Choosing a white balance approach

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The 5D Mark II offers three basic approaches to setting white balance. This gives you flexibility to use different approaches in different shooting scenarios. Some examples that provide a starting point for using each of the three methods include:

► Using a preset white balance setting. For outdoor shooting, especially in clearly defined lighting conditions — such as bright daylight, an overcast sky, or in fluorescent light — using a preset white balance setting produces accurate color. The exception is shooting in tungsten light and using the Auto White Balance (AWB) option, which I feel produces less-than-ideal color reproduction. Otherwise, the preset white balance settings have very good color, hue accuracy, and acceptable color saturation.

► Setting a specific color temperature. With this option, you set the specific light temperature manually. This is the best approach to use for studio shooting when you know the temperature of your strobes. If you happen to own a color temperature meter, this is a great option to also use in non-studio situations. I try the color temperature white balance settings in any situations where I'm sure of the specific light temperature.

► Setting a custom white balance. Setting a custom white balance produces very accurate color because the white balance is set precisely for the light temperature of the scene. To use this option, you shoot a white or gray card, enter the custom white balance menu system and select that image as your baseline, and the camera then imports the color data and uses it to set the image color. You can use the custom white balance as long as you're shooting in the same light, but if the light changes, you have to repeat the process to set a new custom white balance. For JPEG capture, this technique is accurate and highly recommended.

For RAW capture, there are easier techniques. For my work, I alternate between shooting a gray card and setting a custom white balance or shooting a Calibration Target from PhotoVision that has three sections of black, gray, and white and then color-balancing a batch of images during RAW conversion in Lightroom. Both techniques work in the same general way; they differ only in when you set the white balance. With one, you set the white balance before shooting, and with the other, you set it during RAW image conversion. However, if you're shooting a wedding and showing JPEG images on-site during the event as a slideshow, setting a custom white balance as you go along is a good approach because the color is correct as you shoot.

Onboard the 5D Mark II, Canon includes white balance presets for Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, or a Custom white balance. To preset one of these white balance options, follow these steps:

1. Set the Mode dial to any mode except Full or Creative Auto. In Full and Creative Auto mode, the 5D Mark II automatically uses AWB and you can't change the white balance.

2. Press the Set button and then turn the Quick Control dial until the white balance option you want is highlighted. The white balance settings are shown as icons that represent different types of key lighting conditions. The white balance option you set here remains in effect until you change it.

To set a specific color temperature, follow these steps:

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