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Old Jul 13, 2006, 10:32 PM   #1
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from my understanding, WB is something like 'correction' of colours that eliminates light's cast from objects. So if a white wall is lighted up by e.g red light source then WB's purpose is to make this 'red wall' appear white on picture. (Assuming I am correct up to this point) My confusion is: why not just leave WB correction and take pictures as they actually appear at given light condition e.g white wall with red cast looking red on picture. I would appreciate your opinions on this, how do you deal with WB ?
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Old Jul 14, 2006, 12:08 AM   #2
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KJ, your "red wall" example sounds good enough to me.

You write: ...why not just leave WB correction and take pictures as they actually appear at given light condition e.g white wall with red cast looking red on picture.

Yeah! I agree! At least for certain purposes. After all, the Color Police aren't going to kick in your door and drag you off! I feel that when you take photos of things or places that are more "personal" experiences than public ones, there are no correct colors.

What I mean by this, is that if you shoot a pic of some thing or place that is ambiguous enough that the viewer of the pic doesn't have a certain set of preconceived ideas about what the colors should be, then the color balance can have more lattitude and not look "wrong" to the viewer.

You, as the photographer, are an artist who has as much right to use color to try to convey a certain mood through your photo as a painter would in creating their canvas. Of course, photojournalists are prohibited from being interpretive with their work as far as accurate representation of a scene goes, but the field is wide open otherwise.

Some color casts just plain look unattractive -- especially ones cast by artificial lighting. They tend to make a shot look "muddy" by lowering tonal variation. Other casts, like the warmer light of early morning and late afternoon seem to make many subjects more appealing to many people.

People who shoot a lot of night sports have to pay close attention to their white balance if they want other people to enjoy their work. There aren't many people who would consider yellowish-green skin to be acceptable -- at least, outside of science-fiction conventions.

I don't think that you have to be a slave to perfect white balance, but you have to take it very seriously in situations where you are not trying to be overtly interpretive or you may find people finding fault with your pix because they don't look "right" to the person.

This is one advantage to shooting in RAW if you have the option. You can change the white balance in post processing if you don't like your initial setting.


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Old Jul 14, 2006, 2:32 AM   #3
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For the specific problem of your wall with red light shining on it you can get a red wall is several ways by switching out of automatic white balance.

If the red light is pervasive like a sunset you can just put the camera on daylight or overcast WB and the red will show.

If the red light is from a spot and isn't the general lighting you can use incandescent, fluorescent, or whatever the overall lighting is. The wall will come out red. Or if red is the only artificial light, incandescent setting will give you a red wall and probably be about right.

Or if the red is specific to the wall you can use a custom WB with a white or gray card under the general lighting and the wall will come out red.

If your camera has no controls for WB whatever it is such a basic P&S that the question is moot IMO. There isn't really much you can do about anything.

The camera has to have a white balance. It isn't something you can turn off except with raw. But it has to balance the light one way or another to put the image onto a jpg or tiff. It is usually best to have that setting appropriate for the actual light. I guess you could consider the WB off if you move it from auto to daylight or overcast since it is generally balancing for white light. But it has to use something. It is like saying you want to turn the color temperature off on your monitor.

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Old Jul 14, 2006, 1:59 PM   #4
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different types of light have different color casts, not all are deteted by the human eye because our brain also has a white balance and corrects our eyes so whites appear white. Your cameradoesn't have our brain so it sees these different color casts. But in your red wall example no matter what setting you set your white balance to, you will most likely still get a red wall. As slipe says if the room lighting is incandecent lighting but there is a red light shining on one wall, you can still set your camera to incandecent or auto white balance and the wall will still be red. You may get some different shades of red using some other settings, you may even get a completely different color than red, but probably not white unless you set a custom white balance using that wall and telling your camera you want it to see that wall as white.
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 7:31 AM   #5
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If you're going to print your pictures, you want to see them as they would look when printed. If your monitor has a color cast (i.e. incorrect white balance), you might think your picture looks fine as you look at it on the monitor, but when printed, the picture's colors would be "off."

The object of a monitor's white balance is indeed to make white look white. As an example, the screen in my PDA has no white balance adjustment, and it has a light but definite bluish color. White displays as very light blue. I can ignore that for text, but if I want pictures to look halfway good, I'd have to adjust the colors before uploading to the PDA. If I tried to print those pictures, the color would definitely be "off," and skin tones would look sick.
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 5:27 PM   #6
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Viewing conditions are different from room to room, and people have different prefernces as to what looks pleasing.
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Old Aug 25, 2006, 9:25 PM   #7
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No, not necessarily. In theory, that would probably be best, but its not practical. The differences throughout the time of dayare probably too subtle to notice. The characteristics of the monitor will change over time as well because of age and use, so some recalibration will be necessary on occasion. Also the color of the walls, the types of lighting used in the room, viewing distance all influence how the colors appear on the monitor.
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