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Let's be honest, bad white balance can really ruin your whole day. Worse, it can ruin an entire shoot. If your white balance is off, the color in your image can be irreversibly ruined. Take look at this image. The color is not terrible, but the auto white balance mechanism on my camera failed me here. I was shooting in shade, and it's just not very good shade, and things have ended up a little cool. She doesn't have a skin tone that's as warm and healthy looking as it should be. Now a lot of people hear me grousing about white balance and they say, "Well, that's who cares. I can just correct it in Photoshop." The thing about bad white balance though is that it can be really difficult thing to fix because it can affect different parts of your image in different ways.
Shadow areas might have a different color shift than highlight areas. It's also important to understand that every image has a finite amount of editability. That is, you can only edit so far before you begin to see visible artifacts in your image. So you don't want to use up a lot of the editability of your image with white balance correction, because then you won't be able to perform many other edits without running into visible artifacts. This is one of the great advantages of RAW. This is a RAW file. I am going to open it up now in my RAW editor, which in this case is Photoshop Camera RAW running inside of Photoshop CS5.
There are a lot of reasons to shoot RAW. This isn't RAW course. We are not going to go into them. We are not going to go into RAW editing, but I just wanted to show you white balance, because one of the great things about shooting RAW is that I can change my white balance after the fact. I have got these two white balance controls over here. If I just start dragging temperature to the right, look at there: my image gets warmer. And now I have got a skin tone that's much healthier looking. The great thing about making this correction in here is it's essentially a free edit. I am not using up any of the editability in my image.
I can drag this as far as I want. I will never see posterization. I will never see tone breaks. And performing a dramatic editing here is not going to make me more liable to see posterizing and tone breaks later. So this, again, this a great reason to shoot RAW. I am going to undo that change. I am just going to cancel out of here and reopen the image. Most RAW converters include another way of setting white balance. Sometimes it can be difficult to eyeball what is the correct white balance, but here in Camera RAW, I've got this cool White Balance tool up here. You see it's a little eye dropper.
If I click it on something in the image that is supposed to be gray, and we've got this tree bark back here that has a lot of gray tones in them, and I am looking for kind of a middle gray. If I click in there, boom! It automatically samples that color and does an adjustment. My image got a little warmer there. Let's try a different shade. Now that's not warming it up as much as I like, but it's giving nice ballpark, and from there I can grab my Temperature slider, and go a little warmer. Let's take a look at some other images. I have got here two pictures that I shot in the same place. I am going to open them both up in Camera RAW.
I can see them both here. Again, white balance didn't do great. This is auto white balance inside a kind of shady room. But in this case, in this image, the model happens to be holding this little gray card right here, and it's actually a white balance reference card. You see WhiBal on it. This is a WhiBal card. Whibal.com. This is the best 20 bucks you will spend for something to put in your camera bag. What this gives me is something that I know is supposed to be gray. So now if I get my white balance dropper and click it on here, boom! There is correct white balance.
That's all I have to do. Now how does that help me with-- obviously this is not the image that I want to deliver because she is holding this little card in front of her--how does it help me with this image over here? Well, there are two ways I can go about this-- actually, there are a lot of ways. But I can simply look up the Temperature and Tint values here, and go and enter them here manually. Or in Camera RAW, I can select both images and synchronize them. Now, with them synchronized, when I do my white balance correction here on this image, it's automatically applied to this image over here.
So a single-click, and I have got correct white balance in this image. Again, there are lot of good reasons to be shooting RAW. White balance is pretty killer one though, for those times when your auto white balance mechanism lets you down or maybe you forget to change out of tungsten mode before you go outside, or your camera stuck in fluorescent white balance mode, and you didn't realize it. You get home with RAW images, all of those problems are very, very easily correctable. If you get home with JPEG images, those problems may not be correctable at all, and even if they are, it's going to be very, very tricky edit.
So it's worth your time to look into RAW and learn a little more about it.
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