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May 08, 2010


You wrote:
Set the camera to custom white balance, even when I'm shooting Raw. You never know when you may not be able to adjust the balance retroactively

Could you please elaborate on this? It is my understanding that setting the white balance in camera offers no advantages; doing so (I thought) only gives a balance setting that one can always choose in post-processing. That is, the camera can make an adjustment while you shoot, but you could also make that same adjustment--or any other adjustment-- later. What am I missing?

"What am I missing?"

To clarify, I don't always set the camera to custom white balance; I do it mainly when it would be difficult for me to recall later what the lighting looked like at the time or, at minimum, my impression of the lighting. I can still adjust the Raw file to a different interpretation later but the JPEG at least gives me a point of reference.

Another common situation in which it's important to have a color-balanced, in-camera JPEG available is if you don't have access to a computer and need to print or transfer an image for someone else. Some cameras allow you to convert Raw files in-camera, but these are still the exception.

Finally, there's the situation where you've just bought a new digital camera for which Adobe, Apple, et al have yet to provide Raw support. Color-balanced JPEGs may be your only short-term option for output until the necessary 3rd party converters start appearing on the market.

Funny you should say that, about dSLR video. I was out experimenting with mine this afternoon - newly acquired during the week - and it hit home just how much of the quality of the video is down to the supporting paraphernalia, especially tripods and dollies and steadicams etc.

I've done all the above bullet-points and more (especially the exposure-related ones - gosh how I loathe nikon's "matrix"-metering for landscapes), and am now enjoying setting up my 550D such that P-mode does the right thing automatically - a combination of highlight-priority exposure *and* auto-lighting optimization (works like fill-light in ACR). This is good, and works for still photography. I've yet to make my mind up whether auto-everything fails for video.

Gordon, just wanted to comment that I have enjoyed the pictures accompanying your recent posts. The way you use light, color and shapes reminds me of Saul Leiter, and I mean that as a compliment. Thanks.

Your picture also illustrates why you have to get it right the first time, even with digital. In the case of this photo, chimping and then making changes in exposure or whatever is not an option; the picture is gone an instant later.

I use many of these techniques myself. I never set a custom white balance, mainly out of ignorance of that aspect of my camera (something I may eventually learn/practice) and I don't change my metering modes very often (mainly because the metering in the 20D was pretty low-level and I seldom shoot situations where the different modes provide different results).

In general I totally agree with your methods and reasoning. And like John said, if the lighting and shooting modes are pretty constant, manual is a great way to avoid missing the shot. Since you mentioned your preference for manual exposure and shared your version of the sunny-16 rule I've been using manual way more often.

You remain quite the inspiration, Gordon.

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