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I've always wondered why custom setting the white balance in Canon dslr's (focus on white surface, take picture, goto menu, goto define custom white balance, choose picture, validate) is so much more annoying then custom WB on, say, entry-level professional video cameras (focus on white surface, push "custom WB" button) ?

After scouring the web for other techniques or ways that I could have overlooked, seems there's no easier way to set custom WB on Canon.

For Nikon users it seems simpler, yet not quite as simple as in video cameras: you have to be in some 'PRE' mode and just shoot a white surface.

Or am I missing something and custom WB is just a not so much used feature for photographers, and I'm just spoiled by my experience with video cameras ?

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2  
Good question. Along with being cumbersome, you often have to do it a few times (on my D90) to get it right, to the point I just shoot a grey card and batch adjust white balance in PP. –  MikeW Feb 9 '12 at 9:42
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I second to @MikeW. Shooting a grey card and adjusting the WB later in batch is the easiest solution if you're too picky about natural looking colors and perfect exposure. –  fahad.hasan Feb 9 '12 at 9:51
    
Besides, and maybe I'm not doing it right, but I've followed the procedure, got my custom WB and had to adjust it anyway! –  MikeW Feb 9 '12 at 10:02
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@MikeW: Your raw processor has a different idea of white balance correction anyway in comparison with your camera. I really do not see any point in trying to get it "right" in camera. It is so much easier to simply shoot a grey card, and use it to set WB in post. –  Jukka Suomela Feb 9 '12 at 19:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I was also wondering why the setting is created this way, then a senior photographer explained to me that it has several reasons:

  • this way, the calibrating image is saved on your memory card and you can capture more of them, one for each scene and then eventually swith between them (however, I find this quite uncomfortable as I would need to browse the card a lot and I often use more then one card, so the calibrating image might not be saved on my actual card at all)
  • the main reason I suppose is that it keeps it saved for post-production. If you accidentally change your WB settings (and that can happen very easily, because Canon camera remembers WB settings for each capture mode individually), the whole rest of the picture set can go wrong and you need to repair WB settings in post-production. In that case, you can load the calibrating image and correct pictures with its help in a much easier way. Otherwise you would need to guess the WB and the result would depend on your screen setting, PC-room light conditions etc.

BTW, I can recommend using a WB calibration cap - it is very small (it has the same size as a filter), it is made from a white translucent plastic and works like a charm. Much more comfortable to carry around than a white balance card, toilet paper or whatever. You just need to take a picture with this cap on your lens using manual focus and the result image can be used as the WB calibrating image.

Jakub

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True, it really helps to keep the reference WB image. Although from an interface perspective, the operation needed to select the WB reference image could be better: I hoped for some other faster way, but except for the "my menu"-thingy there doesn't seem to be one :( –  Berzemus Feb 10 '12 at 10:34
    
Yes, some Nikon cameras offer certain number of slots to store custom WB settings, Canon could possibly inspire there :) –  Jakub Feb 10 '12 at 15:58

I just take a whitebalance reference shot, and apply in post. It seems so much easier to do that, and only one step (and having to remember to take the reference card shot)

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After watching Zach and Jody Gray on Creativelive.com, I bought the expodisc. I used it to help set a custom white balance for a wedding and reception that was held in an airport terminal; you can imagine all of the different kinds of lights in there. Pictures came out great right out of the camera except when I forgot to change the WB when I switched to flash for one series. Those I had to correct again. I used it by standing where the subject would be and aiming it toward the light source. I've also seen people use white coffee filters and white toilet paper, but the expodisc is calibrated.

The D300 gives five banks in which to load custom WBs.

I also learned that on Nikon the exposure is increased by 1 stop when PRE is flashing.

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