Do you use a custom white balance? Setting a custom white balance is something all film shooters do to ensure their photos don’t get plagued by nasty (and irreversible) colour casts, but this is something very few digital camera photographers do. Yep, in this day and age of digital photography many people consider setting a custom white balance a total waste of time, and instead leave their camera in auto white balance mode.
Okay, modern day digital cameras are sophisticated and a lot of the time using auto white balance will produce natural looking photos with no visible colour casts, however this is not always the case and there will be times when the auto white balance system will fail. If you shoot in raw you can change the white balance settings using photo editing software to remove any unwanted colour casts, or even introduce a colour cast to enhance the photo.
Since it is possible to change the white balance settings with photo editing software you may as well leave your camera in auto white balance mode and just shoot raw. I mean, what’s the point in spending time and effort manually setting a custom white balance? When I first started out I used to think like this and I never bothered setting a custom white balance, however this all changed a few years back.
As my photography improved I wanted more and more control over my exposures and after a bit of reading around various photography journals and publications I became aware of my failings with white balance settings. Up until this point I had always left my camera in auto white balance mode and then tweaked it using photo editing software. This wasn’t too bad when I only had one or two photos to deal with but if I had several to edit (like after wedding shoots and other commercial shoots) this process took a considerable amount of time and my hour rate for the shoot went through the floor.
I never really appreciated the importance of white balance settings, which was due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, however my research showed just how important white balance is. Despite the importance of white balance it is something many photography journals and publications gloss over. Okay, I appreciate white balance settings are mundane and boring but they are extremely important nonetheless.
Learning about setting a custom white balance has increased my knowledge and understanding of light and how it works (which is pretty fundamental in photography since photography is “painting with light”) which has improved my photography skills no end. Learning to take the camera out of auto white balance mode and set a custom white balance instead is something that all photographers should learn to do.
You may wish to ignore my advice and simply leave you camera in auto white balance mode and deal with the issue whilst editing that is entirely your look out, but you really are missing a trick not knowing how to set a custom white balance and not actually doing so.
EXPO DISC – THE EASIEST WAY TO SET A CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE
One bit of kit you simply have to have to set a custom white balance is a white balance filter, and I use an expo disc for this. First off there are other white balance filters out there and whilst the expo disc is the most expensive (and considerably more expensive at that) it is by far the most accurate. I started out with a cheap and cheerful white balance filter and whilst it did get the colour virtually right there were plenty of times I had to tweak it using photo editing software.
I was out on a shoot with my local camera club one day where a member had just invested in an expo disc (after reading several rave reviews about it) and after seeing the expo disc in action, and the accurate colours the guy was getting using the expo disc, I decided to invest in one. I have to say the expo disc is one of the best gadgets I have bought in a long time, and I haven’t looked back since.
With the expo disc I no longer suffer any colour casts, even when taking long exposures with my 10 stop nd filter. If you are in to long exposure photography and are sick and tired of having to deal with the nasty colour casts all 10 stop nd filters produce (and that includes the top brands like Lee, Hitech and Schott) you really need an expo disc to set a custom white balance and get accurate colours.
The expo disc is quick and easy to use and using one of these white balance filters means you can get rid of your grey cards, which are pretty cumbersome to use.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.