Do I need to set the white balance when shooting RAW?

You do not need to set the white balance when shooting RAW. With RAW files, white balance does not carry much importance, because you can always change it without disrupting the image quality. White balance does not affect the RAW data, but it might change the way your image appears on the camera LCD.

White balance in photography seems like a complex subject, but in reality, is very simple to understand. What is white balance, what is its importance, are RAW photos affected by white balance, camera settings that affect RAW photos and when and where to use it, are all covered in this article.

Are RAW photos affected by white balance?

No, RAW photos are not affected by white balance. The pictures taken in RAW can be corrected after taking the picture through photoshop or lightroom. When shooting RAW pictures, white balance is one of the few adjustments, but it does not change the quality or sharpness of the image.

RAW photos are taken with the intention of editing later. Especially the shots in which you are trying to capture a lot of detail or colour, where you want to tweak light or shadow. That is why the white balance does not affect the RAW photos.

Should you use auto white balance?

Yes, you should use the auto white balance. Many photographers choose to use this feature. In auto white balance, the camera adjusts the white balance settings to the best white balance and colour temperature according to your scene. The auto white balance setting in digital cameras is around 3200-6500K. The auto white balance setting is very accurate at selecting the best colour temperature between a warm indoor scene and daylight.

White balance is an important asset in photography. It carries significant importance while taking photographs in different scenarios. A poorly chosen white balance can affect your photos and a shoot could turn into a complete waste of time. So if you do not want to set your white balance on auto, you can manually set it.

Camera settings that affect RAW photos

Lens Settings

Every lens setting on your lens, such as vibration reduction, focus length, focus distance and aperture, will affect your RAW photos.

Focus Settings

The in-camera auto-focus settings also affect RAW photos as they keep changing where and how your camera focuses. It won’t affect the RAW photos if you have set the focus settings manually.

Aperture and shutter speed settings

The settings that you choose for aperture and shutter speed will affect the RAW photos.

ISO settings

If you use a high ISO setting that would brighten your photo, it will affect your RAW photos as it will blow out the highlights.

Long exposure noise reduction settings

The long exposure noise reduction setting in your camera is for reducing the noise and bright pixels in your image which is the result of choosing a long shutter speed. With this setting, your camera will take 2 photos every time your shutter speed is longer than one second.

The first photo will record the scene in front of you, but the second photo will be taken with the shutter closed, resulting in a black photo with just noise. Your camera will then subtract the noise from your image using that black photo. That’s why this setting affects your RAW files.

Image area

Image area is another name for the in-camera crop of your images. If your camera has a built-in crop mode, then the RAW data in your camera will be affected.

What is the importance of white balance?

  • White balance is important because without it the colours in your photos will take on warm or cool tones that you may not want in your photographs.
  • The right white balance will eliminate unwanted colour casts that could ruin your picture and make it appear unnatural.
  • Taking pictures in white balance improves consistency in the photos.
  • It balances the contrast in the image and refines resolution.
  • White balance is a creative tool – you can use it to create different effects in your image.

Conclusion

Understanding the importance of white balance and where and how to use it is the key to producing good and natural images. It is also important to note that the white balance does not affect your RAW photos at all, but other settings can affect them. You can choose to take your photos in auto white balance, or you can choose to set your white balance manually. It all depends on the requirement of the scene you’re shooting.

Shabbir
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