How to Adjust the White Balance Manually on Nikon D800
Adjusting white balance manually
Most of the time Auto White Balance will be all you need to get good color in your images, but there will be times when Auto White Balance might fail. Shade and clouds can cause your images to appear too cool when you're using Auto White Balance. Here is a situation where we have mixed lighting. We've got daylight, balanced lights mixed with tungsten light, and it's causing a big color shift. Those are white flowers back there, but as you can see, they are appearing a little bit yellowish or orangish. I'm going to turn on Live View on my camera right now.
This is something you haven't seen yet, and we're going to be devoting an entire chapter to it. But I think this process that I'm about to show you is going to be a little easier to understand if you can see what the camera is seeing. So here you can see that my white flowers here don't actually look white. I'm going to go ahead and take a picture of this, to capture a record of our bad auto white balance, and now I'm going to try to fix it using Manual White Balance. I'm going to turn Live View off because you cannot do this next step with Live View on.
Auto White Balance has gone awry, so I have a few different options. I could go to one of the predefined white balances, such as Daylight or Cloudy or Florescent or something like that, but there is not going to be a predefined white balance for this particular lighting situation that I am in. So instead, I'm going to have the camera manually white balance. So to do that I press the White Balance button just like I always would to change white balance and I use the main command dial to come all the way over here to where it says PRE.
That stands for preset white balance. I'm going to define a preset white balance. I can have up to four of them. I'm currently setting number one. If I wanted to store this in a different location, I would just turn the subcommand dial. So I can keep up to four different custom white balances. Now I'm going to let go with the button and I'm going to press it again and hold it down until the PRE starts flashing. Then I'm going to ask Loren to move in a piece of white foam core. It doesn't have to be foam core, and it doesn't have to be Loren either; he just happens to be here holding a piece of white foam core.
So I need something that's white or a neutral gray; it could just be a piece of paper. I need it to fill most of the frame, and I need it to be in the light. Notice he is not putting it right here in front of the camera; he is putting it out there where the problem light is. Now I've lost my flashing PRE, so I'm going to have to do that again. I'm going to press and hold this and wait for it to start flashing, and now I'm just going to take a picture. Now I'm not actually taking a picture. It's saying Good now. What this is telling me is that it's successfully measured white balance in that scene and it stored it away.
Okay, Loren, take out our white balance card there. And here are our flowers. Now they still look the same to us obviously because we haven't changed the lighting, but I'm going to turn on Live View now, and it should show us an image using our new white balance, and it's way out of focus. That's because it refocused on the card. So I'm just going to refocus the camera here, and look here. Now my flowers actually look white. I'm going to go ahead and take that shot so that we can look at a before-and-after. Here's the shot that I just took with my manual white balance.
Here's the shot that I tool before with Auto White Balance. So as you can see there is a big shift in color. This one is very warm and red, this one is much cooler, and those are a little more accurate white. These may not look perfectly white on your screen. I don't know what your computer monitor looks like, and there's going to be a lot going on between the time that this video is captured, edited, compressed, and so on and so forth. So trust me that the white balance is working here to give me a very accurate white. Now you may think, "Well, you know it looks white, but I like the first image better." And I think maybe I do too.
I like the warmth of this image. That's an aesthetic decision, though. That has nothing to do with accuracy. This is a more accurate image, in terms of the original color of the flowers. My recommendation is to always go for accurate color, because you can always warm and cool things later, or skew the color any way that you want. It's very difficult to correct a bad white balance later, especially if you're shooting JPEG. If you're shooting RAW, it's much easier. But it's--even if you're shooting RAW, it's nicer to go for accurate white balance in-camera to save yourself the trouble of correcting it later.
Now in addition to defining a preset white balance the way that we did here, you can also copy a white balance from a photo that's already on your card. You can see more about how to do that on page 158 of your manual. If you find yourself moving between a couple of different lighting situations, problem lighting situations regularly, then you might define a couple of preset white balances. For example, if I was going to be regularly shooting in this environment over the next few days, I would know that my preset d-1 white balance is correct for this lighting.
If I had a different situation that was causing trouble, I could go here to d-2, manually white balance there, and shoot under that kind of lighting. When I came back to this lighting, all I would have to do to get correct white balance is press my White Balance button, turn my subcommand dial back to d-1, and I would be back to that white balance that we just defined and that's correct for this lighting. So I'm going to keep four of these manual white balances going at once. One of the most important things to understand about what balance is it's not all just about how you drive your camera. To really do a good job of getting good white balance you first have to recognize when something is off in your scene, and that can be tricky because your eye is always doing an equivalent of white balance and correcting color as you go.
So be sure to pay attention as you change lighting. Look for something white in your scene. See if it actually looks white. If you're shooting portraits, see if the flash tones look warm or if they look a little too cool. You've got to learn to start paying attention to the color in your scene so that you can take better use of the white balance, and especially manual white balance, capabilities of your D800.
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