Good, bad & ugly custom white balance & the tools to fix it

White Balance is a powerful and extremely important part of photography. When all we had was film you would choose your film based on the lighting conditions you intended to work in, or gel the lights to match your film. Now with digital we can push a button, turn a knob and magically the white balance changes.

Digital cameras come with a lot of preset white balance options. Typically the presets are as follows:

  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent
  • Daylight
  • Flash
  • Cloudy
  • Shade

These presets are great in the exact situation that they are intended for but if there is mixed lighting color is thrown off. Yes there is the auto white balance setting (AWB) and although pretty good, it is not perfect. That is where custom white balance comes in handy.

Each camera manufacturer has a different way of making a custom white balance so I won’t go into how to do it but instructions will be in the owners manual and tutorials are online (search google).

Screen shot 2009-10-28 at 10.09.10 AMThe products I recommend for getting amazing results with custom white balance are as follows.

Xrite ColorChecker Passport will not only enable great custom white balance but it also gives you software to perform a custom DNG profile for the job giving you perfect colors from white to black. The ColorChecker is my new favorite option for white balance and it sells for about $100

The ExpoDisc was my favorite before the Xrite ColorChecker Passport because of its simplicity and great results. The only downside I found to the ExpoDisc is there is one for landscapes and one for portraits. Each ExpoDisc runs about $100

My original solution before the other two were available was the Lastolite EzBalance. This is for a photographer with more of a budget since it sells for about $50. The EzBalance is a compact white balance tool that pops up like a reflector.

Screen shot 2009-10-28 at 10.13.22 AMScreen shot 2009-10-28 at 10.10.21 AM

All three are great choices so if you decide to take my advice then there is no bad choice here! Feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions!

Thanks for reading.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Also I can’t decide which one to buy: X-Rite Col­orChecker Pass­port or Expodisc.
    I want to use it for indoor and out­door shots with flash. I don’t want to use color gels.
    Any suggestions?

    1. I use both, depending on the situation and subject I am photographing. For most I will use the ColorChecker Passport and for landscapes I’ll typically use the ExpoDisc.

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