Friday, November 9, 2012

The importance of white balance revisited

A little post for all you photographers out there. This is a revisit of an older post that gets a fair amount of hits every month. In the previous post I showed how the white balance setting in your raw converter, whether it is your camera or in software, has an enormous influence on the look and feel of an image. Also, there are many situations that simply confuse your camera's automatic white balance algorithms and so you often cannot trust it. This is especially true in landscape photography done at the edges of the day or in situations where there are deeply saturated colors present. A few days ago, I was photographing the sunset at a lake near my house and my D600, although far better at interpreting white balance correctly than any other camera I have shot with clearly got it wrong as should be evident from the image below.

Click for bigger!
This was shot with a 3-stop graduated ND darkening up the sky. The left image shows what the camera thought of the color balance. It rendered the water weirdly green. The white balance it chose is actually pretty close to a tungsten white balance but with a large green value. It is pretty close to the out-of-camera jpeg as I chose landscape picture style and chose the same profile in Lightroom. second from left is the result of clicking on auto in Lightroom. This gives an interesting result with very blue water. I did not use a Blue/Yellow polarizing filter for this image so this does not correspond to what I saw, but is still an interesting image. Again, the automatic system thinks the white balance is close to that of a tungsten bulb. The right three images are daylight, cloudy, and shade in that order. Those all correspond to the mood of the scene much better and choosing between them comes down to taste I think. In fact I would choose close to "Cloudy" if I were pressed.
I haven't posted this and other images from this sunset yet except for the panorama I posted a few days ago where I actually went for the bluish look that the camera itself selected but will do so soon.

1 comment:

  1. something that the eye seems to do differently. Then there is film too :-)