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White Balance, RAW, etc.

k8etk8et Member, Moderator
edited July 2011 in general photography
I posted about the Light Field technology (not available yet to consumers, allows you to focus AFTER taking the photos) here - http://neilvn.com/forum/discussion/218/light-field-technology

I thought of this technology this week, and how it's a perfect analogy for the argument to use RAW format.

Basically choosing your focus AFTER you take photos is really a cool concept right? If you knew you could eliminate ONE variable in what makes a photo "good", would you take advantage of that? Sure, there will be purists somewhere saying you don't know as much as they do, but if you are turning out a lot of images for a client and this can save some shots - what would stop you?

Price? Sure. Of course, if it costs twice as much as the latest 1D to get that feature, it could be low on your priority list.

But what if someone told you your camera has a feature now, to eliminate one variable of what makes a photo technically "good", and you don't have to pay any more for it?

Or maybe you have to pay a little more, an extra $100-200 annually or so, for storing/backing up larger files. Would you do it?

Well, that's what RAW format does - you can fix your white balance AFTER taking the photo, as simply as changing the focus appears in the articles I linked to in the other post.

Between Neil reinforcing that concept (of RAW vs JPG not even being a choice for most photographers) in his workshop, and the light field technology which I touched on at lunch while talking to the others, my brain connected those two after the fact :P

That, and I'm startled at a discussion over WB setting on another forum that has me thinking either I'm missing something or everyone else is -- someone (with GREAT work) mentioned using a WB at 5880K as a general starting point, and making minor adjustments to that in post processing. Suddenly, other forum members are taking that as a hard and fast "rule" and applying to every situation, and expecting (sometimes getting) great results straight out of the camera.

I can't see how it's any different than picking cloudy, shade, or whatever and making minor adjustments in PP, unless they aren't using RAW... (And yes, I've asked this! no replies yet :P) I suspect that most people have been using Auto WB, and are finding this a big improvement over that (which I would agree).


  • k8etk8et Member, Moderator
    About the last two paragraphs - I'm discussing it on that forum, and luckily no one is (admitting to) thinking it's a cure all. However, several people say from their experience, setting the WB to 5800K in camera and changing it to 5800K in Lightroom is giving them different results.

    Why would that be?? Is it because of the tint control being separate from temperature?
  • Daylight and flash are approximately 5500-5600K, which is probably why that photographer chose 5800k.

    Using Auto WB is a problem if you are trying to adjust several photos in a batch, because the camera may decide to change WB between photos. You'll then have to change each one manually, which can get tedious for large sets of photos.

    There is really only two automated picture-taking aspects in Neil's picture taking workflow: TTL and matrix metering. Exposure/ISO/WB is manually configured.
  • StephenStephen Member
    edited July 2011
    Nikon had encrypted the WB information in images a few years ago. Some people suspected it was to drive people to buy Nikon's Capture NX. There was an uproar in the community. Adobe announced that they were working with Nikon to come up with a reasonable solution. I'm not sure what they came up with, but Lightroom's WB values are not on the same absolute scale as Nikon's. So, 5800K in Nikon's camera and 5800K in Lightroom are not the same. When I take photos using Flash WB, the camera sets it around 5600, but the default Lightroom camera profile is around 6100K.
  • k8etk8et Member, Moderator
    I get why any constant setting is better than auto :D I don't have a Nikon, but possibly the people who got different results do (I believe that's the case). That can explain why changing it in post gives a different result than changing it in camera!
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    k8t ... I wouldn't be surprised if different RAW converters and cameras gave different results at the same Kelvin setting.

    Maybe it's just this feeling that the more technology advances, the further we rush away from anything that could be defined as a specific standard. ;)

    My problem with AWB is that I then have no idea, when looking at a bunch of images, whether they would be taken under the same lighting, and hence need the same adjustment .. or how I should group them according to WB changes that would be needed.
    It just slows that step in the post-processing down a bit.
  • k8et said: About the last two paragraphs - I'm discussing it on that forum, and luckily no one is (admitting to) thinking it's a cure all. However, several people say from their experience, setting the WB to 5800K in camera and changing it to 5800K in Lightroom is giving them different results.

    Why would that be?? Is it because of the tint control being separate from temperature?
    The answer is that Adobe's Raw converters use different multipliers than Canon or Nikon software.

    Let me attempt to explain: When you import a Raw file into Lightroom (or any other third-party raw converter; they all work the same), the program only utilizes four of the in-camera settings: ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and White Balance.

    Of those four settings, the White Balance setting is simply a metadata tag and it isn't hard-coded into the Raw file. Despite what we're led to believe, color temperature is not a tightly controlled parameter in digital imaging. Unlike settings like aperture or shutter speed, the temperature setting is simply a metadata tag that describes how the image should appear when converted to a rendered/rasterized/bitmapped file i.e. an RGB file. That's what allows us to easily change the Temp setting in post production (assuming a Raw file).

    Each Raw converter looks at the metadata tag and applies a multiplier (via color profiles) that translates the tag into an actual color temperature number. Canon uses very different color profiles from Adobe so the multipliers are also different and the resulting temperature numbers produced are different. Since these multiplier values are not in the public domain we don't know what they are or how to change them.
  • k8etk8et Member, Moderator
    Wow - thanks for that explanation! Makes sense, I had just assumed the kelvin scale would be constant across the board.
  • You should know that regardless of the multipliers used by the raw converter; white, grey, and black should appear white, grey, and black.

    If you Google the phrase "white balance multipliers" you'll turn up tons of information. Here's a thread on another forum where I participated: http://www.lightroomforums.net/showthread.php?7925-White-Balance-Discrepancy-RAW-vs.-LR-import&s=55a8398e3964d8ae3184189b1f8a6cdc
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    jan ... thank you for that informative post!
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