White Balance - No Rant - Promise

If you want another I can probably provide one but just a quick note and maybe some much needed context on why this is a topic of perennial rant worthiness from my somewhat nutty point of view. Came up while chatting about "film-like-ness" of Fuji Xpro1 etc. via twitter a few minutes ago. Wanted to put this out there because I may have alluded to it before but not been explicit. Some other day I will ruminate on film-like-ness and various factors I have observed. Here comes white balance part…

Hands down the most biggest most gigantic difference in your/my/our collective perception of color is the white balance chosen when the output is rendered either in camera or after the fact. End of story. Well not the end really I just wanted dramatic emphasis.

When people discus color differences between cameras etc most of those differences are discussed at a night and day kind of level. Those night and day things are various takes on what daylight is and what the auto WB does etc etc. Yes really. Don't believe me test it yourself. The night and day goes away if you really neutralize WB and make sure the gamma/contrast and exposure are really equivalent.

Shot at the top is camera numero uno. Here is camera number two. I used different languages because they are about the farthest things apart in terms of "common wisdom" in terms of color rendition.

Here is my carefully controlled clinical scincey-type test. Two different images on two wildly different days in completely different times of year. I then carefullllly pulled up the two images with a search and used the WB eye dropper tool exactly one time on each of them. Not even multiple tries. Yea - that haphazard. Wanna see um get even closer? Try making sure the exposure is exact in terms of dark gray density. Do a custom profile and then do best of 3 tries w/ eye dropper.

This is why I complain about non-linear WB numbers and locked in relationships where amber-blue and pink-green are somewhat tied together in some cases etc etc etc etc. Honestly once you really really know your camera, your RAW processor, what you actually like visually, and how to tweak you WB you can make anything look like anything quite quickly.

After WB we then go to relative saturation/luminosity on a color to color basis and maybe tied for second place is relative saturation vs overall midtone contrast which plays a huge role in perception of color. Which is why LR4's curves tool sucks hard - more on that another day.

RB

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