Set a custom white balance

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Mixed-light scenes, such as tungsten and daylight, can wreak havoc on getting accurate or visually pleasing image color. Two options work well to get neutral color quickly in mixed lighting scenes. If you're shooting RAW capture, one option is to shoot a gray or white card as described in the earlier sidebar. The second option is to set a custom white balance. Setting a custom white balance balances colors for the specific light or combination of light types in the scene. A custom white balance is relatively easy to set, and it's an excellent way to ensure accurate color.

3.10 This image was captured using the Automatic White Balance setting. The scene was lit by fluorescent lights and daylight coming in from windows to the left of the scene. Exposure: ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/200 second.

Tip Because I shoot RAW capture, I alternate between setting a custom white balance and shooting a white card so that I can color balance groups of images during RAW conversion. Both techniques work in the same general way, but they differ on when you set the white balance. With a custom white balance, you set it as you're shooting; with the gray- or white-card technique, you set it during RAW image conversion. Both techniques involve roughly the same amount of time and effort.

3.11 This image was captured using a custom white balance, and it shows a noticeable improvement in the accuracy of colors throughout the different elements in the image. Setting a custom white balance takes a bit more time, but the results are worth the extra effort. Exposure: ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/200 second.

Another advantage to custom white balance is that it works whether you're shooting JPEG or RAW capture in a Creative Zone mode. Just remember that if light changes, you need to set a new custom white balance to get accurate color.

To set a custom white balance, follow these steps:

1. Set the camera to a Creative Zone mode (P, Av, Tv, M, or A-DEP), and ensure that the Picture Style is not set to Monochrome. To check the Picture Style, press the Picture Style button (the down cross key) on the back of the camera. The Picture Style screen is displayed. To change from Monochrome, which is denoted on the Picture Style screen with an "M," press the up or down cross key to select another style, and then press the Set button.

2. In the light that is used for the subject, position a piece of unlined white paper so that it fills the center of the viewfinder (the Spot metering circle), and take a picture. If the camera cannot focus, switch the lens to MF (manual focus) and focus on the paper. Also ensure that the exposure is neither underexposed nor overexposed such as by having Exposure Compensation set. For this picture, you can have the camera set to any of the preset white balance settings.

3. Press the Menu button, and then press the left cross key to select the Shooting 2 (red) menu.

4. Press the up or down cross key to highlight Custom WB, and then press the Set button. The camera displays the last image captured (the white piece of paper) with a Custom White Balance icon in the upper left of the display. If the image of the white paper is not displayed, press the left cross key until it is.

5. Press the Set button again. The

XSi/450D displays a confirmation screen asking if you want to use the white balance data from this image for the custom white balance.

6. Press the right cross key to highlight OK, and then press the Set button. A second confirmation screen appears.

7. Press the Set button one last time. The camera imports the white balance data from the selected image and the Shooting 2 menu appears. Lightly press the Shutter button to dismiss the menu.

8. Press the WB button on the back of the camera, and then press the right cross key to select Custom White Balance.

The Custom White Balance setting is denoted by text and an icon with two triangles on their sides with a black square between them.

9. Press the Set button. You can begin shooting now and get custom color in the images as long as the light doesn't change. The custom white balance remains in effect until you change it by setting another white balance.

When you finish shooting in the light for which you set the custom white balance and move to a different area or subject, remember to reset the white balance option.

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