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Gerald Boggs

White Balance

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White Balance, I've posted about this before, but think it important enough to bear repeating.

Let me be clear, I'm a photography novice. However, since I earn my living based on what my photos convey, I've had to learn a little. My problems started when I began selling on Amazon. Up to this point, I had been using the auto setting on my camera and shooting outside in natural settings with good results. However, Amazon requires the main photo to be either a white or neutral background. Much to my disappointment, no matter how much or what type of lighting I used, I couldn't get a good photo. I've since learned that without setting your white balance, you will never get a good photo. So if you've been taking photos and wondering why they're kind of dark and the white looks a bit gray, this is why. Hopes this helps.

 

 

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I had that problem shooting stuff on a black background with a digital camera.  The auto setting tries to even things out, so you have to set the exposure on the object rather than the background.  In the old days of manual-set film cameras I used what's called a gray card to set the exposure and bracketed one stop (or one shutter speed) on either side as well as in the middle, and always got a usable shot that way.  Twenty years later with a high-end digital SLR I totally forgot to do that for a while and couldn't figure out why the exposures looked like crap... found my old gray cards and metered off those, used the exposure lock button, problem solved.  

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That's what I now have.  Used it and suddenly I can take photos with a white background :-)

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(I am a photographer noob)

I always resorted to just using all manual settings, setting white balance, exposure, iso, f-stop based on the picture I was taking. 

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This is probably too nerdy for anyone to care, but I worked my way through college in a darkroom, and it is rare I get to geek out about exposure levels :)

The reason the "Grey cards" were a thing is that way back in the early days of film, someone determined that and "Average" everyday scene was 18% grey in color.  Color film was then designed around this bias point so that it would generally work well in normal situations.

When you have scenes that are pretty far from average in terms of color content, the grey bias starts to show through.  This is part of the reason snow, beach, and bright sky scenes tend to come out grey looking.  (Exposure level bias being the other reason)

When digital photography evolved, the people developing the technology went pretty far out of their way to make it feel like film photography.  I am assuming the 18% grey bias was one of the things that got kept from the old days, although I don't know that for certain.

Does anyone remember those old gry caps that came on Kodak film cans in the '80s and '90s?  They would work as a grey card in a pinch when you calibrate a color light meter.  I've always thought that was to convenient to be a coincidence, but never did get anyone at Kodak to confirm it was done on purpose.

 

 

 

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A simple light box might solve your problems. Here's a "how to" video. I made one similar to the one in the video, but I just cut the sides out of a med size cardboard box, (leaving a "frame"), and taped the paper to it. Add a couple daylight bulbs, (~5000K color temp) and you should be in business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyxzC5kqbyw&t=374s

 

Edit to add that you will have to go back to the beginning of the video...

Edited by Ron Benson

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22 minutes ago, Gerald Boggs said:

Curious, how is changing my lighting going to fix a White Balance issue?

I guess the idea is that the white balance will always be the same, so you could have a preset balance that will always look consistent.

 

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1 hour ago, Gerald Boggs said:

Curious, how is changing my lighting going to fix a White Balance issue?

If your white balance is "off" all the time, there is a spot where it is "on". By using controlled lighting, you have a better chance of matching your camera's settings. You statement that"without setting your white balance, you will never get a good photo" is incorrect. Using controlled lighting in a controlled setting will allow you to use the same settings every time, and get the same results every time. And as a bonus, you can control your background too.

If you have access to another camera, take shots with yours and the other camera. Compare the two - they should be very close. If the other camera's photos looks better than your camera's photos, it might be your camera.

Edited by Ron Benson

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A light box will almost guarantee the need for a custom white balance. 

I should add that this isn't a bad thing.  A light box is a great tool, but generally the artificial lighting will require some adjustment. 

With my camera, all I have to do is take a photo with a neutral exposure of a plain white card.  Then my camera will use that photo to adjust the white balance.

 

Edited by Brian Dougherty

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Let me be clear, I had not problems taking good photos, until I had to photography with a white background.  And then it was as Brian wrote " When you have scenes that are pretty far from average in terms of color content, the grey bias starts to show through.  This is part of the reason snow, beach, and bright sky scenes tend to come out grey looking"  That's what I found when I first tried with a white background.  Outside, inside, with or without a light box, all I was getting was a drab gray background.  Bought a gray card, used it and now all my white background photos are good enough for the web.

Both of these phones taken with a light box of Sharp by Coop design. https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/no-frills-75-00-home-studio-tent-lightbox.328550/ 

My intent wasn't to get into a discussion on photography techniques (completely unqualified), but was really just sharing a bit of knowledge.  I see a lot of photos that suffer from lack of White Balance and rather then comment of someone's photo, thought to just put it out there a general way.

Picture 2313 Large e-mail view.jpg

Picture 2339 Large e-mail view.jpg

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Gerald, I'm curious to know how you use your grey card.  Are you adjusting the white balance in the camera, or in a post process?  I'd have to look, but I don't thank my Canon has an option to use an actual grey card.  I have to shoot a white one.

Also, do you happen to know what types of bulbs you have in your lights?  (Usually you'll see a number like 2700k or 5600k that indicates the color temperature even on bulbs you buy at the big box stores)  I've not been entirely happy with the color temperature of the ones I am using, but have not made time to experiment.  I like the way your Thor's hammer "pops" on the wood, and if I had to guess I'd say it is because you have higher color temp bulbs than I am playing with.

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Mind you, asking me is like asking the apprentice. The posting over on bladeforum by Mr. Cooper is quite extensive.  Quite generous with his knowledge.

I've got a Rebel and it has white balance options. I did a white balance google search for my camera and found plenty of articles and youtubes. With the Rebel, it's just a matter of photographing the gray card and then selecting that as my White Balance.

I use 5000k lights. I was too frugal to special order photography lights and settled for five 100w “Natural Daylight” brand Sylvania. I'm pretty sure I got them at Lowes.

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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Do you have any photo editing software Gerald? Depending on the software, and the type of files you use, correcting the white balance with photo software could be as simple as moving a slider in  the software.

Edited by Ron Benson

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Thanks for the info Gerald.  I need to look into the grey card, it is possible I am doing it wrong with a white one.

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1 hour ago, Ron Benson said:

Do you have any photo editing software Gerald? Depending on the software, and the type of files you use, correcting the white balance with photo software could be as simple as moving a slider in  the software.

That's what I do with phone pics.  Photoshop Elements.  It only works if your exposure hasn't totally blown the highlights, though.

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I use a Rebel as well, and a 17% grey card.  I do not manually get the white balance on my camera, although I try to choose the appropriate light source, which is like a white balance on the Rebels (I think).  All pictures are then imported into Adobe Lightroom.  It has a function for white balancing based upon sampling a portion of the picture of your choice.  That is what I use the gray card for.  It works really really well.  Additionally, you can make sure that your picture is balanced before you take it.  Inside the view finder there is a meter at the bottom with numbers on each side.  You can fart with your shutter speed, aperture and ISO.  As you do that and push lightly down on the shutter button, a small indicator will appear on that meter, and the more centered it is, the better the exposure will be.  In general.

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Here is a Lightroom White Corrected picture that you posted Gerald, for reference sake.  I did a little spot removal as well.  

 

gerald-2.jpg

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Thanks, between using a piece of drift wood and a sheet of leather, it's hard to keep the little bits off the board.   One of these days, I'll start using the software to improvement my photos, in the meantime, I'll keep working on improving my skills with the camera :-)

So I did a little playing this morning with the white balance.  Here's several photos, all outside in the shade on the north side of the shop.  It's about 50/50 sun and cloud.

1. No gray card and the setting is auto.

2. Gray card,  exposure at zero

3. Gray card, exposure at +2

As you can see, even with the gray card, the camera is having a hard time with all the white.  I have read that what looks white to the eye, isn't white to the camera, so that may be the issue.

Picture 2666 Large e-mail view.jpg

Picture 2675 Large e-mail view.jpg

Picture 2674 Large e-mail view.jpg

Edited by Gerald Boggs
Corecting white to gray

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Yeah, that is classic white balance stuff.  If I understand right, you took those shots using a white card instead of the grey card you have been using?

I'm intrigued by the grey card.  I have a similar camera, and am wondering if I misread the directions years ago about using a white card as opposed to a grey card. (Certainly wouldn't be a first time)  I'm going to get a grey card and try that.

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Nope, the gray card.  I have a white card and should give it a try.  But I've just been following the instructions for setting white balance and all say to use the gray.

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On 2/23/2019 at 5:27 PM, Wes Detrick said:

I use a Rebel as well, and a 17% grey card.  I do not manually get the white balance on my camera, although I try to choose the appropriate light source, which is like a white balance on the Rebels (I think).  All pictures are then imported into Adobe Lightroom.  It has a function for white balancing based upon sampling a portion of the picture of your choice.  That is what I use the gray card for.  It works really really well.  Additionally, you can make sure that your picture is balanced before you take it.  Inside the view finder there is a meter at the bottom with numbers on each side.  You can fart with your shutter speed, aperture and ISO.  As you do that and push lightly down on the shutter button, a small indicator will appear on that meter, and the more centered it is, the better the exposure will be.  In general.

Saw the bit with the photo and missed this.  Not sure I understand this " It has a function for white balancing based upon sampling a portion of the picture of your choice.  That is what I use the gray card for."  Are you taking an photo of the gray card and having the program use it as a white balance?  I had read that some programs will do that, one example I remember was a sporting event with harsh lighting, and the photographer wanted to maintain a fast shutter speed.  So the first photo was his gray card and then he used that to batch set all the events photos.

The Rebel has a custom white balance option in the second menu page.  I still have to set to custom in light source.

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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Tried the white card as custom setting.  First photo is the gray card and the second is white.  Again, daylight, north side in the shade.  Didn't change anything else, as the quality wasn't important.  You can see difference in the photos, I'll have to play and see which I like the most.

 

 

Picture 2677 Large e-mail view.jpg

Picture 2680 Large e-mail view.jpg

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Interesting!  Thanks for posting that.

It looks like the white card was probably a more accurate color reproduction of the knife, but I'm guessing since I can't see the actual knife.

Both are probably under exposed by 1 stop which is what makes the background look dark.  This is where color correction and exposure exposure correction collide.  Your camera's light meter will give you a neutral exposure value based on an average scene.  When there is a lot more light in the scene, like a white background, the meter will tend to lie to you and underexpose the shot.

Very similar issues, but one is about the colors, the other is about the amount of light.  A white background requires correction in both.

 

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