Friday, 2 August 2013

How to get White Balance correct

First and foremost the title is a question rather than a delaration as you will see if you carry on reading.

As some of you know I shoot my pictures in raw rather than JPEG. Whilst this means a little more work to get to the finished picture it does offer more flexibility in the down stream processing. I don’t normally spend more than a few minutes on each picture but every now and again I get a set of images where I just can’t seem to get the white balance correct i.e. whatever I do the colours just don’t seem right. 
I shoot using the camera's auto white balance setting but because I shoot in raw I can (normally) adjust the outcome in Photoshop or, more normally, in Canon’s DPP. For those of you who just point and shoot you will either be using auto-white balance and taking whatever it delivers or you can tell the camera what the lighting conditions are – daylight, cloudy etc but again you take whatever it delivers. Being a poser I try to take control...........but as today showed not always successfully.
Today, whist at Restharrow scrape, I enjoyed the company of 3 juvenile yellow wagtails for most of the morning. Most of the time they were at  the waters edge but just once one of them came really close - less than 10 yds - and I managed a few shots before it returned to the water’s edge.
The conditions were bright but cloudy (between the showers).
For this post I have taken  one of the shots and have processed the image in DPP  “as shot” ( from the auto-white balance), using the DPP “daylight” setting (which seems to equate to 5200k), using the “cloudy” setting, and at 4800k and 4500k.

As shot
"Day light"

The "as shot", "daylight" and "cloudy" shots look totally wrong on my monitor (though the wrongness seems less in this post) and 4500k looks a little green to me. Overall I think the 4800k processing is closest to reality but I'm not totally convinced I have it right.

When I take a shot that has a decent variety in the background - vegetation, trees a bit of sky perhaps then the auto white balance seems pretty good but when the back ground is more of a mono tone it seems to struggle.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to getting the colours right or is it a matter of suck it and see? Or am I too pedantic.


  1. I can see where you are coming from the Auto White balance 99% of the time makes a great job of it ..
    You could argue that DPP is on the warm side with the Reds/Orange being given a little boost .. Although 4800k seems to balance this out ..
    I always shots Auto White Balance and rarely have to correct it ..
    Once converted it you add any more saturation ?

  2. Steve, Canon's white balance is not the best, and something I think they should be looking to improve instead of new equipment updates every 2 minutes. To me the 4800k looks a little cold, (greenish tinge) but perhaps with a colour tone tweak towards the reds it will warm it up just a little. This will then bring it back towards the "AS SHOT" image so perhaps it may be best left at that. I personally prefer the 1st "as shot" image as opposed to the other 4. Mind you that's what photography is all about, personal choice. Not everyone sees the same.