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Expodisc: A Way Get Correct White Balance at Capture Time

Published: 25/04/2007
By: larry

You may have noticed that when M. James Northen was describing his process for shooting the image we featured about a month ago he mentioned that he used a Expodisc. If you are not familiar with with the Expodisc, Ken Rockwell has a great article on the subject. Basically it's a filter like device that helps you get accurate white balance at capture time rather than make adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop. There are always some that would rather do more at capture time than in Photoshop. On the other hand some folks are more comfortable in Photoshop and find it easier to image-edit than to buy equipment.

I bring this up be cause Karl was wondering how widely the Expodisc is used and if most RE photographers address white balance at capture time or in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I personally love the way shooting RAW allows you to make white balance adjustments during photo-editing. The less technical camera things I have to pay attention to while shooting the more I can focus on composing and thinking about the aesthetic aspects of the shots. But I know there are others out there that are on the "other side of this fence". A very compelling feature of both Lightroom 1.0 and Photoshop CS3 (actually I think this is a feature of Camera Raw 4.0 which they both use) is that even if you are shooting to JPG, Lightroom and PS CS3 allow you to adjust white balance in the same way as if you shot in RAW.

9 comments on “Expodisc: A Way Get Correct White Balance at Capture Time”

  1. I was asking because, although I can balance the RAW afterwards, there alsys seems to be variations from shot to shot, so that ends up taking more time in post-processing, and also there's some variations between the final images.

    I like to warm up the images a bit over neutral, but I was thinking if the shots were balanced correctly to begin with, it's be less time to warm each one up and the shots would be more constient.

    Downside, of course, is more time needed shooting the house, especialy using Flash, as I've read you're supposed to take the reading back to your shooting location.

    Any pros or cons?

  2. Although Kens article is dead accurate. I use my expodisk most of the time from where I am shooting from using strobes or a speedlight. 90% of the time my results are fine and take no adjustment to white balance at all. I can look quickly at the reiview image and see if the Custom White Balance from the Expodisk is not right and then I move the camera to what I am shooting at. I find with stobes shooting on Auto because they are daylight balanced also gives me pleasing results.

    Lately I have been experimenting with Lightroom - sure gives you lots of options for flagging, rating and color coding as well as adjustments to virtually anything. It's white balance is pretty good and a can be further tweaked with the sliders beneath. Cyan Photo Filter in CS2 also works pretty well on tungsten influenced images - batch action it and away ya go. Another white balance tool that I like is the one in EditLab Pro - as a plugin for Photoshop, also fast and effective. Last but not least is NIK Color Effex Pro Traditional Filters ... there is a remove color cast filter in there that also works well on certain images.

    I find that no one tool does everything that I want it to and that different images respond better to certain tools so having choices makes life simpler.

    M. James

  3. I found this to be very interesting and because I'm a gadget lover, I almost rushed out to buy one.

    However, I paid an arm and a leg for the very best lenses and I'm hesitant to put something in front of them that may or may not be of the same quality. I guess if Zeiss made this I'd put my money down pretty quickly, but I'm not sure about the quality of this glass.

  4. Hi Andy,

    It's not glass its Vinyl and well made for what it is. Some people make their own from a filter ring and Pringles lid. No where near as study but almost as effective.

    M. James

  5. Mark,
    When you open a JPG in the new Bridge the camera RAW 4.0 dialog box comes up just as if you were opening a RAW file and the white balance slider is on the top right-hand side just below the histogram. It works just like you are opening a RAW file even though it's a JPG you are opening.

  6. Even with post-processing adjustments, a WB card could be used. But we don't really need color accuracy, the perception of the scene is more important, so the adjustment by hand is sufficient.

    But the problem is a bit like the exposure problem in interior photo: the white balance varies across the scene. The desk near you is lightened by an incandescent lamp, the room by a fluorescent, the space near the window should be in a "shade" setting and the exterior is sunlit, and your flash is different too.

  7. We should color-correct every light source to get a proper white balance, strobes, and lamps. I try to get everything close to the flash color temperature, around 6000°K. Sunlight and Daylight balanced CFL bulbs will be a little warmer, but shaded parts (the majority of interiors) will be cooler. I avoid incandescents for lighting (which would need multiple kilowatts given the poor efficiency), except in spots.

    And monitors should be calibrated, too.

  8. I too discovered the use of the Expodisc in white balancing the interiors. The majority of the time it works wonderfully; however, sometimes when there are a lot of windows in a space (ie, kitchen or eating area), often the white balance is too cool/blue. So what I do, instead of aiming directly back at the flash I split the difference a bit and get some of the window light with the flash. That often helps bring it to the look I want.

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