White Balance :: Art or Science or Both ? - Applecorps Photography

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Editing still image files (RAW file format) by utilizing White Balance changes using most editing software is a fairly easy task. Still, while the power of the software and the simplicity of the software tools can be quick and efficient, there remains an artistic side to the event . .  a subjective side in most cases.

What I'm talking about centers on just what one selects to be "true white" or near white.  We mostly think about using customized white balancing in relation to depth but horizontal distance from the cameras sensor also creates variations. And, these variations, ultimately, can be a subjective measure of just what we choose to be "white" and what we choose to have everything else effected in relationship to it.

White Balancing is essentially choosing to define what in the composition should be considered white with the software then applying the "corrections" to that area by adding and/or subtracting the colors necessary to make it so.  The same "corrections" are also applied to everything else in the composition and that is where the subjectivity comes into play.

I use Adobe Lightroom to make White Balance editing corrections and, like other editing software products, a "dropper" tool permits one to pinpoint just where "white" is selected.

The five photos above are, from left to right, the exact same image without any other editing having been performed. On four of the images, a small "WB" in red denotes where I selected "white" to be in the image.

From left to right they are: White Balance applied by the camera's "Auto WB" feature and without any other changes; White Balance selected by choosing the nose of the shark to be "white"; White Balance selected by choosing the lower jaw to be "white"; White Balance selected by choosing the rear of the shark's left side to be "white"; and White Balance selected by choosing the lower edge of the sharks right pec fin to be "white".

It's easy to see how the entire image is affected by simply choosing exactly where "white" is to be defined within the composition.  Is one of the images the correct one?  I don't think that's quite possible since the whole process is an artificial reflection of how much and what kind of light is being represented as having been moving horizontally through the water column.  We don't have this kind of variable out of the water in most cases and so the whole concept can be both confusing and challenging.

In the end, it is a choice. Mine usually ends up being the sharks lower jaw.  The further away from the camera we choose as "white" the more everything between that point and the camera receives an unpleasant extra dose of oranges and/or reds.

Anyhow, that's how I see it.

But, more on that and other related subjects later . .

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