Your camera’s auto white balance mode does a great job of reading the scene’s color temperature and choosing a setting from its’ collection of pre-programmed adjustments. This is great for street photography or outdoor portraits when the light source is constantly changing. For studio work–where the light source is consistent–manually selecting your white balance will produce a more accurate color rendition. Here’s how to use a White Balance Card to match studio lighting conditions.
In Camera Custom White Balance
Creating a custom white balance is slightly different from camera to camera but the concept is still the same.
For Most Nikon Users:
- Select custom or Pre from your white balance choice.
- Hold down the WB button until Pre starts flashing.
- Take a photo of the subject holding a white balance card.
The custom white balance is set when “GOOD” appears on the top display.
For Most Canon Users:
- Take a photo of the white balance card – you need to make sure there is NOTHING else in the shot.
- Navigate through your menu until you find where it says “Custom White Balance” or something similar. It will then ask you to choose an image.
- Select the image of the gray card you just took. It may ask you “Use WB data from this image for custom WB”
Selecting OK will create your custom white balance.
Setting White Balance in Lightroom or Camera Raw
After you set your lights up and achieved a proper exposure, take a photo of your subject holding a White Balance Card. This first shot will be the base for all images shot under this exact lighting set.
Working in the Development Module, select the White Balance Selector from the Basics Panel. Your cursor changes to an eyedropper. Click anywhere on the White Balance Card.
Review the image and tweak the settings as desired.
Copy the white balance value–and other settings you prefer–by selecting copy settings from the Settings menu.
Apply these settings to all images in the image set by pressing G for Grid mode and select all images. Right mouse click, choose Development Settings and select Paste Settings. The images will all have the proper White Balance along with any custom settings you selected.
Discipline yourself to use a White Balance Card during your shoots to save valuable time in post processing.
Currently he is teaching workshops, writing for Photofocus and creating tutorials for various plug-in companies and for the Vanelli and Friends series.
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