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White Balance: Tools to Help Set Custom White Balance ~ Part 3

White Balance: What Tools to Use and How to Set a Custom White Balance

by Rich Reierson

This post is the third in a short series on how photographers can use white balance to improve color in their photographs. Make sure to read part 1 and part 2.

Using a gray card for white balance

Here is the sample image prior to any CWB:

before calibration with a gray card

White Balance Lens Caps

First we have lens cover calibrator devices for white balance. ExpoD, Brno BaLens and ColorRight seem to the front runners in this space. For around 50-120 dollars you get a curious little lens cap that looks like someone cut up a shower door and placed it in a frame.

To use the lens cover tool:

  • Place it on your lens
  • Set your lens to manual focus since it will not be able to grab focus on its own.
  • Select “user preset” on a Nikon and fire a calibration shot at the source. For Canon, take a photo with the cap on as explained next. Then go into your menu and choose to set that shot to the CWB.
  • Then tell your camera to use the custom white balance setting.
  • For instance if I was shooting my baby on a brick wall, I would put my camera where my baby is and fire the calibration shot toward the location I will be shooting from.
  • Remember to set your lens back to auto focus if preferred.
  • Do a new calibration if your lighting source changes.
  • On ebay there are also many knock off white balance caps that work pretty well also for about 6 dollars. There is an article on this blog on using a Pringle’s lid for white balance. And I have heard of photographers using tissue paper but I cannot comment on the accuracy.

Here is the sample after using an ExpoDisc:

after using expodisc to calibrate

Gray Card Targets

My personal favorite is to use a Gray calibration card such as a WhiBal White Balance Card. This card is Neutral and when I say neutral I mean that it is perfectly balanced for all colors. Notice that it is not a white card!! White has a tendency to reflect or harbor a color cast a gray card will reflect all colors evenly. With this said, in a pinch grab a white piece of paper to calibrate on. You can do it pre-process or post process in LR or PS.

To use a gray card to set white balance in camera:

  • Turn off your focus and fill your frame with the card or paper and fire a calibration shot. In Canon cameras you can select “calibrate with this image” under the White Balance menu and then set your camera to use the CWB setting. In Nikon you would fire a calibration shot at the target.  That is it. The image should have perfect WB.
  • Remember to set your lens back to auto focus if preferred.
  • I must note that if you change scenery, you must recalibrate.

Here is the sample after using the WhiBal:

after using a gray card

In conclusion White balance is one of the trickier skills that a photographer needs to master. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule for calibrating a picture and there really isn’t a RIGHT picture. Photography is a very subjective art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Can you have a picture that is cooler, YES can you have one that is warmer, YES. Which one is correct? None of them! Obtaining calibrated WB is just a good starting point. Once you have WB and exposure calibrated you lay the foundation for a great shot.

*** Two related MCP Products/Services to this post ***

  1. Achieving accurate white balance is only the beginning.  Once you accomplish this, you may want to consider MCP’s Color Correction Photoshop Training Class – teaching you to get better skin tones in Photoshop.
  2. If you did not shoot Raw, or your colors still look off when you edit inside Photoshop, you may also benefit from the MCP Bag of Tricks – these Photoshop actions help color correct and fix skin tones.

This post is by guest writer Rich Reierson, an expert in Photoshop and Lightroom and owner of Mariposa Photography in Dallas/Fort Worth. His main focus is supporting the photographer by building specialized computers built for editing and tutoring on Photoshop and Lightroom. As a sideline he shoots sessions on a referral basis. He has been using Adobe products since 1994 and still has the original 11 disks for Photoshop 3.0. He is a father of 2 kids and and he says his wife makes the best baby bows.

Previous post
White Balance: Get Accurate Color Using a Gray Card ~ Part 2
Next post
Photographing Subjects in White Clothing: From Disaster to Joy

5 Comments

  1. […] 1 votes vote White Balance: Tools to Help Set Custom White Balance ~ Part 3 White Balance: What Tools to Use and How to Set a Custom White Balance by Rich Reierson This […]

  2. […] great exposure and lighting as well as the right subject and background.  Make sure to set your white balance in camera or using RAW, for the most accurate colors. This photo by Renee Trichio (Twice as Nice […]

  3. March 23, 2011 at 10:21 am — Reply

    Skin tones are the most important criteria when taking people shots.

    With various light sources including our flash it can be very difficult to guess what is the color of the light. I use 3 methods. A low cost 18% grey lens cleaning cloth that I keep in my vest ($6). It doubles to help clean the lens and works great. The problem is that you can’t always put it into a scene while shooting. This is a must if you suspect color casts. If you can USE IT with one shot in every room.

    Now we have 3 options for settling up: The discs that attach to the lens (problem is multiple lens sizes but the caps are a lot cheaper than OEM and good to have around as they are always on. Shoot a white piece of paper- I like to use Epson enhance matte paper- almost white and very consistent. Or some white piece of plastic like the Gary Fong Dome which we just might have handy on the flash.

    And at last we could shoot the standard color chart and even run a calibration profile for each room (takes a lot of computer time- 15min per calibration. This is great for photo shoots when doing studio shots.

    I always shoot in RAW. Down site to using custom setting is that we must remember to reset the camera after each room.

    Many times it is a matter of time. You must act quickly and an on camera white lens is a good start.

  4. May 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm — Reply

    Great site you have here but I was wanting to know if you
    knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

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White Balance: Tools to Help Set Custom White Balance ~ Part 3