Tuesday, February 15, 2011
White Balance Blues
Auto white balance may be convenient, but it won’t give you the best colors
Auto white balance typically gives colors that are neither as good as they should be, nor consistent from frame to frame.
I would have been wrong. While I can’t pick out Auto white balance every time it’s used, I see it frequently in the hundreds of students I work with in classes on the web and around the country—too frequently for it to be a coincidence.
Disadvantages Of Auto White Balance
Here’s the problem: Auto white balance typically gives colors that are neither as good as they should be, nor consistent from frame to frame. Auto white balance is designed to constantly change and adapt to different conditions.
The other problem is compromised color. It’s common for Auto white balance to leave a slight blue colorcast to the overall image, especially on cloudy days. This makes grays and other neutral tones bluish, makes the image look cooler than it should be and degrades the saturation of other colors. If you’re shooting sunrise or sunset, you’ll never get the best images from those subjects with Auto white balance.
What About RAW?
At this point, some people are thinking, “I shoot RAW, so this doesn’t matter. I can change the white balance whenever I want to in the computer.” Unfortunately, Auto white balance isn’t so simple.
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