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A White Balance Question

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by eng45ine, Jun 4, 2005.

  1. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Hello Everyone,

    When you are shooting outdoors and there is a light overcast sky, do you set your white balance to cloudy? Specifically, if there are high, thin clouds but the sun is visible, do you prefer to set the white balance to cloudy or do you set it to sunny?

    Just asking.....
  2. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    I'm afraid my answer is almost always the same: I use an Expodisk and preset the WB.

    I also shoot RAW+JPG, so I can change the WB later if I don't like it or want to see the differences (I use Nikon Capture).

    If I had to choose I would go with the Auto WB in this instance.
  3. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks for your reply Ken. I have very minimal experience using the auto setting for white balance as I use one of the set functions, i.e. sunny, cloudy, etc. I have yet to use a grey card for setting correct white balance and I shoot jpg files only...I shoot so many images at sporting events, I'd be filling CF cards like crazy. I suppose I could buy a grey card and change with balance settings that way...but it sounds rather cumbersome. I don't have any complaints on how my images look per se...I'm just trying to learn from all of you.
  4. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    To me a "good" preset white balance in photography is the equivalent of using a 10-Band Equalizer with a sound system. The difference can be amazing, even if subtle.

    Even if I want to change the WB or do all kinds of post-processing so that it doesn't matter, I really like having a reference point - seeing the shot the way my eyes saw it at the time.
  5. I shoot NEF 99% of the time and so WB does not matter much at the time of the shoot. I then use nikon capture to make WB adjustments although my default WB is cloudy.
  6. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    White balance with custom preset is exactly balance of reds and blues to greens. It can be compared to bass and treble, not to multi-band equalizer. Preset may be a good starting point, but if you are up to equalizer, under complex lighting conditions it makes sense to try dedicated settings with compensations in Nikon Capture.

    White balance affects composite histogram as it is displayed on camera LCD. If the white balance is off, it is hard to judge exposure using that histogram.

    To avoid blowing a channel out it is often useful to compensate with white balance distorting it on purpose instead of compensating with exposure.
  7. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    To me a "good" preset white balance in photography is the equivalent of using a 10-Band Equalizer with a sound system. The difference can be amazing, even if subtle.

    Even if I want to change the WB or do all kinds of post-processing so that it doesn't matter, I really like having a reference point - seeing the shot the way my eyes saw it at the time.
  8. kccheers


    May 2, 2005
    Liberty, Mo
    Ken, could you give me a basic "Expo Disc for Dummies"? I have seen this posted but have yet to use one...
  9. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Preset white balance do not account for the type of lighting, it provides only 2 coefficients to multiply red and blue channels. Some programs use pretty sophisticated approach instead of just multiplication, but still if spectral distribution of light is unknown, white balance suffer.

    Spectral response can be applied only if approximate spectral distribution of the light source is known. Type of lighting (especially for non-continuous spectrum light sources, like flash, fluorescent, and alike) is a very important hint to know that spectral response, apply spectral characteristic of the filter array/sensor, and as a result to get the white balance correct across the scene instead of having it correct only for limited tonal range around R=G=B=200.
  10. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    The following is from the Expodisc web site. But, you don't "install" the disc (unless it is the right mm size for the lens - I have a 77mm disc, so I hold it tightly against the front of any one of my lenses so that no light can get in around the edges. If you have any question that isn't covered by this "boilerplate", just ask! Every time I don't have it with me I kick myself later! The instructions follow the picture: I didn't have my disc with me....went into the dining room, and no WB setting I tried worked because of the different types of lighting and the entire ceiling was a glass skylight. Finally I just went to a white chair and used it to set the WB and it turned out well anyway!


    Nikon D70

    Set the correct manual exposure ("M" mode) or allow the camera to set an automatic exposure using the "P" "S" or "A" modes.

    Install the EXPOdisc

    Set camera to Manual Focus mode

    Push and hold ‘WB’ button with left thumb while turning right thumb wheel to select ‘Pre’ in the control panel, then release ‘WB’ button

    Push and hold ‘WB’ button again until ‘Pre’ begins to blink in the control panel

    While ‘Pre’ is blinking (10 seconds), aim camera towards scene or light source to balance and press the shutter release button

    ‘Good’ will replace ‘Pre’ in the control to indicate a successful balance capture

    If ‘no good’, then repeat steps 4 and 5 until you see ‘good’ flash in the control panel (too much, or too little light may result in a ‘no good’ reading)

    Press the shutter release button to exit menu functions

    Remove the EXPOdisc, return camera to auto focus mode, and start shooting

    Repeat procedure whenever the lighting changes.
  11. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO
    When you speak of "preset white balance" do you mean the built in presets (cloudy,sunny,flash.....), WB calculated from neutral card, or both?

    Your making my brain hurt. :shock: :lol:

    I'll tell you how I deal with WB, and you tell me how wrong I am. :) 

    Most of the time I use the in camera presets and tweak them via the histogram if I know the scene. I take another shot with a whibal card in the scene. Using my RAW processor of choice I select the whibal shot to set WB and apply to image to be processed further.

    Sometimes I use the WB sensor on the D2x as well, but I always include whibal shot.
  12. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Custom preset from gray card or through opaque cap on the lens. Cloudy, sunny, flash etc. do include type of lighting, so they give a hint for spectral distribution.

    Now Nikon and others pay more and more attention to using spectral distribution, so having a record of lighting type will be even more useful when you will decide to process your current images later on.

    Same here, but I also use colormeter or just intuition to set +/- compensation.

    I would be careful to record an additional memo on light type.
  13. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I appreciate the input that you all have in the thread that I started. You guys keep offering ideas and techniques...'cuz I'm reading it all and taking notes!
  14. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    Frank - One correction: I have the 72mm Expodisc, and it is the size of my "new" walk-around lens, the 24-124VR.

    Charles: I have often wished I had a white/grey card in my shot to set WB. For me the Expodisc is less work, can handle more situations, and it's more likely that I will use it for those reasons.
  15. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Hey Ken,

    In your description on how to correctly adjust WB with the EXPOdisc, you indicate to aim at the scene or light source...you aim directly at the sun? And what situations would you decide to shoot at the scene or at the sun? If I am shooting a baseball game and have light overcast but the sun is visible, am I setting WB by shooting toward the field or at the sun? My brain is beginning to hurt!!
  16. heiko


    May 15, 2005
    I've been reading this thread with attention - very useful information.

    So far I have belonged to the "sloppy" type, just keeping the WB on sunny and correcting it afterwards in Nikon Capture. Often the WB presets in the D70 were quite off, and I had to fiddle around with the color temperature or select a white or grey spot in the image to balance on that.

    Today I gave my new grayscale a shot - what a difference! No more fiddling around on the WB menu. I even WB corrected all pictures I took a little earlier on the beach and in the city - they all came out perfect.

    The Expodisc sounds like a great idea - how does it compare to a gray scale balance?
  17. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    Frank -

    I set my WB with the light reflected from, or on, the scene, or subject itself, rather than the light source. That's because the light coming to the camera from the scene includes both the direct source of the light as well as all the reflected light that reaches it too.
  18. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    Heiko -

    The Expodisc is engineered to the equivalent of an 18% Grey Card. Which is the "standard" most people, companies and equipment accept for a "Grey Card".

    As with many things, the differences between techniques for setting WB are so small that the naked eye can't see it when any of the techniques are done properly.

    I like the Expodisc because I know it's designed right, it's very convenient, and it won't deteriorate with use, sun, moisture, etc. The high price of the Expodisc (about $100) seems to be it's only downside. When I consider the price of my camera and lenses (not to mention the costs of film and processing for the D70 :lol: ), add in the cost of travel, meals and lodging, I figure the peace of mind I get, plus "perfect" white balance, makes that $100 a very small price to pay.
  19. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Expodisk has clear advantage over gray card when the light sources are same type and you measure them by pointing the lens to the light source, or when you can step into the scene and point the camera to the direction you will be shooting from.

    Gray card is good when you need to measure reflected light.

    It is more or lss the same as with exposuremeter usage - reflected vs. incident.
  20. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Well...it seems to me that I need to purchase one of these little gems. The $100 will be long forgotten when the images become truer to reality especially when shooting in some of these high school gyms, etc. Thanks so much for the great information.
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