WB is obviously important for JPGs and I'm not referring to JPGs here.

I do know this question is related to two others. Sorry, I'm a newbie here and I don't know how to refer to them, but @Craig Walker posted an interesting question similar to this and I don't feel it has been adequately answered.

RAW formats do carry information about the WB setting used but, since most of our programs are far more accurate than the camera, why do we / should we worry about getting the WB 100% right on camera? I'm not saying "just shoot". I'm saying "don't spend studio time trying to match Kelvins when light conditions are changing and the camera might be off".

In a recent session my D7000 insisted on weird setting even when I used a decent gray card to get my WB. LR said 2800K was about right but I decided the model looked better either in 3200K or 3400K.

At times I believe we keep a "film mentality" (I did shoot a lot of film) whereas we should forget most of what we have learned, deal with cameras as an input device for our computers, learn and enhance current digital workflows and reinstate our assumptions.

I don't see any technical problems with what I'm saying, but the more I learn, the less I know for sure. I'd appreciate to hear other's opinions on this matter.

  • 2
    Just a quick note: grey cards are exposure tools, not WB tools. There are a few grey cards/tri-cards that are spectrally neutral, but they're in the minority (and will have expiration dates/times). And you'll need to overexpose the grey card (at least a stop) to get a reliable white balance in any case (and fill the frame with it, in Nikon's case). But yes, the reason for a colour balance target is to reduce time in post.
    – user2719
    Mar 6, 2014 at 11:10
  • @StanRogers, thanks for the info!, I actually thought we could get a decent WB reading from a tri-card in a studio situation. I admit I'm a bit of a newbie, not in photo but in tri-cards + studio lights, so if you could point me to an article or some other info, I'd appreciate. In any event, I'll try filling the frame next time, bracketing that until I learn from results and see how it goes. Tks! Mar 7, 2014 at 2:55
  • To refer to the earlier questions, just include their URLs in your question. Nothing more to it than that!
    – mattdm
    Mar 7, 2014 at 3:23

6 Answers 6


As far as i know, many Photographers just shoot in Auto WB in such a case. But if you can get the WB correct at the time of shooting you can skip this step in post or you only have to do minor ajustments instead of figuring it out completely.

  • 2
    I agree. It is mostly laziness, because it saves post-processing time. Additionally, it makes sense to measure WB when lightning conditions are weird or abnormal and Auto just doesn't cut it, but you care about preserving the exact colors you are seeing. (Example: summer landscape right before or after a decent storm with purpleish hue in the sky) Mar 6, 2014 at 10:06
  • 1
    @JakubKaleta - not laziness, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. You make the big bucks with your camera in your hands (assuming you're at least a part-time pro); at the computer, you're a relative wage slave if you can charge at all. The more time you can divert away from post and into sessions, the better off you are.
    – user2719
    Mar 6, 2014 at 11:13
  • I like to leave WB on auto in camera when shooting and adjust afterwards. If you've done a shoot in a studio environment then often correcting the WB for one image in post can often then be synced across the rest in one go as the lighting conditions are likely to be consistent. I shoot in Raw and manual mode, and I like to focus on exposure,aperture and composition Mar 6, 2014 at 12:36
  • @JakubKaleta, I agree, but I have an acute memory for colour and I find myself changing whatever setting the camera / computer (or both) figured out because that's not how I remember the colour or, not to diverge into "what's memory, perception and acuity" here, recently Nikon's green shades were not what I wanted at all in a complex golden hour light of a bamboo groove. It did help not to start with "purple", whatever, but the shot was more important than getting an impossible WB on location. Mar 7, 2014 at 2:46
  • 1
    @StanRogers, I do understand, but I make the bucks (oh, well, still not big!, hope I'll get to that!) creating visions while at the computer. When shooting positive film, yes, we all had to nail it. These days, with lomo, blueish, tainted, HDR etc I really can't think there's "a camera" and "a computer". It's just one thing for me, and I'm learning to compose and shot for the processes I might want to apply afterwards. Then again, although I don't like HDR, I like abstract shots and digital manipulations. Mar 7, 2014 at 2:49

White balance does affect exposure, even in RAW!

Sorry about the boldness but its a common misconception that WB has no impact on anything if you shoot in RAW and I'm trying to get your attention :) It really has the most impact when your WB is dramatically off but it will have a small impact if you're off by a little too.

Try this experiment:

Set your camera's WB to 'shade' or a really high temp (8000+) and take a photo indoors such that you get a really really warm photograph. Now go open that photo up in your favorite photo editor and correct the WB to the right setting you'll find that your photograph is noticeably underexposed. You can also take the WB slider and just drag it to the opposite end of where the WB was set for the photo and watch the histogram and the photo show under/over exposure.

The problem here is in order to get a correct exposure w/a severely incorrect WB some colors (ie: light) is being under/over-represented and when you apply a correction in post that misrepresentation is expressed as incorrect exposure.

  • hmm I'd never heard this before...time for a trial.
    – rfusca
    Mar 7, 2014 at 2:29
  • From my experience this is correct, BUT I would assume that in most cases (and especially for amateurs like me, not professionals) that going with Auto will allow to get something close enough and not a crazy high/low WB value that will lead to exposure issues mentioned. After several 100k shots on DSLRs, I'm confident with going for Auto.
    – Max
    Mar 7, 2014 at 4:41
  • I'm skeptical about the degree to which this is a real-world issue. As mentioned in my answer, I did an experiment using a strongly contrived example, and the effect was real but only ¹⁄₃ of a stop — nothing to be concerned about and unlikely to show in real use, especially when shooting in raw where pushing up the exposure by a third of a stop is almost always harmless to image quality.
    – mattdm
    Mar 7, 2014 at 16:32
  • Oh, I agree w/you there @mattdm, its mostly fine the vast majority of the time (I shoot AWB), I was just surprised to learn that it can still matter and I don't think many known about it. I've also heard (and can't find the page now) that Canon bodies apply an extra green filter if you use the Fluorescent setting that you don't get in AWB or if you use custom temp. So if you shot the same scene with Fluorescent and custom set to the same thing you'd actually get a different result :)
    – Shizam
    Mar 7, 2014 at 18:43

The white balance settings you choose have no impact on the actual data captured by the sensor. Grey cards exist to have a known target in the image, but are mostly useful in post. I don't think I have once taken my DSLR out of auto white balance. There is no point when shooting RAW. It could potentially save a little bit of time in post processing if it was exactly correct, but honestly, it's faster to get right and then bulk apply to images in Lightroom than it is in-camera.


Many medium to high-end cameras have integrated white-balance sensors. This provides information which isn't available to RAW processors later other than through the output as the camera's auto WB metadata.

In my experience, this is much more accurate than the auto WB in Lightroom (or other RAW converters I've used, for that matter). So that is worth caring about.

If you are setting white balance manually, whether through a preset, a gray card, or by eye, there is no strong advantage — I think the "laziness" answer applies well enough.

Note that the white balance selected in camera can have a slight effect on meter reading, but even in an extreme case this is probably only a fraction of a stop. See If shooting RAW, is the white balance selected in camera irrelevant for exposure? for details.

  • I'm at the Nikon D7000 level although I've owned other cameras - I like the NEX sensor, I just don't like the NEX, for example, and I have a Sigma Dp2 Foveon. So … "accuracy" might be important for product shots, art books, architecture books… There's more than that, however. Yes, if the Auto WB or any other reasonable setting works, great, I will use it, but sometimes it's "not anything" and setting Kelvin manually in a D7000 is frustrating. The NEX's were, for me, better suited for that. I'm exploring this issue, trying to figure out new ways. Tks! Mar 7, 2014 at 3:03

WB is effectively used for "developped" picture (as jpg, tiff, ...) where RAW is nearly "out of sensor" information. It could still have an impact on thumbnail (or if you shoot in dual picture (RAW+JPEG)). The post processing is better if you can use it (and own one). The biggest interest is that you, as you mention, adapt to your perception at post processing.

Now, because we don't have aces to firmware of camera, we cannot be sur that there is no modification of settings linked to WB. Imagine you specify very high or low WB, are you sure that the intensity of each cell behind the bayer grid have the same relative importance when transcript in data information to determine the original color (dus before RAW receive the info).


Maybe it's an unnecessary ritual. Maybe it's a result of learning first on digital. Maybe it's because I sometimes want to send a photo straight from my smartphone, or let friends and family view it on the camera without having to wait a couple days, and I want to keep my skills sharp enough to be able to do so and have it look okay. Maybe I'm not as skilled as others at imagining color corrections.

So I like to see at least one good image in-camera on the preview screen whenever I change to new lighting. It gives me confidence that my settings are in a reasonable ballpark, and tells me if my mental picture is matching what I'm actually capturing.

In other words, the end product isn't the only part of the process to consider.

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