Thursday, October 20, 2011

Custom White Balance and A Coffee Lid

There are two things I can't live without on a day-to-day basis: my cappuccino and my iPhone. Now, when I go out shooting, more often than not, I always forget my white balance card so I just rely on what my camera has built-in and just try to change the white balance setting in post using Lightroom.


However, I have found a technique that provides a temporary solution to my white balance forgetfulness: use the lid of the coffee cup as a white balance reference.


So, what I do is put the lid in front of the lens, set my lens to manual focus, then shoot a reference shot. I make sure that the exposure setting of the shots with and without the lid are the same: so, if I want to overexpose my shot by one stop for example, I adjust my setting with the lid in front of my lens to have an exposure value of one stop overexposed also.


I then set the white balance in my camera to Custom then proceed with the shot.


Canon 5D Mark II - Original shot

Canon 5D Mark II - Xrite Corrected 

Canon 5D Mark II - with coffee lid
in front of lens

Canon 5D Mark II - WB corrected with
coffee lid



I tested this technique on both my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon Powershot SX230 HS and, so far, my shots have been successful. I also shot my subject using the ColorChecker Passport as reference.


Note, however, compared to the ColorChecker, the shots made with the coffee lid turn out a little on the cool side.




Canon Powershot SX230 HS -
Original shot


Canon Powershot SX230 HS -
Xrite Corrected

Canon Powershot SX230 HS -
with coffee lid in front of lens

Canon Powershot SX230 HS -
WB corrected with coffee lid


Now, I just have to remember two things photographically: remember to shoot another reference shot when the lighting situation changes and remember to use a clean coffee lid else my lens will have some milk froth on it. Oh, and don't mind the crazy looks you might get when you put a coffee lid "filter" in front of your lens.

[N.B.: The mug was lighted with a warm, tungsten-like colored fluorescent bulb. Further, you can tell that the white balance correction for the newer point-and-shoot is better despite both being set to Auto. Really what a difference in processing prowess several years can bring. The advantage of the 5D Mark II, though, is that it can shoot in RAW.]




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Gadgets used in the shots:


The first four shots were made with the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens. Want the best DSLR backpack? Check out the reviews of my favorite, the Lowepro Versapack 200AW, here and here.


The next four shots were made with a Canon Powershot SX230 HS. Check out my review of this camera here and a very good case for it here.


White balance for some of the shots were checked using the Xrite ColorChecker Passport.

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