My goal for 2011 is to blog something useful at least once a week, ideally without demonstrating too many of my idiotic processes that earn me so much hard-won experience to share with others. This week’s tip actually came from prepping a demo for my class, nothing to hide here. But in the
unlikely event that you shoot a whole bunch of RAW files using the wrong white balance setting, this tip will give you a quick way to set things right in Lightroom.
What’s the big deal? Lightroom provides a very nice pull-down menu to set the white balance, right? Except Adobe’s Daylight is not the same as Nikon’s Daylight.
Even more interesting: Nikon’s D700 Daylight is not the same as Nikon’s D2X or D70 Daylight. Adobe has picked an average, one that is wildly different than the on-board values in each of my cameras. Here’s the data in a (temp / tint) format corresponding to the first two sliders in LR (and Photoshop Camera Raw):
|setting||LR||Nikon D700*||Nikon D2X*||Nikon D70*||Canon G9*|
|Tungsten||2850 / 0||2950 / -3||2850 / -6/td>||3000 / +3||4000 / -19|
|Fluorescent||3800 / +21||3950 / +30||4000 / +35||4000 / +34||4300 / -17|
|Daylight||5500 / +10||5000 / -6||4750 / -1||4850 / -4||4800 / -16|
|Flash||5500 / 0||6150 / -6||5400 / -2||5700 / +12||6050 / -7|
|Cloudy||6500 / +10||5700 / -8||5450 / +3||5450 / -3||5400 / -16|
|Shade||7500 / +10||7300 / -2||7000 / +8||6800 / +1||not available, however
Fluorescent H: 5350 / -12
Underwater: 5400 / -13
Whoa cowboy! Using the LR default Daylight setting is going to put me a lot closer to Nikon’s D700 Cloudy than my intended Nikon Daylight setting, at least on the “temp” slider. And truly wonky on the tint slider. Nikon and Adobe are legendary for not sharing their sandbox very well, but in this case, it’s simply that Adobe has established a single setting that is a compromise for every camera, and good for almost none of them. And if you think about it, how could it be anything but an average guestimate of what “Daylight” is for any given camera. In this case, I trust the camera manufacturer’s engineers to set the starting point for white balance for that unit’s particular sensor. The numbers themselves don’t matter; just using the right ones for my machine. Yes, I am going to fine-tune the final images, but not before I rank and keyword the whole set. Updating the files to the camera setting I intended to use in the field is good enough for the first cull, especially if I can get to that setting quickly.
So what’s a
lazy well-prepared-for-any-eventuality shooter to do? Make a LR Develop module preset for each of your camera’s on-board white balance settings. First you need some data. Get out your camera and a piece of paper. Set the image quality to RAW and shoot a scene in each white balance setting (you can skip PRE and AUTO, but if you manually set a particular Kelvin setting, shoot that too—my 4000K setting in the D700 showed up in LR as 3850 / -12!), making note of the white balance setting selected for each image.
Import your test images to Lightroom. Switch to the Develop module and in the basic panel, make note of the “As Shot” pair of white balance numbers for each image. If you have never done this exercise before, it’s worth spending a few moments actually studying how your on-board white balances differ in each setting. FWIW, I have my students make a set of reference files in at least two different lighting conditions. Or you can just delete the files; it’s the data that matters here.
Once you have your table, it’s time to make your camera-specific presets. Go to any image in your library, type in the actual white balance settings from your table into the boxes, then save the settings as a Develop preset. (You can always use the history panel to undo the white balance change.) Remember to uncheck everything but white balance before you save the preset. If you name the presets using a convention similar to mine (Camera name-Kelvin#-tint-white balance name), they will sort alphanumerically as increasingly warmer tones.
I could make my D700 presets downloadable, but then someone who doesn’t read the instructions will try to use them on a Canon X-Y machine and get all upset. If you do make your own, it would be interesting to see what your data set looks like. Leave them in the comments if you care to share. After discussion here at the palace, I am also wondering if the vendors reanalyzed their chips after different manufacturing runs, so if you know and care to share, the approximate month/year of your machine’s date of birth would be interesting too.
*acquisition dates (new and presumably not too long in box at retailer): D700, March 2009; D2X, April 2006; D70, June 2004; G9, October 2007**
**this trend would suggest I am due for a new camera in 2011, but I’m building a ranch instead.