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Tips & Tricks

Photoshop Tutorial | Secret Tip For Nailing White Balance With Ease

By Kishore Sawh on August 9th 2015

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Getting correct white balance has to be the absolute bane of my digital photography life. I just find it irritating that cameras don’t get this right every time, and yes, I’m aware of what a prat I’m being. At the times, I’m not using a grey card, clearly for more casual shooting, I still try to fiddle with the white balance settings to get a result as accurate as possible, even when shooting RAW. That is why I love cameras like the Nikon D750 and Sony RX1R for their ability to pretty much hit accurate WB no matter the surrounding you throw at it.

However, aside from using a grey card or something like an Expo Disc, I find getting the most correct WB is something I have to achieve in post. Whatever photo post processing program you’re using will almost certainly have a way for you to ‘fix’ white balance, and using the eye dropper WB tool in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw can be quite effective. Using them is generally a step in the right direction, but not typically a big enough step.

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So what to do? The team over at Graphics Geeks have put together a short video breaking down a rather brilliant and unique way of getting just the right white balance using Photoshop. This is done using a grey point within the mid-tones, as it is in this range where you’ll find more color accuracy, which is, essentially, why we would generally use a 50% grey card. But, if you don’t have one, here’s how to find that point:

  • Create a new layer which you’ll fill with grey by selecting Edit>Fill>50% Grey. You’ll at this point change your blending mode to ensure it is set to ‘Difference.’photoshop-tutorial-raw-white-balance-AWB-Lightroom-photography-slrlounge-2
  • Create a new Threshold adjustment layer and make sure it is at the top of the stack. At this point, you’ll drag the slider almost entirely to the left whereby you’ll find only a few areas will be highlighted in black. It is these areas within your image that are closest to an actual 50% grey.photoshop-tutorial-raw-white-balance-AWB-Lightroom-photography-slrlounge-4
  • With the Color Sampler tool selected, you will now click the center of one of those areas which will save as a sample point. They suggest choosing one directly lit by your light source.
  • Hide the Grey and Threshold layers and select the curves adjustment layer. Once selected, you’ll select the grey point pipette and use it on the sample point you just saved in the previous step.

That’s pretty much it. All you should do at this point is remove the color sampler point by selecting the Color Sampler tool and clicking ‘Clear’ at the top bar.

[REWIND: Why You Need A Tablet & How It’ll Transform Your Lightroom Workflow]

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Those of a pedantic persuasion, will no doubt argue that, while interesting, there are ‘easier’ and more accurate ways to ensure a proper white balance; that using a 50% gray card, or an Expo Disc will give a bullseye every time. Or that using a dropper tool within Lightroom is just a much easier route to take. They would be right to a degree if you squint, but if you open your eyes, you’ll realize that this is going to be most useful when you haven’t had your gray card in a test shot because you either forgot it or were shooting spur of the moment.

And regarding Lightroom, I can tell you that finding a grey point within Lightroom isn’t always easy, nigh possible. Through my own tests I’ve found this to be a very effective way to save an image from a terrible WB, and generally more accurate than in LR. If it seems like a lot of steps, I wouldn’t be put off, as in practice, it actually takes little to no time at all. Frankly, I just made a Photoshop Action to do the first steps with a single click.

You can find more from the Graphics Geeks here on their YouTube site.

Source: Graphics Geeks, Images are screen captures from featured video

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Lyons

    personally I kinda like using curves in LAB mode, it’s a more visual way and very easy… I’m sure a simple google search will come up with it

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  2. Danny Rivera

    Thanks for the reply Kishore. I’m stuggling here! I’m starting to think that the D810 is too much of a camera for me.

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  3. Dustin Baugh

    I used to use this technique for white balance but it still seemed a bit off. I always have to do some correction by eye. Now I just always do it by eye. As my vision goes I figure my photos will document how the colors of my vision are fading.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      It does leave some room there that requires good ol’ eye gauging. But it gives you a much better starting point to tweak I find. And again, it’s not what would I would use but for those instances where an image needed rescuing. Cheers Dustin

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  4. Dave Lyons

    This is a good technique but what irks me is when people like this guy take credit for something they didn’t come up with.

    The actual credit goes to Dave Cross and has been in the kelby books for 6-8 years now. (as far as I know he was the one who came up with it)

    Not trying to be a jerk but give credit where it’s due when it’s not yours.

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    • Fahad Jafarullah

      Dave Lyons, you are absolutely right. I came here to just say that. I began learning Photoshop using books by Dave Cross and his video tutorials from The Photoshop Guys. Dave Cross is amazing and really great at coming up with methods that one wouldn’t think of.

      If I am not wrong, Dave Cross did this way back in the days so not sure how this is getting attention now.

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  5. Matt Crich

    I had always thought a grey card (18%) was for determining correct exposure. I was unaware of a 50% grey card to achieve optimal white balance.

    Thanks for the tip.

    Matt C

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  6. Danny Rivera

    A little off topic but your experience do you know if the D750 nails White Balance better than the D810?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Danny, hi there. That’s actually a very good question. I haven’t seen very much time with the D810, as I have with the 750. My personal experience with the D800 was that the WB wasn’t brilliant, where as the D750 was. That said, I’ve just asked a colleague of mine who says it was a marked improvement from the 800. Sorry no definitive answer there. Honestly, I feel like the D810 is a great shooter, but, well, check out my review of the D750 to see should you be so inclined. Cheers
      https://www.slrlounge.com/d750-review-achilles-heel-nikon/

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  7. Lauchlan Toal

    Nifty technique, thanks for sharing Graphic Geeks’ video. Always handy to have a few WB options in the toolbelt!

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Lauchlan, good to hear from you kid. I’m with you there, and this one, really, is impressing me the more I use it this evening. be well.

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