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I found out that I can bracket white balance in camera on my 550D. When is this useful?

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I have often wondered the same thing, as I shoot in RAW and it's so easy to change the white balance in post anyway!! :) –  Mike Jun 15 '12 at 11:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

To reply specifically to “Could you maybe add a concrete example of a situation in which I would want to use it?”:

You may want to use White Balance bracketing if: you don’t shoot raw or very rarely process raw files, either because you prefer the quick process of shooting JPEG files and not messing much or at all with them, or because you don’t want to learn raw processing software (Lightroom, Aperture, Camera Raw, etc.).

As others said, if you do shoot raw you probably have no use for White Balance bracketing.

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It is very useful for shooting JPEG only, as you get to see different WB results and can chose the best one with out adjusting in a photo editor, risking to posterize some of the colours.

The second advantage is useful in when shooting raw and jpeg alike: If you have a scene where one colour risks getting oversaturated (typically red) the WB affects the metering, thus affecting the raw as well. This is particularly dreadful if you have a lot of darknes where you want to see the lesser colours as well. The high red will slamdunk the blues and greens near the noise floor and the WB can change the game in another fashion then exposure bracketing - kinda reducing the dynamic range between the colour channel instead of effecting all exposures equally.

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WB Bracketing is most useful when you need a very fast turnaround time for a large number of images. One example would be in event photography when your client wants to see images from the earlier parts of the event displayed before the event is over. You or an assistant might not be able to convert and edit RAW files in such a narrow time frame. The best solution is to shoot RAW+jpeg and use WB bracketing. If an assistant can assess the results of your early images and communicate to you which worked best you could then set the camera to the specific WB and shoot only RAW+jpeg or even jpeg if no high quality edits are expected at a later time.

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WB bracketing is for when you are not sure of the correct WB.

There are two ways around this problem:

  • Use Custom WB and shoot a WB card. It is very hard to judge what is truly neutral, so buying a card (or other WB accessory) is most recommended. Measure from that card before shooting and each time lighting conditions change.
  • Shoot RAW and fiddle with it later. When you shoot RAW your camera does not use WB except for the preview, so you can set the WB later and you can output as many variations as you want.

Setting WB perfectly for RAW comes to same problem since you need to tell the RAW converter what to do. Ideally this is accomplished by taking a test shot with a WB card in the scene. Then, you sample the WB from the card and apply it to all photos taken under the same conditions.

If you have a perfectly calibrated monitor you can get a good approximation by eye but it depends on the ambient lighting. The rear LCD on the camera is usually much worse and only a handful of cameras let you adjust its color-response.

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Thank you for providing methods to use when I'm not sure of the correct WB, but my question concerns the WB bracketing function found in my camera. I'm looking for a concrete situation in which WB bracketing is more useful than the methods mentioned in your answer. If there's no such situation I'm also glad to accept that as an answer. –  Bart Arondson Jun 15 '12 at 1:25
    
Guess. It was implicit. If you shoot JPEG, you are unsure of the WB and have no WB card, then you can use WB Bracketing to increase your odds of having in image with the correct WB. Some Olympus cameras can output as many a 9 images for a WB bracket when steps on both axis are chosen. –  Itai Jun 15 '12 at 2:09

I'm guessing that this would make sense if you were shooting in JPG. That way you could keep the smaller file size of the compressed format while having the flexibility of RAW. Would rather shoot a single RAW file, though.

Another option would be to exploit possible wider gamut of different color choices, but then, if you're shooting in raw you can do more than most displays can already.

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Smaller file size is not really accomplished as with WB bracketing 3 JPEG's are produced from one shot. This roughly equals the file size of one RAW file. Could you maybe add a concrete example of a situation in which I would want to use it? –  Bart Arondson Jun 15 '12 at 1:22
    
When you need to display the image at the event at which it was taken before you have time to do any RAW conversion and editing. –  Michael Clark Feb 21 '13 at 0:26

protected by MikeW Feb 21 '13 at 18:09

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