A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Featured Equipment Deals

Ten Steps to Get Creative & Authentic Family Photographs Read More

Ten Steps to Get Creative & Authentic Family Photographs

Photographer Stacy Bostrom shares ten tips to make your family photography more creative by capturing the beautiful imperfection of life.

Latest Equipment Articles

Sun Position Tracking Apps Read More

Sun Position Tracking Apps

These 5 apps, ranging in price from free to $8.99, are our top picks for tracking sun (and moon) light. Also ranging in complexity, some help you keep tabs on the ideal lighting of the day while...

Latest Learning Articles

Basic Image Development in Lightroom: Color Editing (Video Tutorial) Read More

Basic Image Development in Lightroom: Color Editing (Video Tutorial)

Learn basic HSL (hue, saturation, and luminance) color adjustments as well as split toning (adjusting color in highlights and lowlights) in this next video.


White balance!

Rene' Villela , Aug 25, 2007; 10:52 p.m.

Just an easy one, what is the correct setting of white balance for night photography? I usually set it in shade. Is that correct? Thanks!

Responses


    1   |   2     Next    Last

Geoff Sobering , Aug 25, 2007; 11:00 p.m.

I usually shoot raw in difficult or unpredictable lighting situations and white-balance later.

Night shots are very tough because you may have a mix of lighting sources (tungsten, fluorescent, Mercury-arc, etc.), so you may have to find a white-balance that gives the best look overall. You could also choose a number of white-balances for different sections of the image and re-assemble them a la HDR.

Ronald Moravec , Aug 25, 2007; 11:13 p.m.

Technically it is tungsten or 3200 K. New lights have been invented and they vary all over the map and some a missing sections of spectrum.

Shoot raw at 4000 K and adjust later in raw converter unless you can identify the lighting present.

William Porter , Aug 25, 2007; 11:19 p.m.

René,

My first recommendation would be, learn to shoot raw and just leave the white balance on auto. There are many compelling reasons to shoot raw. One of the most compelling is that you never again have to think about white balance while you're shooting.

But if you're converting to jpeg in the camera, then another question arises: what kind of night photography are you doing? Shooting the night sky (say, for the moon or stars)? Shooting outside with some light provided by street lights and the rest from your flash? Indoors at night? If the flash is the main light source, try using the flash WB setting in your camera. Otherwise, well, this can just be tricky to get right and you may have to experiment. Indoors with normal tungsten lighting, well, use tungsten. If you've got bright light coming from street lamps, well, I dunno -- but you get my point.

Seriously: give raw a chance, even if you only use it as Geoff S. does, when the lighting is uncertain. Before long you'll be like me, shooting raw 99.7% of the time.

Rene' Villela , Aug 26, 2007; 12:45 a.m.

Thanks for your fast replies! Well, yeah! I shoot RAW but I was wondering if there was a correct setting. Uhmm! Right now we are having all kinds of Summer festivals in Japan and just last night I was out there shooting a lot. Fire works, parades, cars with lights,etc. If any one has the time please take a look and advice me! Tonight I wanna give it another try! THANK YOU ALL!

Hakon Soreide , Aug 26, 2007; 09:25 a.m.

There is no correct setting for night photography. Many will actually prefer a night shot that is not correctly balanced because they might be used to seeing night shots from daylight-balanced film, and one that is balanced for the actual light there might look too cold.

So, I say it's all down to personal preference, but as long as you're shooting raw, try out different things in post-processing and see how you like it.

Frank Dzambic , Aug 26, 2007; 10:57 a.m.

While Shade isn't an "incorrect" setting for night shots, it's also not the "correct" setting either. Shade is a preset designed to take out the blue cast that's created by the open blue sky when the subject is in the shade. Shade in this instance doesn't equate to dark or nighttime.

That's splitting hairs though. If you're happy with how your nighttime photos look using the shade setting then it's the correct setting to use. It's only incorrect if you're not happy with the outcome.

William Porter , Aug 26, 2007; 11:00 a.m.

Well, yeah! I shoot RAW but I was wondering if there was a correct setting.

René,

White balance is an interpretation of what the sensors in your camera "see," in other words, white balance is something that affects the picture after the initial capture. Now, it is my understanding that, when you shoot raw, the white balance you used at the time of shooting is important in only two ways: (1) it affects how the camera displays the shot on the LCD; and (2) the value is stored with the raw data so that your processing software like Adobe Lightroom or whatever knows how to display the colors initially.

But other than that, it doesn't really matter, because the raw data saves what the sensors "saw". I've done experiments with this myself that demonstrate to me that this is the case, but don't take my word for it: it's easy to test this for yourself. Take a shot indoors with tungsten light but with the camera's white balance set, say, to bright sunlight. Get the file into your raw processing program. When you look at it initially, the white balance will almost certainly look quite wrong. But go to the white balance control and change the white balance to "tungsten" or whatever would be the correct WB setting: voila! the photo should now look great. I've done quite a few tests of this sort and they all lead to the same conclusion.

So, I shoot raw all the time and I leave white balance in my Pentax K10D on auto all the time. The K10D's guess about the correct white balance is right on the money in the vast majority of cases, but if I don't like the camera's suggestion about how to interpret the raw data, I simply adjust it in Lightroom.

Footnote: There has been a discussion recently on some forums about whether it's technically correct to say that the white balance setting at the time of capture has absolutely no affect on the raw data that is saved. It seems to me to be a moot point: if there is some difference, it's so small as to be negligible in nearly all circumstances.

Emre Safak , Aug 26, 2007; 11:11 a.m.

Do what looks good to you. This an art, not a science.

The sad fact is that street lights can not be white balanced; they are inherently colored.

Eugene Scherba , Aug 26, 2007; 12:50 p.m.

The sad fact is that street lights can not be white balanced; they are inherently colored.

Yep, the CRI of street lights is pretty low, but sometimes simple white balancing gives an acceptable result, like for example here:

This image was white balanced in UFRaw, which is the only RAW converter I know that allows (a) using custom rectangular areas for setting gray; (b) does not have upper or lower limits to color temperature.


    1   |   2     Next    Last

Back to top

Notify me of Responses