indoor T when available made decent studio photos and could be used in sunlight with blue filter.

Some pros have color balance meters and sets of red and blue filters to fine tune.  65 years later for me, something to be said for using 5500 K WB and fine tune in post.  Love computer for photography but not for much else. Eizo color edge monitors  and latest Mac OS and you think you died and went to heaven.

Once in a while I will use my WB grey card and do special WB for particular shor that can not be repeated.

Shoot RAW and almost all can be fixed in post .  For JPEG set camera and love what happens.

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On 4/15/2024 at 12:12 AM, adan said:

In my Basic Color Photography class (PHTO 103, ca. 1973), the professor (a "fine art" photographer by choice, with a commercial background) described four kinds of "accurate color."

1) Scientifically-accurate color - the light from the image (in print or on-screen) exactly replicates the wavelengths of light that were reflected from the original subject.

2) Technically-accurate color - gray cards are gray, white cards are white, black cards are black, and certain "standard" colors match pre-defined values (image link from wikimedia.)

3) Visually-accurate color - the average person can hold the picture up in front of the original subject in the same lighting, and say "Yep, looks right to me!"

4) Emotionally-accurate color - the color reproduces what it was about the scene that prompted the emotional response in the photographer that led to taking the picture.

The first two can reproduce "objective reality"- in theory, and for a given value of "reality."

In practice, things are a bit messier. This was an attempt at (1), from 1891: https://www.alternativephotography.com/lippmann-colour-photography/

The third is what most people want from photographs, or at least accept by default.

The fourth is where things can get to be artistically interesting.

Take your pick.

 

Added to which #1 and #2 are impossible to achieve unless you can recreate the exact reflective properties of the subject and spectral content of the light. Otherwise metamerism will screw things up. 

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