While AWB can work great at times (i.e., when quickly moving back and forth between indoors and outdoors), in other situations, it can be inconsistent. For example, AWB doesn't know that sunset and sunrise have a warm color cast, and may try to cool things down - ouch, definitely not good!
But here's a single setting that a lot of people use as a default for natural-light scenes: daylight (sunlight) WB. I use it all day long, since a daylight WB "sees" the world in a neutral way, and as a result, accurately depicts the varied tints and tones of most outdoor situations. Sure, once in a while, I'll go off default – say, in the bluish-toned shade on a sunny day when I want to warm up things with a shade or cloudy WB, or at twilight when I might occasionally try a tungsten (incandescent) WB setting to emphasize the blues at day's end. Otherwise, it's daylight from dawn to dusk.
Of course, if you shoot in Raw, you can easily tweak the WB in post-production. But getting it right at the time of shooting "forces" you to pay attention to the colors of light (part of mastering the art of color digital photography), and it’s one less thing to do in the digital darkroom.
Kerry Drager - BetterPhoto instructor and my co-author of the upcoming book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography - works the same way I do. Check out the photos above from his recent shoot along California's Central Coast - a stairway shadow scene in the warm tones of evening and an ocean view during the cool blue of dawn. Both were captured in Raw with a daylight/sunlight WB setting that, he says, correctly reproduced the colors just as he them.
Here are the WB thoughts of two other BetterPhoto instructors:
Best White Balance Method by Jim Zuckerman
- Auto White Balance: Why It's Rarely a Good Choice by Rob Sheppard
JPEG Tip: If you shoot JPEGs, be sure to check the image on the back of your camera. You may wish to change the setting if you don't like the overall color tone. Or, in some cases, you might want to shoot two or three versions - each with a different WB - in order to compare them later.
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