White Balance Part Two: Finding Colour

Last time out (click here if you missed it) I spoke about WB in general, AWB and making adjustments in camera and the variance of the assigned Kelvin value between different RAW convertors.

But mainly, I spoke about the inadequacies and limitations of using these methods.

And I suggested that there’s (and of course many of you out there no doubt already know this and do something similar) a different way of working with WB.

If you recall…. I showed you a shot, then opened the RAW with 4 different applications and asked each software to tell me what it thought the Kelvin value was.

I’ve copied that here:

SOOC:

SilkyPix Pro7 – 4646 / Colour deflection +5 (Corrected 5198 / +6)
RFC (Supplied by Fuji) – 4646 / Colour deflection +5 (Corrected 5195 / +6)
Lightroom CC – 5000 / Colour deflection +9 (Corrected 5500 / +11)
PhotoNinja – 4150 / Colour deflection +31 (Corrected 4400 / +34)

If you look closely, you’ll see that I’ve included a White Balance card in the shot. I’ve now updated the Kelvin and colour deflection values to show those derived from the white balance card, which are the figures in brackets.

What’s a white balance card?

Well in real life terms, it’s one of 2 things

1) A cheap and nasty POS that will do more harm than good to your work
2) A correctly calibrated card that we can use to set a calibrated White Balance.

If you want to buy one – please buy one adhering to 2) and not 1)

When we use our preferred RAW software we have a ‘WB tool’ that usually takes the form of an eye dropper, that we use to click on a “neutral” part of the image in order to set the white balance.

“Neutral” would usually be a grey colour, rather than a white colour (after all white has many shades, anyone who’s ever shopped for white paint for home decorating will know what I mean!!)

But what if there’s nothing obvious in the shot which we can use to assign the WB value?

This is where a White Balance Card (WBC) comes into play.

If you include the WBC in the shot, then you can use the eye dropper tool on the card in order to assign the WB value.

If you look at the values above, I’ve now updated them to include what each software thinks the Kelvin/Colour deflection value should be.

Now – they still completely disagree with each other! In fact the variance between the high and low values has gone up from 850 to 1100 Kelvin !!

But there’s one thing that all the software is agreeing on…

That image is too cold it needs a Kelvin value increase.

And the suggested increases are all (give or take) very similar.

So suddenly, it doesn’t matter that PhotoNinja says it’s a 4150 shot and LR says it’s a 5000 shot.

No. Why? Because PhotoNinja says it needs a 350 Kelvin increase and LR says 500. So they’re now in agreement. The shot needs a boost.

So the WBC removes the variance in Kelvin value native to the software application and instead gets the application to assign a calibrated value (which is why NOT to buy a cheap non-calibrated WBC!)

Of course this way of working (to shoot the card, then use the WB eyedropper to assign WB in post) is not always ideal.

Issues to consider

1) You might not want the WBC in shot so you’ll need to put the card in the scene – shoot, then remove it and shoot again 🙂
2) What you’re shooting might be to far away to place the WBC on

But our Fujis (and other cameras) have another way to work with a WBC

In the WB menu in the camera, we can chose to assign a WB value derived from the WBC.

Set the camera to the min focusing distance. Enter the custom WB setting in the menu. Hold the card in front of the camera, then press the shutter & click ok to save.

Why would you want to work this way?

1) No shots of the WBC
2) No need to add the WBC derived Kelvin value from (say) shot 1 and past it into all the subsequent shots
3) No need to physically place the WBC on or near the subject
4) WB also effects exposure*, a camera running a corrected WB will also meter with greater accuracy (because it knows the values of the colours, and yes – this is still relevant even if you’re planning a black and white conversion)
5) Less work to do in post!

(*Don’t believe me? Go back to the last article, look at the series of images I posted with the different WB casts applied. They were created using the in camera RAW convertor, from a single RAF, changing nothing but the WB cast.. Yet the exposure looks different between them)

Of course the downside to working with a WBC is that you’ll need to use it/assign a camera value from it, every time the light changes.

So, for me – I use a WBC frequently. I use one when colour is of extreme importance.

I think it’s a good habit to get into… after all, you can still edit the WB in post, even make it “wrong” for creative or artistic effect, but at least you’re starting off with a calibrated WB value.

For me, I chose to use a WhiBal card, which is certified to be the correct shade of “white” (they’re actually a little bit grey) and it’s very small (credit card sized)

If you shop at Amazon.com, then I’ve included 2 links for you get a WBC.

Yes, these are affiliate links, I would conceivably get a few cents if you use them to buy your card.

But I’m NOT posting these to get rich. A WBC is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal.

This is the WhiBal that I use:
GENUINE WhiBal G7 Certified Neutral White Balance Card – Pocket Card (2.1″x3.35″)

Here is a different version of the concept, called an ExpoDisc (that I’ve never used)
//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=adambonn2-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00O4CWC4C&asins=B00O4CWC4C&linkId=59dbf86915847d8c82d2f4e7fac25afa&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

But there’s another way to work with WB in post…

One which I’ll talk about next time!

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