AWB or go it alone?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tony_leinster, Jan 31, 2010.

  1. I was interested recently to see someone recommend always using the "daylight" setting for landscapes rather than AWB in order to get better colour rendition. Out of interest I took two, (near enough), identical shots using each setting. What surprised me was that, looking at the histograms, I got clipped highlights in the sky using AWB but not when using "daylight". The rest of the shots looked similar although the colour was possibly more pleasing in the "daylight" shot. So, what do you all use?
  2. SCL


    Never use AWB. The nuances of my camera are such that I either use a custom measurement or light overcast setting and correct everything in Photoshop.
  3. Camera makers have different ways of handling AWB, so to some extent this will depend on how your particular camera responds. For example, I have found that Canon's AWB is often warmer than Nikon's and (to my eye) can work well on landscapes. However, the problem I usually have is that AWB shot-to-shot with any camera will not be consistent as the camera responds to slight changes in light and scenic content, so that a series of photographs taken together will have variations in color balance. For this reason I prefer to shoot with a fixed light balance like daylight or cloudy. I will also sometimes dial in a warming WB shift to give the effect of transparency film shot through an 81A filter.
    If you are a raw shooter that does some PP work on all your images, none of this really matters, but I suppose I have been conditioned by pre-digital film work to try and nail the final image in-camera, as landscape shooters used to do with Velvia.
  4. dkm


    I use the daylight setting in most cases. It's simple enough to adjust exposure if need be during raw processing, and as you've noted in most cases it leads to a better result. AWB is getting better - but no software solution is perfect.
    If I were shooting jpegs with no intention of post processing my answer would be different, of course. I keep my husband's point and shoot set on AWB. ;)
  5. Tony,
    If it’s the best results you’re after, shoot RAW and adjust the white balance in post-production. The on-camera white balance is essentially irrelevant at that point, but AWB is plenty good enough for preview pictures (so long, of course, as you understand that it just shows you a starting point).
    And adjusting white balance is actually pretty easy. Crank the saturation all the way up (the picture will look ugly) and then fiddle with the white balance sliders. When the picture is as neutral and non-ugly as you can make it, put the saturation back to normal, and your white balance will be perfect.
  6. Anything except AWB. Daylight, cloudy, shadow out side, incandescent, florescent inside, or custom temp. Just, be sure to check what it's on every time you turn the camera on.
  7. If I were shooting jpegs with no intention of post-processing I would definitely not use AWB, but would manually set WB as appropriate for the situation.
  8. I turn that off so much that I wish my camera would remember my last white balance setting when I turn the unit off. AWB is the default. Not a big deal, but it means spending more time looking at the camera menus instead of the topic area. The more I can operate a camera's controls by touch and not fuss with the computer, the better.
    I would like to see more of a design based on setting up the computer and leaving it alone. Then maybe using a function dial: more like using a shutter speed dial on the K1000; less like an ATM machine. Hearing and feeling a click on a dial is more of what I prefer.
    "Revert to last chosen white balance" as a default would be way more convenient.
  9. Well then it's official, Canon and Nikon's AWB sucks, Pentax's is pretty good going by the many threads around the web I've come across on this subject.
    I find AWB on my Pentax K100D shooting Raw pretty much nails it most of the time. I did a test using a WhiBal card to custom set WB, then switched to Daylight and then to AWB. With shots taken with the sun positioned at noon to where it's around 30 degrees off horizon either method gave the same WB rendering.
    It was when shooting in the shade or with the sun closer to horizon where I had to use either custom, AWB or Cloudy because Daylight gave an overly reddish orange cast.
    And it does matter what incamera WB setting you use when shooting Raw because if it weren't all my WB color cast would look the same and as I've indicated this isn't so.
  10. I always shoot on AWB. If i need to fix it i do it in PP, i always shoot RAW anyway.
  11. On some poorly lit shots if incamera presets aren't set according to the scene shooting Raw, I get screwed up color tables shooting the same exact scene with nearly identical exposures.
    Below is such an example. The two scenes were shot on different days at the same time of day. One was exposed 1/30th the other at 1/40th sec. Everything else was the same except the incamera WB preset as indicated. Their ACR histograms were nearly identical except the AWB had no clipping but the Cloudy had the black point clipped sightly.
    The left one was shot using the incamera Cloudy preset and was easiest to edit by eye the way I wanted. The AWB took more work and an extra Split Tone edit to get it to look the same. To show how the color tables get screwed up on low light scenes like this I performed near identical edits clicking in the same spot to get WB. Note how different they came out.
  12. "And it does matter what incamera WB setting you use when shooting Raw because if it weren't all my WB color cast would look the same and as I've indicated this isn't so."
    Yes but with RAW the settings can changed back and forth with no limit and no loss of quality or damage done to the file.
    I shoot RAW and leave the camera on AWB. I shoot a grey card every so often as lighting changes. I can then use lightroom to click on that card to neutralize the color cast. Custom adjust to get warmth or coolness I want/need and then batch process all the photos shot in the same conditions. Takes less than 30 seconds for an entire session worth of photos. And to make it better, I can see on a large color calibrated monitor. I don't know about your camera, but the color balance on the LCD of both of my cameras is way off. I could never dial in correct WB with those things, let alone saturation, contrast and so on.
  13. RAW + AWB here. It's one less thing to worry about when I shoot. I can always change it in post, and almost always tweak it anyhow. Lots of WB options with LR, too, and easier than tweaking my camera in the field. My D700 does an amazing job setting the WB without my interference, especially in mixed lighting.
    Sometimes I can't leave well enough alone, so I just got an X-Rite Passport to go along with the new studio lights, just to see if it get me easier accuracy when I want things 'just so'. :)
  14. Thanks for all the responses! I always shoot RAW (Canon 5D) and so the colour balance, as you all say, is not so much of an issue, what really surprised me, as I said, was the highlight clipping. Nearly all the sky area in the AWB shot showed as clipped and absolutely none in the "daylight" was clipped. Even using RAW this would not be such an easy thing to rectify in post production. The sky areas were as near exactly the same as doesn't matter in both shots, I had just panned a couple of degrees, and the shots were as far apart as it took me to change the setting, ie about ten seconds.
  15. Tony - the histogram is fed by the jpeg file that is created from the RAW (not from the RAW itself). It is, to my mind, feasible that different WB settings will lead to some elements of the JPEG picture being blown out and this will be reflected in the histogram. The RAW file is the same whichever WB setting you use and the camera applies various colour corrections that are in the recipe for that that WB setting. So even though the AWB photo showed clipping in the sky you could go into DPP, leave the WB setting as it is and still recover the detail in the sky because the RAW file still contains the information needed.
  16. Maybe that's the answer Mike! I must try processing both and see if any detail is lost in AWB. Thanks for the input.

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