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Author Topic: Looking for the ultimate answer on White Balance  (Read 16086 times)

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Semmick Photo

« on: March 08, 2015, 17:17 »
0
White balance - it grinds my gears, well the rejections for white balance do.

I would like to find the ultimate answer on white balance. I know there wont be one answer but...


I understand when the WB is too cold or too warm or too green or too pink its not good, but in my opinion, sometimes when the image is warm its actually correct. I dont understand WB rejections for sunny photos. In general photography there wouldnt be an issue. But in stock photography it seems to be.

Images taken in natural light, inside a home, without any studio lights, are warm.
Images taken of people under a yellow sunshade
Images taken at night with orange street lights

etc

So, what is correct WB and what is not? And is stock photography a different animal related to WB?

Thanks,


« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2015, 17:52 »
+17
Stock is a special situation because reviewers don't live in the real world.

« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 04:33 »
0
I always shoot on auto WB, but now and then I have WB issues.
Yesterday shot some pics at the beach under a pretty cloudless sky. The WB values were all around 4600K, so pretty cool. I changed them manually to 4800-4900K, a little warmer and they looked good imo. But if I change the WB to daylight (5500K), they look too warm.

On the other hand, I also experienced on some particular days with a light overcast, that my images are too warm. (around 6500K). But when I change them to daylight, they become too cool.

So, is it the moment of the day, is it my camera or is it me? I really don't know.
For those issues I made an extra check before I upload them. Especially when I processed them in daylight, I check them later in the evening again to be sure to have the WB (and exposure) correct.

It becomes more difficult when they have a color cast. It's almost impossible to get rid of that. On those images, if they are worth it, I often apply a special filter or transfer them into BW.

And the reviewers..........I think they more like the images to be on the warm side than on the cool side.


« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 06:35 »
0
These are just some opinions of mine:

Images taken in natural light, inside a home, without any studio lights, are warm.

Not necessary. Natural light can be anything.
Warm light (from a window) might be OK, if the shadows are cool.
If everything looks warm, it looks like a WB error.


Images taken of people under a yellow sunshade

Yes, but then the yellow shunshade should be clearly visible in the image.
Some yellowness can also be reduced by using reflector (reflecting light from outside the sunshade), or maybe even a flash.

Images taken at night with orange street lights

That is a bit problematic. But night images should also be shot in the blue hour. A scene lit only with orange street lights looks terrible, it's not a very high quality light.

I always shoot RAW so I have more options in the post-processing.

The real bottom line is that stock agencies have bad taste and want only photos they feel are "right", no matter how artistic you images are.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 06:37 by Perry »

« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 06:58 »
+2
Errm - isn't "white balancing" all about adjusting the colour balance to replicate what the scene would look like under white light?

You can use it to do other things, of course, but tungsten-balanced film in the old days had a strong blue cast to balance the orange of the lights, and the 81A filter (if I remember the name correctly) was created to do the same thing if you were shooting with daylight balanced film in a tungsten lit environment.

« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 07:28 »
0
Probably there is no ultimate answer. But the XRite ColorChecker Passport is very useful and interesting both for white balancing and, more specifically, for creating custom camera profiles - either for color accuracy or as part of the process of creating some specific look. Exploring how the Xrite and equivalent Adobe software utilities work is also a useful part of beginning to understand how camera profiles are built. Especially relevant for people building commercial Lightroom presets who would normally also want to include tailored profiles.

Also - the open source dcptool for converting camera profiles from binary to XML and vice versa.

ETA: don't be put off by the various references to DNG. DNG is used just at the profiling stage.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 07:33 by bunhill »

« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 10:15 »
+6
Errm - isn't "white balancing" all about adjusting the colour balance to replicate what the scene would look like under white light?

You can use it to do other things, of course, but tungsten-balanced film in the old days had a strong blue cast to balance the orange of the lights, and the 81A filter (if I remember the name correctly) was created to do the same thing if you were shooting with daylight balanced film in a tungsten lit environment.

Why would you want a landscape taken under the beautiful warm light of a sunrise/sunset to look like it was taken under white light?

Not everyone shoots in a studio.

I'd say that WB adjustments should be made so the image matches how the scene actually looked. Which is probably why I have issues with reviewers and WB issues too.


« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 10:36 »
+1
I've always meant to try using the white card technique, hold up a piece of pure white card and set the white balance to this, but always been too lazy!

It's on my list of things to do....

« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2015, 11:16 »
0
I've always meant to try using the white card technique, hold up a piece of pure white card and set the white balance to this, but always been too lazy!

It's on my list of things to do....

Conventional wisdom is that it is better to use an 18% neutral grey rather than white.

But custom profiling is potentially much more interesting since it is about comparison and adjustments based on a range of controlled target colors rather than only grey.

« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2015, 11:21 »
+2
Since the image in question isn't being shown I'm going to assume the reviewer is correct.   Obviously there isn't one white balance for all images.  Stop complaining about rejections without posting the images it's a waste of time.

« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2015, 13:11 »
+1
I've always meant to try using the white card technique, hold up a piece of pure white card and set the white balance to this, but always been too lazy!

Use a real grey card instead. "White" is very, very rarely neutral. That includes white fabrics, paints, papers etc.

« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2015, 14:14 »
0
thanks for the grey card suggestion, i'd seen mention of the 18% grey too. Even more reason to try it.

I just tend to do things by eye anyway but it'll be nice to experiment. Have to dig out the old x100  :-)

Semmick Photo

« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2015, 14:21 »
0
Stock is a special situation because reviewers don't live in the real world.

;) not disagreeing with that

Errm - isn't "white balancing" all about adjusting the colour balance to replicate what the scene would look like under white light?

You can use it to do other things, of course, but tungsten-balanced film in the old days had a strong blue cast to balance the orange of the lights, and the 81A filter (if I remember the name correctly) was created to do the same thing if you were shooting with daylight balanced film in a tungsten lit environment.


Well, I agree with Chris on this that sometimes the light is just warm. I dont think everything needs to look neutral.


@ Hansen, thanks for the comment

Semmick Photo

« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2015, 14:24 »
0
These are just some opinions of mine:

Images taken in natural light, inside a home, without any studio lights, are warm.

Not necessary. Natural light can be anything.
Warm light (from a window) might be OK, if the shadows are cool.
If everything looks warm, it looks like a WB error.


Images taken of people under a yellow sunshade

Yes, but then the yellow shunshade should be clearly visible in the image.
Some yellowness can also be reduced by using reflector (reflecting light from outside the sunshade), or maybe even a flash.

Images taken at night with orange street lights

That is a bit problematic. But night images should also be shot in the blue hour. A scene lit only with orange street lights looks terrible, it's not a very high quality light.

I always shoot RAW so I have more options in the post-processing.

The real bottom line is that stock agencies have bad taste and want only photos they feel are "right", no matter how artistic you images are.

Thanks for those explanations, the one about the shadow is something I will take with me.

I shoot RAW too, but I like to shoot everything as is, I know the light is not always perfect quality, but if we want to show reality of a scene, there shouldnt be a discussion on whether the light is not right, it is what it is. But in stock, its not what they want, yet they say they do.

Anyway, appreciate the comment, its useful

« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2015, 15:09 »
+1
I know the light is not always perfect quality, but if we want to show reality of a scene, there shouldnt be a discussion on whether the light is not right, it is what it is

But it isn't what it is - at least how it photographs is often not how it looks. Because your brain interprets and compensates for light differently from a camera. And your eyes are especially good at compensating for mixed lighting which can sometimes be difficult to filter or adjust.

For example, traditional strip light will make a scene photograph greenish - kitchens and municipal buildings until the 80s used to often have nasty strip lighting - but it didn't look green to humans. Only when photographed. Choosing to go with that green can be a stylistic choice - but it isn't how it looks to us as we typically experience it. Ditto amber city lighting - it can look like a color caste but it can also be a stylistic choice. But we don't see it how film or a sensor does.

Beppe Grillo

« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2015, 15:10 »
+1
When we were used to shot in film we had not all these problems it was daylight or tungsten. Stop.
And we all lived happy like this

« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2015, 15:14 »
+1
When we were used to shot in film we had not all these problems it was daylight or tungsten. Stop.
And we all lived happy like this

I used to do a lot of RA-4 color printing in the early 90s. You could pretty much compensate for a caste just the same as today.

« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2015, 17:14 »
0
When we were used to shot in film we had not all these problems it was daylight or tungsten. Stop.
And we all lived happy like this

I used to do a lot of RA-4 color printing in the early 90s. You could pretty much compensate for a caste just the same as today.

How?

With the use of a color temp. meter?

I tried some times in LR but not very satisfying. What is the best way to remove a color cast?

Semmick Photo

« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2015, 17:18 »
0
I know the light is not always perfect quality, but if we want to show reality of a scene, there shouldnt be a discussion on whether the light is not right, it is what it is

But it isn't what it is - at least how it photographs is often not how it looks. Because your brain interprets and compensates for light differently from a camera. And your eyes are especially good at compensating for mixed lighting which can sometimes be difficult to filter or adjust.

For example, traditional strip light will make a scene photograph greenish - kitchens and municipal buildings until the 80s used to often have nasty strip lighting - but it didn't look green to humans. Only when photographed. Choosing to go with that green can be a stylistic choice - but it isn't how it looks to us as we typically experience it. Ditto amber city lighting - it can look like a color caste but it can also be a stylistic choice. But we don't see it how film or a sensor does.

Ok, thanks Bunhill, that makes sense. Lessons learned. Still confused about indoor WB, I will post an image tomorrow, going to bed now.

« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2015, 17:27 »
+2
Just use the white dropper in Photoshop - click on what is meant to be the brightest and cleanest white, and hey presto.

« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2015, 17:33 »
0
Just use the white dropper in Photoshop - click on what is meant to be the brightest and cleanest white, and hey presto.

I wish it was that easy  ::)

« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2015, 17:49 »
0
When we were used to shot in film we had not all these problems it was daylight or tungsten. Stop.
And we all lived happy like this

I used to do a lot of RA-4 color printing in the early 90s. You could pretty much compensate for a caste just the same as today.

How?

With the use of a color temp. meter?

By eye typically - using either a white piece of paper or, better still, a blank sheet of the color paper stock - for comparison. And the darkrooms typically had a fire exit so you could quickly get outside and make the comparison in natural light. And then gradually adjusting two out of the three enlarger colors one at a time. Then doing another test strip as you got closer. You quickly get good at it  - so you would pretty much know roughly how much to dial in or out.

« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2015, 17:54 »
0
Just use the white dropper in Photoshop - click on what is meant to be the brightest and cleanest white, and hey presto.

I wish it was that easy  ::)

Might be worth you trying the Xrite color target and software I linked to above. Shoot that in the scene you are planning to photograph and also have the software build a color profile specific to the scene to use in Lightroom + white balance.

« Reply #23 on: March 09, 2015, 17:58 »
0
When we were used to shot in film we had not all these problems it was daylight or tungsten. Stop.
And we all lived happy like this

I used to do a lot of RA-4 color printing in the early 90s. You could pretty much compensate for a caste just the same as today.

How?

With the use of a color temp. meter?

By eye typically - using either a white piece of paper or, better still, a blank sheet of the color paper stock - for comparison. And the darkrooms typically had a fire exit so you could quickly get outside and make the comparison in natural light. And then gradually adjusting two out of the three enlarger colors one at a time. Then doing another test strip as you got closer. You quickly get good at it  - so you would pretty much know roughly how much to dial in or out.

I see, but you said "just the same as today".
How do you compensate a color cast today, digitally?

« Reply #24 on: March 09, 2015, 18:15 »
0
I see, but you said "just the same as today".
How do you compensate a color cast today, digitally?

Just-the-same - as in, it was do-able just the same as it is do-able today. Not meaning to imply exactly the same technical process. Just the same is a turn of phrase in English.

Today it's much easier. - especially with accurate color targets.  But also because you can fine tune it visually in real time. And  - also because you can adjust the color across different parts of the image differently - which was not typically practical pre digital and certainly never exact.


 

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