Getting the white balance right.

Several regular readers have taken me to task regarding the spectral inconsistencies of the LED lights I've been using in the studio for a few months now.  I've been working on getting the colors right.  I think the secret of getting the best color out of every situation is to do a custom white balance.  When I process stuff in Lightroom 3 there's enough control to get the color palette I like without big slider moves.

I'm happy with the image of Meredith, above.  I'm looking at a big file on a calibrated monitor but I'm sure when it hits the web and it's been filtered thru blogger's compression it will be different.  And I guess that's the unknown in this whole "evaluate color on the web" imbroglio.  While we all may be using tightly calibrated monitors it may be that the compression of the initial file and the re-compression of the jpeg file to store on web servers, makes changes that can't really be controlled by the initial creator.

I wish we could sit around and show each other prints.


Bill Beebe said...

Annoyed, eh?

kirk tuck said...

Not so much annoyed as coming to the realization that people filter their observations differently when they are told what how an photograph was created. If they've read that a light source creates sparkles I think they look for sparkles. Also, the realization that everyone's workspace is still different no matter how much we crow and go on about the accuracy of our calibrations.

Gordon said...

FWIW Kirk, this image looks fine. I assume you shot it on a neutral gray background because it looks damned close to neutral on my iMac display. As for her skin tone, well, who's to say? After all, white people aren't really "white," black people aren't really "black" and on and on it goes. I'd settle for "esthetically pleasing" and leave it at that.

Kurt Shoens said...

I have no idea if it would be help, but I wonder if making a custom color profile using a Gretag-MacBeth color chart would be of use for LED lighting.

For flash photography, it's a pretty simple procedure to make a profile once and use it over and over. For LED photography, where you're shooting closer to ambient, you might have to make one each time. If that were the case, the thing would probably consume more time that it saves.

I personally haven't found making custom profiles to be all that useful, but then I don't use LEDs.

With regard to the color neutrality of the background, I'm not too sure it matters. I'd judge that from the Photoshop or Lightroom color readout rather than my lyin' eyes.

Amen to esthetically pleasing skin tones and to heck (can I write that in a comment?) to 100% faithful accuracy.

John Krumm said...

Some of these look balanced, and they all look very high quality, but some give me the overall impression of being under florescent lighting in their even look and slightly cool aspect (or at least "not warm"). My favorite so far is still the high contrast shot you took of your friend.

I'm sure you find this sort of comment exceptionally helpful. : )

Michael Warth said...

I see it on my calibrated monitor and it looks great! I'm with you, in the idea of the custom white balance. For each change in light of course. Using a color checker.

But alas, it all comes down to personal preference. If an image is neutralized, and then warmed up or cooled down then it is ones personal artistic vision. What looks good? What looks bad? Who cares, the end product is what it is and neither case or judgment regarding the "correctness" of the image is as important as what the client "likes" as the final product.

Personally, I think people tend to pixel peep and split hairs over this topic.

Rick Lewis said...

I think her skin tones are right on. The strange thing is I think I see a slight magenta tone around her on the grey background. I am using a calibrated NEC MultiSync LCD 2690WUXi2 so I am thinking your assessment of jpeg compression and re-compression may be right on also. Or, my old age is creeping up on me...LOL

Jim Mckenna said...

"I wish we could sit around and show each other prints."

A wonderful sentiment, Kirk, and I think absolutely true.

I love as much as anyone in this modern era being able to look at and share my work the moment I'm near a computer, but a few years back I discovered that in this digital age, everyone's a photographer but no one is making prints.

I post pictures online, but haven't sold a print online in three or more years. But making fine art 11x14 prints and putting them in peoples' hands and hanging them in public places starts conversations, builds a group of people who might not yet have bought a print but are "following" your work and who will often buy "the one" when the one comes along that really resonates with them. Oh, and mostly, sells fine art prints.

And late at night, when it's time for sleep I'll stay up just a moment or two longer and flip through my print portfolio and be happy with my work. As wonderful as the web and my monitor are, a pale candle images hold there to their physical and proper manifestation.

For me, anyway. As always, mileage may vary.

JackAZ Photography said...

Just one of the reasons I haven't purchased the 27" Apple Cinema display everyone is always trying to talk me into. Yes, it produces gorgeous images but how many of the viewers of my images have calibrated Apple Cinema displays? The majority of my photographic work (both personal and professional) is used solely on the web. I might as well see my images in a similar manner as my viewers (although I do love to view them on the iPad).

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Yeah, Meredith's a beauty, and you lit her very well Kirk - good work as usual, LEDs or not. I'm looking into these again at the moment, mostly for Mitchie who also wants to do videos. But I'll also order two more of these cheap Yongnuo flashes...

Craig Stocks said...

Looking at images online is full of issues, especially if you're on a PC. The first problem is that Windows doesn't actually do color management. It allows you (usually your calibration tool's software) to record which .icc profile should be used as the default profile for each monitor. But (and it's a big but) Windows doesn't actually use the profile itself. It's up to each individual application to decide if it wants to use the default profile.

Naturally, Photoshop and Lightroom are color managed and use the profiles, but many programs do not. For instance, your wallpaper isn't color managed, so an image displayed as wallpaper will look different when it's opened in Photoshop. Lumapix Photofusion has a preference setting to turn color management on or off.

More importantly, Internet Explorer isn't color-management aware. So, no matter how you've profiled your monitor, IE isn't using that profile to display anything you see on the web. Actually, most browsers don't support color management. If you want to test your own setup, go to http://www.color.org/version4html.xalter and read the directions to interpret the sample image.

If you want to see a graphic illustration, I've posted a video on YouTube where I used a very obviously bad profile to show what's happening. Since that profile makes photos look very green, you can instantly see if it's being used or not. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xMsCRQWBzc