Are you shooting in Raw, but never really know what White Balance to set when converting your files in Photoshop? There is a way of getting it spot on, without simply guessing what you think looks correct to the eye.
When you convert a RAW file, you have the choice of what colour temperature you set, and apart from determining whether your colours are accurate or not, this makes a huge difference in how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ your picture looks. For artistic shots, it really is up to you how you set your white balance, but a good starting point is the Daylight setting in the RAW converter for all outdoor shots, and the Incandescent (Tungsten) setting for all indoor pictures that don’t use flash.
From this general setting, you tweak the Temperature slider right to warm up the scene or left to cool it down, and move the Tint from right to left if the image looks a little too green or a little too magenta.
If this sounds far too ‘loose’ and you want to get a bit more scientific, then purchase a grey card, and place it in the shot for the first picture you take of a scene. Make sure it’s in typical lighting that represents the scene (eg – don’t put the card in the shade if your scene is bathed in sunlight). In your RAW conversion software, select the WB eyedropper (all good RAW converters will have this) and click directly on the grey card to get the correct WB for the scene. This technique is particularly useful if you want accurate skin tones in a portrait, or spot-on colours if you’re taking shots for a brochure or auction site.
You can purchase grey cards for around a tenner from most camera shops, and for £18, Lastolite make the Ezybalance – a handy 30cm grey card that’s white on the reverse and collapses down to next to nothing.
Using a grey card
1. Test Shot
When you’ve framed up your picture, place your grey card in the shot in lighting that’s consistent with the rest of the scene. Take a shot in RAW mode, and then remove the card from view and shoot normally. If you change anything, like your composition or location take another test shot.
From the file Browser or Bridge, open the test shot into Adobe Camera Raw and select the White Balance Eyedropper. Click on the grey card in your test shot to set the WB and after you’ve tweaked the other RAW settings to your liking, click Done and close it down.
3. Apply the settings
In the Browser or Bridge, select all the pics with the same set-up as the test shot (Ctrl+click to do this) and then right click on one file and select Develop Settings ‘ Previous Conversion from the list. This will give all the files the same RAW settings.