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Setting white balance

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Just posted the questions above before receiving Anjikun's message. When you click on that neutral card included in your shot, do you always get the same RGB values no matter the lighting was like? So if I can't find a spot (in non-studio shots) that's neutral, then the only resort is to play with the Temp and Tint sliders and guess at the correct balance?

If I do find a spot in my image that give me the same RGB values, then click on it with the eyedropper will get me the correct overall WB – I always thought that was correct and it's what you do with the grey card. After reading all the opinions, I am not even sure about that now.
(postscript; sorry to pile on, I see Johan also answered and slightly beat me to it; fortunately I think we are in sync.)

David, you are still reversing the process, sorry.

Let's start with the grey card. In real life (not in the image), the grey card has R/G/B values that are equal. When you take the image, the ideosynchrocies of your camera, processing, etc. will change those to some other value -- let's say 50,40,60. But they SHOULD be grey, i.e. all the same.

If you hover the dropper on them you see 50/40/60, but if you click on it to sample, lightroom will adjust the white balance so THEN they are equal -- maybe 50/50/50.

There is NO WAY to use the tools in lightroom to tell which item in the image SHOULD be grey, you just have to know. once you know, and select it, Lightroom adjusts the values so they ARE grey.

But to the grey card example: As Anjikan described it is exactly how a lot of studio work is done, but you need to be aware that in real life it hardly ever works quite that way. The problem is that the position, lighting, reflectivity, etc. of the grey card will be such that it is not, actually, grey as seen from the camera's viewpoint. So you may try this, and click on it, and while "correct" in a sense, you may get a very distasteful color as a result. It's a tool -- it is not a solution.
 
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So I have to include something in the shot that I know is truly neutral. They have grey cards that are manufactured to be truly neutral (no tint either way, everything is equal so they all cancel each other out). So I can put one of these next to the work (and later crop it out, or copy the settings to the other shots done under the same conditions).
Off topic alert:

If you want to be really precise, you can also include in there a MacBeth Color Chart. With this, and some (free) software, you can produce a custom camera profile. This is a way to adjust for light spectra differences and camera sensor differences and get yet more precise color. It is not about white balance (you need that separately). It is more about how saturated each color is -- with some sensors, or some lighting, you may find blue a bit over-saturated, or red under-saturated (or whatever). What a camera profile made in this way does is apply a shift to each of the colors in the chart, separately, to better align them. I use a Color Checker Passport (about $90 US) but there are other choices as well. It is a very fine tune adjustment, and some people will say it is not even noticeable, but if you are really picky about color something to look at.

We now return control to your regularly scheduled topic....
 
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Maybe a real life example makes it easier to understand. Here's a photo of a card used to make color profiles. The top row are different shades of grey. As you can see however, the camera has created a blue color cast. The top row isn't neutral grey. We know the patches should be grey, but they aren't. And if you move the cursor over these patches, the RGB values you'll see will not be the same!

JWED-201507031143028255.jpg


I click with the WB eyedropper on one of the top row patches, it doesn't really matter which one. Lightroom now sets a white balance that makes those patches exactly neutral.

JWED-201507031143028255-2.jpg
 
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David PZ Wong

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With my kind of shooting, it wouldn't be practical to use the grey card or the MacBeth chart. I really appreciate the overwhelming response from all of you. What I must remember is that I should look for a possible a good neutral grey (no matter what the RGB readings are) and click on it with the eyedropper to set the color balance, and not use the eyedropper to scan the image to find any spot with equal RGB values to click on. I've been doing the reverse.

By the way, using the somewhat haphazard approach I described at the beginning, I actually in each case ended up with improvement over the original image. Oh well, now it's back to the drawing board.
 

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Note that it doesn't have to be grey, because often in the real world we don't know if stuff we think of as grey is warm grey or cool grey. It could also be something that you know (or suspect) is actually pure white, or close to it. And of course because of the type of shooting you are doing it doesn't matter if the colours are true, so try clicking on a few places until you find something you like. ;)
 

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Thanks, Anjikun. I was reading Victoria Bampton's LR Missing FAQ on White Balance. And she did recommend choosing something light neutral and bright. Anyway, it turned out that WB is taken care of by the camera when you shoot JPEGs and I shoot JPEGs with my iPhone. So perhaps my WB is fine -- I only need to play with all the other editing tools to get the looks I want.

david-pz-wong.format.com
 
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Anyway, it turned out that WB is taken care of by the camera when you shoot JPEGs and I shoot JPEGs with my iPhone. So perhaps my WB is fine ...
The camera only "takes care" of the white balance in the sense that it makes a guess at what the white balance should be. And as a guess, it may be good, or it may be very wrong, depending on the lighting conditions and the scene which is being recorded (and also on the quality of the engineers who designed the camera and its processing software). This guessed white balance is then used to create your JPG. Once the JPG file has been created, though, the white balance cannot be changed in that image; the numbers have been "baked in". This is one very good reason why it is generally better to use take RAW images instead of JPG!
 
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Depending on which iPhone you have, it may or may not be possible to shoot in raw. My iPhone 6 cannot shoot raw; I would have to upgrade to at least an iPhone 6s. Mind you: Even though the WB was 'baked in' in case of jpeg, it doesn't mean you can't use those sliders anymore to make the image a little warmer if you think it's too blue. The WB sliders still work, just not as effectively as in raw.
 

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Thanks, prbimages & Johan. I've learned so much. I have iPhone 6s. I believe that it takes care of sharpening too, so I do not selectively sharpen more than 15% in LR. Getting into RAW will be so much more learning and work. I am happy with JPEGS. After all the learning, I have found that as long as the image looks good on my calibrated monitor, I can safely skip soft-proofing and send it to my lab, ProDPI, and get beautiful prints back. Using all the pixels at 300 ppi would deliver an image size 10.08"x13.44". I shrink it down to 9x12 and have it printed on 11x14 paper. This is all conveniently done through the Print module. I use Print to File because doing it through Export, I found no easy way of specifying my custom cell size with specific borders. What got me started with this thread was just that the colors in a couple of prints looked too warm. So I played with WB. Luckily I found out on this forum that I had been setting WB the wrong way. Now my task is to review and correct scores of images I had changed WB on.

David PZ Wong/Fine Art iPhone Photography - About
 

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Thanks, Anjikun. I was reading Victoria Bampton's LR Missing FAQ on White Balance. And she did recommend choosing something light neutral and bright. Anyway, it turned out that WB is taken care of by the camera when you shoot JPEGs and I shoot JPEGs with my iPhone. So perhaps my WB is fine -- I only need to play with all the other editing tools to get the looks I want.

david-pz-wong.format.com
David, there is another 'trick' going on too, inside most cameras with automatic exposure. The assumption is that the world is 18% grey (in a grey scale). Almost all built-in light meters work on this assumption. The odd thing is, is that it is much more true than you would expect, but it is by no means always true. Understanding when the light meter is being fooled by a scene that isn't an average 18% grey will help improve your photography. The latest built-in meters have all sorts of algorithms for trying to work out when the scene isn't complying with the 18% grey rule, but at heart they start off with that assumption.
 

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Off topic alert:

If you want to be really precise, you can also include in there a MacBeth Color Chart. With this, and some (free) software, you can produce a custom camera profile. This is a way to adjust for light spectra differences and camera sensor differences and get yet more precise color. It is not about white balance (you need that separately). It is more about how saturated each color is -- with some sensors, or some lighting, you may find blue a bit over-saturated, or red under-saturated (or whatever). What a camera profile made in this way does is apply a shift to each of the colors in the chart, separately, to better align them. I use a Color Checker Passport (about $90 US) but there are other choices as well. It is a very fine tune adjustment, and some people will say it is not even noticeable, but if you are really picky about color something to look at.

We now return control to your regularly scheduled topic....
Just reading this thread and was interesting to see the above. I have a color checker I picked up at a swap meet. Just one panel roughly 8.4"x5.9" with 24 numbered color swatches set into a rigid grid. It looks exactly like the photo above. On the back is a chart with matching numbers which shows the numeric color values for each swatch ...so the red color in column 3, row 2 reads R=222, G=91, B=125.
Visually it looks like the color checker in the corrected photo Johan posted. You mention that with a MacBeth Color Chart and some free software you can produce a custom camera profile. I'm thinking perhaps this card I have would work with that software and if so ...can you advise where to get that software? The card only cost me $5.00 so no biggie if I can't use it but it seems very well made and sturdy and I'd like to give it a try if at all possible. I realize I can just shoot it then pick a grey swatch with the white balance eyedropper but I have grey cards for that and just wonder if that software would open up doing camea calibration etc.
Thanks in advance.
 
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Just reading this thread and was interesting to see the above. I have a color checker I picked up at a swap meet. Just one panel roughly 8.4"x5.9" with 24 numbered color swatches set into a rigid grid. It looks exactly like the photo above. On the back is a chart with matching numbers which shows the numeric color values for each swatch ...so the red color in column 3, row 2 reads R=222, G=91, B=125.
Visually it looks like the color checker in the corrected photo Johan posted. You mention that with a MacBeth Color Chart and some free software you can produce a custom camera profile. I'm thinking perhaps this card I have would work with that software and if so ...can you advise where to get that software? The card only cost me $5.00 so no biggie if I can't use it but it seems very well made and sturdy and I'd like to give it a try if at all possible. I realize I can just shoot it then pick a grey swatch with the white balance eyedropper but I have grey cards for that and just wonder if that software would open up doing camea calibration etc.
Thanks in advance.
The software that's purely free is the Adobe DNG Profile Editor here.

The Color Checker Passport software is available on their site for download but should be used, I think, only with their device (will it work with others properly, not sure, but it seems kind of a cheat to use it).
 
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Off topic alert:

If you want to be really precise, you can also include in there a MacBeth Color Chart. With this, and some (free) software, you can produce a custom camera profile. This is a way to adjust for light spectra differences and camera sensor differences and get yet more precise color. It is not about white balance (you need that separately). It is more about how saturated each color is -- with some sensors, or some lighting, you may find blue a bit over-saturated, or red under-saturated (or whatever). What a camera profile made in this way does is apply a shift to each of the colors in the chart, separately, to better align them. I use a Color Checker Passport (about $90 US) but there are other choices as well. It is a very fine tune adjustment, and some people will say it is not even noticeable, but if you are really picky about color something to look at.

We now return control to your regularly scheduled topic....
What Linwood has highlighted is a topic that is not well known among photographers - the role of DNG profiles.
As Linwood has explained a good DNG profile is a way of getting much more accurate colour fidelity.
Nearly all camera sensors (there are one or two exceptions) use a Bayer array (one can easily use Google to find a pictorial representation of a Bayer array). The key issue with respect to colour is that the three primary colours in the array are not equally represented. Rather 50% is green and 25% respectively are blue and red. One of the consequences is that colours that require a lot of green are generally more accurate than those that are composed primarily of the other primary colours.
As Linwood has already alluded to this can mean certain colours are not as saturated as they should be but also (and more importantly) of the wrong hue altogether.

This has important consequences in post-production when colour shifts need correcting. White balance is one form of colour shift. If the relationship between colours is not accurate and consistent (likely, if one is NOT using a good DNG profile for a particular camera), then when one uses the dropper in Lightroom to correct for white balance then, yes, Lightroom will correct all those hues that should be neutral but those colours that are not neutral may still not look correct.

A DNG profile (which is individualised for a particular individual camera and its sensor) corrects the raw file colour data at the time that a raw converter demosaics that raw data to produce RGB data for that raw file. Given how ridiculously simple an accurate DNG profile is to produce it is a crime that even most professional photographers have never even heard of the concept.
From personal experience the accuracy of colour, particularly reds, oranges, and blues, is much enhanced with DNG profiles. Every camera I use has a custom-made DNG profile and it simplifies considerably those aspects of post-production that involve manipulating colour.

Simply put, DNG profiles give more vibrant colour as well as more accurate colour.
When one corrects white balance one is not then left with an annoying and often difficult to correct colour cast affecting non-neutral colours.

Tony Jay
 
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Good discussion.

There are different situations that call for different types of white balance.

For studio work, product photogrpahy, and many other indoor situations, you want to have balanced light temperature and a neutral white balance.

On the other hand, for landscapes you would almost never want a neutral white balance because it neutralizes the warm light of the golden hours, the cool blue light of shadows or the blue hour, and the green hues of a forest scene. In addition, you might selectively choose different white balance values in the same photo.

For non-neutral white balance, one approach is to treat white balance as an artistic choice and move the slliders to taste. Another is to find a neutral value, then change the color temperature a predetermined amount to make it warmer or cooler. Presets could be useful, but the starting point for an image is usually not a constant, so it may not be appropriate.

I'm sure others here have some suggestions.
 
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Good discussion.

There are different situations that call for different types of white balance.

For studio work, product photogrpahy, and many other indoor situations, you want to have balanced light temperature and a neutral white balance.

On the other hand, for landscapes you would almost never want a neutral white balance because it neutralizes the warm light of the golden hours, the cool blue light of shadows or the blue hour, and the green hues of a forest scene. In addition, you might selectively choose different white balance values in the same photo.

For non-neutral white balance, one approach is to treat white balance as an artistic choice and move the slliders to taste. Another is to find a neutral value, then change the color temperature a predetermined amount to make it warmer or cooler. Presets could be useful, but the starting point for an image is usually not a constant, so it may not be appropriate.

I'm sure others here have some suggestions.
I largely agree with this commentary, but, a couple of points need expansion:
I shoot a lot in forests - particularly on overcast days - and for that reason overall white balance is often a bit cool. I confess to never having seen an image shot in a forest having an overall green hue as far as white balance is concerned!
Normally, I would go for a neutral white balance or one that is slightly cool depending on the mood of the image. Occasionally, if shooting in forests with low warm directional sunlight I will go with a much warmer white balance, however, in my neck of the woods (pardon the pun!) it is rare to get that and shooting with overhead sunlight rarely produces a worthwhile shot in a rainforest setting...

With respect to white balance in general landscape type shots, I also sometimes go for a duotone look where I slightly bias the highlights to a warmer colour balance while doing the opposite with the shadows. Very interesting results are possible using this technique. I have applied this technique to some images of the Namib Desert as well as Fraser Island (off the Queensland east coast) with great effect!

Whatever artistic approach is taken with colour and white balance it is useful to start with a neutral image as far as white balance is concerned - even those warm sunset shots!
Starting with a neutral image keeps one's feet firmly on the ground even if fairly radical adjustments are anticipated!
I also leave those kind of artistic colour adjustments until well after all the tonal adjustments as well as sharpening and noise reduction.
Obviously, as far as Lightroom (and other parametric image editors) is concerned, the order of editing workflow is much less important as far as ultimate image quality is concerned, however, for the reasons mentioned above, it can still make a difference even if those differences are purely subjective and on an aesthetic level rather than from an IQ (Image Quality) perspective.

Tony Jay
 

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I largely agree with this commentary, but, a couple of points need expansion:
I shoot a lot in forests - particularly on overcast days - and for that reason overall white balance is often a bit cool. I confess to never having seen an image shot in a forest having an overall green hue as far as white balance is concerned!
Normally, I would go for a neutral white balance or one that is slightly cool depending on the mood of the image. Occasionally, if shooting in forests with low warm directional sunlight I will go with a much warmer white balance, however, in my neck of the woods (pardon the pun!) it is rare to get that and shooting with overhead sunlight rarely produces a worthwhile shot in a rainforest setting...

With respect to white balance in general landscape type shots, I also sometimes go for a duotone look where I slightly bias the highlights to a warmer colour balance while doing the opposite with the shadows. Very interesting results are possible using this technique. I have applied this technique to some images of the Namib Desert as well as Fraser Island (off the Queensland east coast) with great effect!

Whatever artistic approach is taken with colour and white balance it is useful to start with a neutral image as far as white balance is concerned - even those warm sunset shots!
Starting with a neutral image keeps one's feet firmly on the ground even if fairly radical adjustments are anticipated!
I also leave those kind of artistic colour adjustments until well after all the tonal adjustments as well as sharpening and noise reduction.
Obviously, as far as Lightroom (and other parametric image editors) is concerned, the order of editing workflow is much less important as far as ultimate image quality is concerned, however, for the reasons mentioned above, it can still make a difference even if those differences are purely subjective and on an aesthetic level rather than from an IQ (Image Quality) perspective.

Tony Jay
Tony,

Interesting, I have a lot to learn.
But one question I have specific to Lr. You said the order is not important. I thought Lr applies the edits in a specific order, as such if you do your editing out of order you may have more rework.
Is this correct?


Sent from my LG-TP260 using Tapatalk
 
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Edit order isn't important in the sense that you'll see the same results no matter what order you do the edits in. Life may be easier for you if you do the edits in the recommended order, though.
 
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Edit order isn't important in the sense that you'll see the same results no matter what order you do the edits in. Life may be easier for you if you do the edits in the recommended order, though.
While edit order is not important, your choice of tools and how you edit may matter. For example, if you adjust contrast it could cause you to blow highlights and need a highlight adjustment, but you could accomplish the same objective with different edits that don't involve contrast. Different images call for different adjustments.
 
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I largely agree with this commentary, but, a couple of points need expansion:
I shoot a lot in forests - particularly on overcast days - and for that reason overall white balance is often a bit cool. I confess to never having seen an image shot in a forest having an overall green hue as far as white balance is concerned!
Normally, I would go for a neutral white balance or one that is slightly cool depending on the mood of the image. Occasionally, if shooting in forests with low warm directional sunlight I will go with a much warmer white balance, however, in my neck of the woods (pardon the pun!) it is rare to get that and shooting with overhead sunlight rarely produces a worthwhile shot in a rainforest setting...

With respect to white balance in general landscape type shots, I also sometimes go for a duotone look where I slightly bias the highlights to a warmer colour balance while doing the opposite with the shadows. Very interesting results are possible using this technique. I have applied this technique to some images of the Namib Desert as well as Fraser Island (off the Queensland east coast) with great effect!

Whatever artistic approach is taken with colour and white balance it is useful to start with a neutral image as far as white balance is concerned - even those warm sunset shots!
Starting with a neutral image keeps one's feet firmly on the ground even if fairly radical adjustments are anticipated!
I also leave those kind of artistic colour adjustments until well after all the tonal adjustments as well as sharpening and noise reduction.
Obviously, as far as Lightroom (and other parametric image editors) is concerned, the order of editing workflow is much less important as far as ultimate image quality is concerned, however, for the reasons mentioned above, it can still make a difference even if those differences are purely subjective and on an aesthetic level rather than from an IQ (Image Quality) perspective.

Tony Jay[/QU
As far as forests are concerned, WB is making an attempt to neutralize more than just warm and cool temps. It also neutralizes tint. If you have a blue tent in a shadow from reflected light of a blue sky, it neutralizes that by making it warmer. If you have a green tint in a forest scene from a lush green forest, a white balance adjustment can reduce or neutralize that tint. That might be okay - or it might make a lush scene desaturated and flat.

I do a lot of photography in the Smokies, and in the spring the rocks and streams pick up reflected light off green foliage. You have to watch to avoid a neutral WB because when you remove the green reflections, the scene is dull and lacks color. Tony's technique of duotoning - in this case making the water and rocks neutral but retaining the saturated color of the foliage - makes a more interesting image.

Like Tony, I typically start with a known WB. In my case it's usually a daylight or sunny daylight WB in the 5200 to 5500 range. That's a good all purpose starting point for the kind of light I have with landscapes.
 
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Tony,

Interesting, I have a lot to learn.
But one question I have specific to Lr. You said the order is not important. I thought Lr applies the edits in a specific order, as such if you do your editing out of order you may have more rework.
Is this correct?


Sent from my LG-TP260 using Tapatalk
I said that the order that you and I apply edits may not be important, so, if you and I apply the exact same edits to an identical image but each in a different order, Lightroom will ensure that the results will be identical.
Lightroom applies the edits in a specific order to maximise image quality.

Tony Jay
 
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As far as forests are concerned, WB is making an attempt to neutralize more than just warm and cool temps. It also neutralizes tint. If you have a blue tent in a shadow from reflected light of a blue sky, it neutralizes that by making it warmer. If you have a green tint in a forest scene from a lush green forest, a white balance adjustment can reduce or neutralize that tint. That might be okay - or it might make a lush scene desaturated and flat.

I do a lot of photography in the Smokies, and in the spring the rocks and streams pick up reflected light off green foliage. You have to watch to avoid a neutral WB because when you remove the green reflections, the scene is dull and lacks color. Tony's technique of duotoning - in this case making the water and rocks neutral but retaining the saturated color of the foliage - makes a more interesting image.

Like Tony, I typically start with a known WB. In my case it's usually a daylight or sunny daylight WB in the 5200 to 5500 range. That's a good all purpose starting point for the kind of light I have with landscapes.
For those that don't know, tint, and what we call white balance, are intimately related.
The "White balance" slider, as defined in Lightroom, alters colour along an axis of blue-yellow hues.
The "Tint" slider, alters colour along an axis of green-magenta hues.
These two axes are at right angles to each other.
Theoretically, where the two axes intersect a perfectly neutral tone will be found.
The dropper tool will adjust hues along both axes as appropriate.
However, the sliders, for obvious reasons, will only alter hues along a single axis as defined above.

A lot of Lightroom users completely ignore the "Tint" slider - after all the slider immediately above is actually called "White balance"!
However, even if one can perfectly manipulate the "White balance" slider ignoring the "Tint" slider means that a true neutral white balance may be unattainable.

Tony Jay
 
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