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Photography Question 
Desiree C. Preckwinkle

How Important Is Setting White Balance?

Ever since I switched to digital, I have problems with the color of my images. So, how important is it to invest in a gray card and set my white balance?? Thanks!

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3/28/2007 3:02:01 PM

W.    Desiree, if you set Auto White Balance and shoot Raw, you can adjust the colors later in, say, Photoshop, to your taste and at your leisure. And you can skip the whole grey card thing. It'll save you money and time at the shoot. Have fun!

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3/28/2007 3:39:02 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Desiree - What W says about adjusting white balance in Raw is true. However, I have a slightly different take on this subject. When I first started shooting digital, I thought that if I screwed up in the field, I could fix up in the processing. And, in some ways, I guess this is true. But the more I learn and the more I shoot, the more convinced I become that it is vastly easier to get things right while making the image rather than in post-capture processing. I shoot mostly in Raw format and do make adjustments in Photoshop as needed. But, I try really hard to get things such as white balance right while shooting. I have found that when I pay attention to white balance while shooting that it forces me to stop, read the light and make a decision while setting up the scene. This seems to bring better images. I have not, yet, gone to the use of a card such as the Expo system. However, I do try to set WB at a neutral gray or by use of a gray card. Iím not always right in my selection, but I have been improving and find that I am correct at least 90 percent of the time. Incidentally, I mostly shoot wildlife, nature and scenic subjects and do not feel that I am slowed down in the field by trying to figure out the WB. This is of-course; just my experience and it may be different for other photographers.

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3/28/2007 4:47:42 PM

Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  If you shoot in Raw, then it can save you. But I feel that if you depend on Photoshop too much, then it can make you sloppy when shooting, and if you are doing a lot of jobs, then those extra couple minutes - even seconds - fixing minor things on each and every image due to being sloppy can really add up and eat up your time.

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3/29/2007 6:36:06 AM

William Schuette
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2006
  Desiree, Raw certainly affords you the ability to change white balance in post processing. However, with the almost infinite variations of white balance values in Photoshop it can sometimes get confusing to try and determine which one accurately reproduces the actual colors when you are trying to do it later from memory. For this reason, I think it is best to try and get the WB as correct as possible at capture. For the most accurate WB, I set a custom white balance using an Expodisk. I find this far more useful than a gray card because I just put the Expodisk over the lens and take the reading. There is no need to try and place a gray card in your photo and it works beautifully in mixed lighting. If I don't have access to my Expodisk, I will then use the appropriate WB preset (daylight, cloudy, etc.) figuring this will at least get me close and any adjustments will be minor. I use auto WB only when there are rapidly changing lightin conditions and I don't have time to continually reset the WB. Finally, if all else fails, you can look for something that should be neutral in color (concrete)and sample it in a curves or levels adjustment layer to set the WB.


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3/29/2007 8:41:36 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  "Ever since I switched to digital, I have problems with the color of my images."

It might be more helpful if you state (what) color problems you are having?
This may or may not even be a WB problem.


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3/30/2007 7:25:34 AM

Daryl R. Lucarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/25/2004
  As as NON-professional but as a serious hobbist I have found that if I do not want to spend time in processing that if I use the built in WB icons on most all camera it helps for a sunny day, clooud icon for a cloudy day, etc better then just leaving it on auto WB... it will not be the same as agrey card etc but it will put you in a more realistic colors then just using auto WB. Daryl

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4/3/2007 7:24:45 AM

dennis w. mcclain   i tend to agree with W. shoot in raw, if after the fact you want to change wb, use adobe camera raw. you get all the presets right there, or you can manually adjust the color temp and tint. it helps when you shoot in "mixed" lighting. good luck denny

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5/5/2007 1:51:18 PM

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