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View Full Version : When to set white balance?



EAP
02-21-2005, 04:04 PM
When should you manually set the white balance? How do you know when the camera's "normal" white balance won't give you the best results?

Also, do you have to actually take a photo of something white in the environment in which you're shooting? Or can you just halfway depress the shutter so it takes a light reading? Or does this depend on your camera?

Norm in Fujino
02-21-2005, 05:06 PM
When should you manually set the white balance? How do you know when the camera's "normal" white balance won't give you the best results?

Probably the easiest thing to say is that color balance will be screwy when using fluroescent lighting. Under ordinary fluroescents, pictures will appear with a distinct greenish-yellow tint. Most cameras nowadays have one or more specific settings to correct for fluorescents.

Ordinary incandescent bulbs also produce a "warmer" tinge than daytime outdoor lighting, although the effect may not be as objectionable, depending on your purposes. Candlelight produces an even greater yellowish tinge, of course.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, very clear, bright winter days at high latitudes with snow on the ground, or scenes with bright white beaches, may have a higher-than-usual color temperature and thus produce a bluish cast on the scene. Once again, many new cameras have specific settings that are meant to correct for these conditions, or they may have a manual white balance control that lets you set for a specific color temperature range, or use a manual setting based on a white color in the scene.


Also, do you have to actually take a photo of something white in the environment in which you're shooting? Or can you just halfway depress the shutter so it takes a light reading? Or does this depend on your camera?

Depends, so the latter. Other things being equal, depressing the shutter halfway will only take an exposure measurement and lock the focus; it won't do anything for your color balance. You'll have to check the instructions for the specific camera to figure out how it sets the color balance.

EAP
02-22-2005, 01:15 PM
Thanks, this was most helpful. Back to re-reading my manual...

ktixx
02-22-2005, 02:32 PM
I would have to say that if you can, always use a custom white balance setting. Although cameras have an auto white balance, even the most expensive cameras usually do not do as good of a job on auto as they will if you properly set the white balance. If you search this forum for white balance on the Canon 20D you will see that a lot of users have a distinict yellow/orange tint to their pictures when they shoot in full auto. There was also a review that someone did (google search) where they took a picture of a Kodak gray card. They took 3 pictures under tungsten lights, the first was auto, the second was the setting for tungsten lights and the 3rd was custom white balance. There was a noticable differece in the color of the card when the white balance was custom set.
Basically If you have a shot that you cannot mess up just shoot in RAW mode. If your camera cannot do RAW and if you are in a hurry to get the shot just shoot in auto, if you have the time however, try and custom balance your shot because it will definitely come out better.
Ken

EAP
02-22-2005, 08:32 PM
Thanks. With all the expertise available from people on this forum, I'll be ready to turn pro in no time! :D