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Why is White Balance even an issue?

TomCurious

Bay Area, US
2352 posts

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TomCurious Registered since 03rd Jan 2007
Tue 04-Jan-11 03:11 AM

I'm sure everybody has had issues with white balance at one point or another. And I know the theory behind it, or at least I think I do. When taking an image under incandescent light or during golden hour, the red part of the spectrum is more intense than the blue part. Photographing a face or a white sheet of paper with my D700 under these conditions, the white balance needs to be adjusted so that white really comes out as white (all color channels being equal). Without this adjustment, subjects, faces, paper etc will look too orange. Or when shooting in the shade during mid day they will look too blue.

What I don't understand is why the camera needs to make this adjustment while the eye does not. White subjects don't look blue or orange to us in real life. Or to put it the other way around: If the eye (or the brain really) is so good at compensating for the color of the light, why doesn't it do this when looking at a photograph? Why does it render a real face always in the correct skin color to our mind, but not a photograph of a face? Perhaps the eye adjusts for the ambient light under which the subject is observed. But a photograph with a too orange face still looks orange even when viewed at home under incandescent light, even under same light in which the photograph was taken!

I'm not sure if anybody has the answer or if this is even the right forum for this question. But I'd still be interested to hear your thoughts and comments on it. Thanks!

Tom
Bay Area Nikonian


http://www.tkphoto.me/

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