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2013.03.02

There is often the misconception from newcomers that if you shoot RAW, then you do not have to deal with White-Balance.  This is simply untrue. WB must be applied in order to render a pleasing image. When shooting JPEG, the camera applies it. When shooting RAW, the conversion software applies it. Just like you must set the correct WB when recording JPEG images, you must also do it when converting RAW files into images.

This happens because RAW files do not have WB applied except for an embedded JPEG used for previewing. Therefore, it is up to you to apply the correct WB when converting those files into images.

Just to be clear, there is no single WB setting that makes all images look natural. Even a software’s automatic white-balance or as-shot white-balance is far more often wrong than the camera’s AWB setting. Each image shot under the same light though usually requires the same WB. Some applications, such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, let you  synchronize settings between images and you can therefore choose the WB once per set and synchronize it.

Ideally, you photograph a special WB target each time you intend to take photos under a different lighting. This image then is used to pick the correct white-point for the whole set. When the correct WB is chosen, the WB target turns white and remaining colors appear neutral.

Should you have forgotten or lack the time to do that. What you need is to do the same with an object that you think should be neutral, a piece of paper in the scene, a white t-shirt, concrete, etc. Use Use anything that you know is neutral in color.

Without any such thing, you have to do things by eye and that requires a well calibrated monitor, otherwise you can make things worse. For example, if your monitor is too yellow when you make things look neutral, they will end up blue. What helps in a scene with no neutral objects is that viewers also lack a reference point, so they will be less prone to notice a color-cast.

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