Adjusting white balance can be such a pain, especially when you get it horribly wrong while shooting. When you edit your photos, you’re probably doing what any other photographer is doing: creating a curves adjustment layer and using the presets to select the black and white points. Photoshop normally does a good job of giving you a head start to correcting the white balance. However, not all photos respond well to that approach:
The extreme sampling points of black and white don’t always get you the results you want, since this approach is essentially a linear adjustment, a compromise of sorts, that pretty much throws color accuracy out the window. This clever tutorial by Graphics Geeks, shows you how to fix your white balance by sampling mid-tones. The steps are pretty interesting and don’t even require that you use a 50% gray card as a reference point.
How to Adjust White Balance
- Create a new layer.
- Fill it with 50% gray.
- Set the blending mode for this new layer to Difference.
- Create a threshold adjustment layer.
- Drag the adjustment slider almost all the way to the left.
- You’ll notice that small patches of the image are now filled with black. These are the areas that closely match with 50% gray.
- Select the color sampler tool and sample one the above patches of black. Ensure that the sampled point was directly lit by the main light source.
- Hide the gray and threshold layers.
- Select the curves adjustment layer.
- Use the gray point preset and select the 50% gray sampled point in one of the above steps.
You’ll notice, hopefully, that these steps created a smart curves adjustment to give you a better white balance adjustment—much better than sampling the extreme points you normally do.
So, is this a better technique than sampling the extreme black and white points? On first look—definitely yes. But is it accurate? Not really. There are green shadows and magenta tones. White balance is a subjective thing, so it needs a human touch to fine tune. Plus, no matter how clever the software becomes, it seems nothing can beat the photographer’s eye when it comes to finer adjustments.
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