Don't use auto white balance

Time saving tips for photographers – Don’t use Auto White Balance

Time saving tips for photographers – Don’t use Auto White Balance

At times the Auto White Balance function can be great. However, if you work either as a professional photographer or a semi professional photographer then I would advise you avoid it sometimes. In particular, if you are shooting a long series of images in the same place with basically the same lighting then don’t use auto white balance. Why? Because although your camera will make a pretty good guess at the right white balance, there is a good chance that it will come up with something slightly different each time. If you want all your photos to look cohesive and you want all your colours to be true to life then the last thing you want is for each image to have a slightly different WB, even if it is only a tiny difference.

Don't use auto white balance - camera white balance on screen

Batch editing is the way to go if you want to speed up your workflow. This means using presets and/or synchronising settings across a series of images. Wouldn’t it be great if you could correct the WB (White Balance) in just one image and then fix all the rest automatically? If you synchronise settings over a bunch of images then this is very easy. In Lightroom you can correct your WB and then select all the other images you want corrected and synchronise the settings. Job done. However, this is only completely accurate if they are all going to need adjusting by the same amount. If some are warmer, others cooler, then this approach won’t give you a uniform look. So, what should you do to ensure you can make the most of this quick fix?

Don't use auto white balance

Don’t use Auto White Balance! Simply set your WB to one static value whilst you are taking images in the same location under the same conditions. As long as you are shooting RAW files then you can easily adjust WB later. If you choose one setting for everything, even if it is the wrong setting, you can then adjust all the images by getting one right in Lightroom and copying the setting to the other photos. So, for example, set your WB to flash and shoot the whole set with that. This way you don’t need to make adjustments for each photo individually later on but can correct them as a batch. Any warming or cooling needed will be the same across the images (assuming you haven’t moved to a new location where the lighting is vastly different).

Who is this useful for? This tip is handy for anyone who wants to speed up their photo editing. It is particularly useful for product photographers, event photographers and those shooting for various commercial purposes. Time saving tips such as these can help you to fit in more work and make more money through your photography business. If true to life colours matter to you or your client then you can combine this method with using a grey card. Take a test shot in the lighting conditions that you will be shooting in with the grey card featured in the frame. Then, you can correct the WB even faster by using the dropper sampler tool in Lightroom to click on the grey card. This will give you a base WB to which you can then synchronise all the other images. If you change locations/lighting then don’t forget to do another quick reference shot with your grey card for the next set of pictures.

Don't use auto white balance - Lightroom white balance editing

In some situations, Auto White Balance can be a real help. So, don’t think you have to give up on it completely. Also, if you know that people will be sneaking a peak at your images during a shoot, using a warmer WB for people/portrait photography can help make them look a little healthier in the preview. A useful tip can be to shoot with a Cloudy WB for portraits to give a warm skin colour. Yes, your camera can deal with WB automatically. It can deal with all the settings automatically. But if you want to have more control and make your workflow better for you then I’d suggest that you don’t use auto white balance and in general that you try moving away from automatic settings.

© Joe Lenton, May 2017

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