Super beginner question(s) about white balance

(Noway7454) #1

I’m an all-around beginner to photography and to image processing. Last night I was shooting raw+jpeg indoors and I had white balance set to tungsten. Based on the camera’s user manual I was expecting the WB to apply only to the JPEG, however when I look at the EXIF on the raw image I see that the white balance is tungsten. The camera is an Olympus OM DE M10 mkii. A few questions…

  1. Do cameras typically apply the WB setting to a raw image?

  2. Assuming in my case that the answer to #1 is Yes, can the unbalanced image be recovered in a raw file editor?

  3. Could this be an error in the way the EXIF data is written by the camera?

(Colin Paul Adams) #2

The white balance isn’t APPLIED to the RAW - the setting is RECORDED in the RAW for your information.

(nosle) #3

The raw software may apply your in camera white balance as a default but you are able to can change the settings.

(Noway7454) #4

Thanks, I’ll pay a little more attention to what’s going on when I open the raw file. Using raw therapee fwiw.

(Pat David) #5

As others have said - what has happened is that the camera has recorded what white balance you set when the image was captured. When you open the image in a viewer or raw processor, it will usually apply that white balance for you when viewing it.

It’s only applying the information it had by default. You are quite free to change it to any WB setting you’d like after the fact (in the raw file).

(Mica) #6

You can also cha he the WB of a jpg, but all edits to a jpg are destructive, while edits to raw files are not.


Maybe I had an answer once but I forgot what it was. I am wondering if WB would affect the metering of the camera or something else. It might depend on the maker or model. If so, then the WB setting would matter tangentially.

(Elle Stone) #8

For the two cameras I’ve owned, a Canon 400D and a Sony A7, yes, the white balance does influence the metering. When using an extreme in-camera white balance such as UniWB, you need to take extra measures to figure out how much headroom you actually have above whatever the camera thinks middle gray is, and also above whatever the camera activates “blinkies” to indicate clipped values. Other factors include the picture style. Which brings us right back to the idea that cameras ought to just let us know when clipping happens in the raw file - that would be useful information - everything else is just guessing. Unless of course our so-called professional digital cameras are really only meant to be used for shooting jpegs. My apologies for the rant!


@Elle No, it was the answer that I wanted to summon. I think it would help people like @noway7454 and remind my forgetful self.


And that’s why MagicLantern is worth its weight in gold. :+1:

(Elle Stone) #11

That’s why if I ever get a third camera it will probably be a Canon. Though a major reason why I got the Sony is the live view. My eyesight is just not good enough for composing through a viewfinder, and I’ve been using the Sony A7 live view “as if” it were a view screen on a film range-finder type camera - I leave the live view on all the time when I’m composing a picture, and sometimes (most of the time) I take a very long time to compose a picture.

My understanding is that for DSLR live view, the sensor starts to heat up if live view is activated for very long - this is from the Canon documentation. I think this isn’t a problem for mirrorless camera live view, does anyone know for sure?

It would be nice if Canon could make a mirrorless camera that didn’t make quite as much noise as the Sony does when the button is pushed to take a picture. I thought a mirrorless camera could have a silent shutter, but maybe that isn’t the case.


@Elle I rarely use the live view because it uses up the battery much sooner. The advantage of live view though is the ability to know exactly where the clipping actually occurs (with the help of ML of course).


I too have a question about white balance, sorry if this is a little off topic, but I have noticed that if I export a dng as a jpg and then open the jpg, I get a different setting than that of the dng (e.g. 6490K vs 5500K), even if the two images look exactly the same.

(darix) #14

And darktable is actually using that information for processing? :wink:

(Noway7454) #15

Some good things to think about here, particularly if the WB setting influences metering. I’ll admit that’s beyond my scope of experience at the moment, but something I will need to become more knowledgeable on.

(Noway7454) #16

No worries, as this is pretty relatable and something else to consider…

(Morgan Hardwood) #17

Testing is very simple:

  1. Set the white balance temperature to the lowest your camera supports, expose for a gray wall, shoot.
  2. Set the white balance temperature to the highest your camera supports, expose for the same gray wall in the same light, shoot.
  3. Compare in a raw editor.

(lee) #18

Try turning on the electronic first curtain shutter. That might quiet it down a bit. There are some Sony e-mount bodies with a totally silent shutter. I know the α9 and the α6500 have that option. This slows the continuous shooting rate to three frames/second on the α6500, but I think the the α9 can do totally silent 20 fps. I’m not sure about other Sony models. You might want to check other models. Totally silent on the α6500 is exactly that. I tried it, forgot to reset it, and later ended up puzzled at why the camera wasn’t firing. It was firing, I just couldn’t hear it.

(Elle Stone) #19

Hi @lee - funny you should mention electronic first curtain, as I was just thinking about it the other day. I had experimented with it, and then rejected using it, and then forgot all about it until I saw my camera make a funny jarring movement when the shutter was released, even though the camera was on a tripod and I was using a remote release.

Apparently there are some limitations on using electronic first curtain that should be considered, some of which apply to any mirrorless camera and some of which only apply to some Sony cameras. I put several links for information about the topic at the bottom of this page, Section C, under “Issues with Electronic Shutter and Electronic First Curtain”:

FWIW, I don’t think the jarring motion I saw would have happened if the camera itself was directly attached to the tripod. But in the particular case actually the camera was attached to a wooden frame (that in turn was attached to the tripod). My very talented husband put the frame together to allow attaching an old Tamron zoom lens to the camera without asking the tiny Sony A7 to hold the weight of such a long lens. He’s planning to modify the point of attachment to hopefully eliminate the slight jarring.

It’s nice to know that “totally silent” really is possible, something I’ll look for in my next camera.