Balancing Act

Finger off the trigger!

In my early morning pre-caffienated haze I wonder if there is a place for custom white balance any more.  By that I mean the practice of automatically, at the push of a button, aligning the camera’s perception of white to a piece of cardboard.

Forgive me, but again I must draw from the well of the film discipline: Two sets of stock, daylight and tungsten (maybe three if you consider A and B tungsten stocks…), color balance your sources to each other, and MAYBE correct to the color temperature rating of the film; maybe at the lens, maybe at the light source.  Color balance, correct, color balance, correct…

Why “MAYBE”? Because you might want to keep the color casts as part of your creative choice. If I want to capture that Crayola Crayon sunset in all its flaming glory, to what am I going to custom white balance?  Do you have a warm key (tungsten with a bit of 1/4 CTS), played against a cool fill (GamColor Moody Blue perhaps?) and neutral back light; to what light source shall you illuminate your white card for white balancing?

In each case a push of the button could negate any color that caught your eye in the first place.  Soon, you come to realize that the white balance button is the great neutralizer, rendering all your color choices irrelevant.

Instead; directly dial in your Kelvin temperature, or use the camera presets for 3200K or daylight. (daylight Kelvin is still a bit vague, but let’s stick with that film rating of 5500K, why not?).  If you must use that button, you could illuminate that pristine white card with an illuminant at your chosen Kelvin (you must use your color temperature meter to verify that illuminant), then take a white balance off that and plan your day accordingly.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 5.27.59 PM

Did you know that the 5500K daylight standard is referenced to the daylight at high noon in Washington DC?  How quaint.  Also, color temperature is notated in “Kelvin” only; make no mention of degrees.

Do be sure to save something for post, however.  Some sort of color grading should be in the pipeline, yes?  If so, you will find playing to a color temperature preset will give you a more relevant foundation for color work.

Time for second cup.

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