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When Is The Best Time To Do White Balance Adjustment Before or After Bracket Processing?

Published: 09/08/2016

LRlensProfilesPeggy asked the following question:

I have just recently purchased the book on Enfuse and Hand Blending in Lightroom.  Lots of good information in here for persons new to RE photography.  My only question is, for those of you who use the Enfuse Plugin, do you do your white balance on each shot before Enfuse as the author does, or do you wait to white balance post-Enfuse images?  I have been doing it post merge prior to reading this.  I am not finding thus far that it makes a large enough difference vs the time savings by doing it only once.

Either way will work. If you do it pre-Enfuse you should adjust one of the brackets and then Sync the adjustment to all brackets. I posed your question to Simon and here is his answer:

It sounds like the main appeal of applying the white balance adjustment to the TIFFs and not the RAWs is the saving in time, i.e. one white balance adjustment to the enfused TIFF versus adjustments to each of the RAW file brackets which go to make up the enfused result. I totally agree with you, Larry, that there is more colour and tonal information to work with as it were in the RAW file and therefore white balance correction is more effective when applied to the RAW. The time saving could easily be matched, if not improved, by establishing a general white balance for all similar shots (e.g. interiors for a shoot versus exteriors) pre-blend and then syncing that adjustment from the sample file to all the others. This would ensure that all RAW brackets were taken in to enfuse from a common starting point, important if auto white balance has been used in shooting leading to different WB settings for some files. Again, by using the sync command, minor adjustments could then be made to all similar TIFFs afterwards. In general I feel it is better to make as many adjustments to the RAWs first rather than the TIFFs, unless working in 16 bit, and that includes tonal adjustments as well as white balance corrections or colour channel tuning.

Larry Lohrman

11 comments on “When Is The Best Time To Do White Balance Adjustment Before or After Bracket Processing?”

  1. I read a really good article on using enfuse with different wb and now I use it and I think it produces slightly better results.

    A good example would be a bathroom with a nice window exterior. With an interior light k value of around 3300 kelvin and the exterior of around 5000 kelvin. Using the interior wb you get the blue window exterior, and using the exterior wb you get a very orange interior. What I do is use the interior wb for the shadows and mid-tones images and then use the exterior wb for the highlights image. I even increase the exposure, pull the highlights slider all the way down and sometimes reduce the orange color cast by reducing the HSL saturation using the color picker. Then I enfuse them and it does a pretty good job of merging the various wb's.

    Give it a go.


  2. When I am going to fuse images in LR/enfuse/photomatix, I first do some processing in LR prior to fusing the images. I select all of the images and apply vertical and rotational corrections, masking the sharpening tool and white balance. With AutoSync on, it's the same as working on one image. I will also adjust each image with a little clarity, highlight control and a few other tweaks before I hand the photos off to Enfuse or Photomatix. There is much more elasticity in editing the RAW images that it's a good idea to do as much work as possible on the images before fusing them.

    I use supplemental lighting more than fusion but there are times when it's handy. For much of what I used to use exposure fusion on I find that I can get even better results in PS if I have planned ahead and created exposures that I need to easily blend images. The darken layer technique for getting window pull is just like magic. Brushing in pieces from different ambient exposures gets to be very fast with some practice and gives much better control over using HDR/Fusion software.

  3. Thanks for sharIng your approaches, Gavin and Ken.... Gavin .. that sounds like an interesting fix if people are shooting in mixed light illumination, often a requirement for RE work. though i think Peggy wants to limit time spent in post; a simple removal of the offending colour (eg blue or yellowcast) via the lightroom HSL tab really could be applied to the blended tiff , and synced to other files, post-enfuse. Ken . nice to hear that you work the Raw file as throughly as possible ahead of your photoshop work. What seems clear is that adjustments to the Raw files, whether pre-exposure fusion or photoshop compositing methods, are preferable perhaps to post-fusion / photoshop work on a tiff or psd file. there is just so much useful detail "baked in" to the RAW file that it makes sense to work with that but by using the auto sync or sync tools to make the preparation work as slick as possible, which i believe is Peggy's goal here.

  4. Simon:
    The problem with adjusting the color cast post Enfuse is that it effects all of that color in the image. So if you have blue towels in the bathroom and are removing a blue cast it is removing blue from the towels as well. By doing it before hand on the highlight image it has less effect on other parts of the image with that color. The amount of pp is limited as it is usually just 1 of the 3 images that you are changing the wb when you are preparing for the Enfuse process.


  5. Help me understand work flow on this, if you would. I have 3 bracketed shots. I set the first WB for amb. 2nd shot for amb. 3rd shot for window. Are you then saying you sync the 1st and 2nd WB with every 1st and 2nd photo in a bracketed series of the entire shoot, then you sync the WB for the overexposed window for every overexposed shot in brackets throughout the shoot?

    As Simon pointed out, the quest is to accomplish the best results while minimizing time. At this point I am using enfuse until I am confident in my supplemental lighting shots. My goal is to stay within LR for a majority of my work and not to have to jump into PS for every photo. ALTHOUGH, I like Rich Baum's darkening tutorial. It could potentially eliminate enfusing. Something to play with down the road. Right now, I am focusing on Portfolio worthy photos for my website so I can get out there and market.

    Thank you thank you for your feedback!

  6. I re-read my post. I need to clarify and be more specific, I feel. I understand the concepts mentioned above. I am having issues with syncing WB ACROSS photos. Please make recommendations as you see fit.
    This is my process:
    1. My photos are uploaded to my external HD always.
    2. I scan my photos via my file folder, deleting fuzzy or otherwise unusable shots
    3. I upload into LR
    4. I stack my bracketed shots
    5. I adjust the first photo for lense calibration (I do this first because I find it lightens the photo) then I straighten. I now adjust for highlights/shadows, for Sharpening and Luminosity, I then copy and paste those adjustments to all photos.
    6. I then start to adjust white balance photo by photo.

    I am not grasping how y'all are syncing white balance across bracketed photos.
    1st photo ambient normal exposure:
    I use WB dropper where the RGB are balanced and select
    2nd photo under exposed:
    I user dropper where the RGB are balance and select
    3rd photo over exposed:
    I use dropper and select brightest area (window light) to remove blue cast.

    If I have 3 different WB for 3 bracketed shots, how are you syncing that across your shoot? I tried to sync the first photo in each group, the second followed by the third. It did not work for me - I had very blue interiors where I did not in the original photo. Thank Goodness for non destructive editing! 🙂
    3rd photo over exposed

  7. Peggy:

    our workflows are a little different but here is how i sync the wb.

    I usually shoot interiors at around 4760k wb. Bathrooms and older lighting is much lower at around 3000k.
    Most rooms i keep the wb the same across all 3 images.
    For rooms with a large difference of wb between interior and exterior this is how i do it. (these tend to be rooms that the interior wb is lower and makes the exterior window views blue)
    I wb the normal exposure for interior using the wb picker. Paste the same wb on overexposed interior. For the underexposed image i usually keep the 4760k wb or move it up for daylight wb about 5500k. For this image i also pull the highlights down. because of the outdoor wb if the interiors lamps are very orange i will reduce the color saturation on that orange light. This now gives me an image that is mostly dark with a good wb for exterior scene.
    I go through my whole shoot adjusting with probably 80% of the images using the same wb and then 1 - 3 might have the mixed wb.
    i stack my 3 images for each room. Then when all rooms are stacked i ensues them.
    When ensue is complete i unstack them and have a standard preset i've created to adjust highlights, shadows, saturation, contrast, lens profile, sharpening etc. I apply that to all of the infused images using auto sync. (I do have a different preset for exterior images to interior).
    Then I do a quick final review of each image and might make slight adjustments to an image as needed but often these are good to go.
    My usual shoots are 12-15 images and the LR processing from ingestion to exporting final images takes around 12-20 minutes.
    If the room doesn't have a very good window view but the interior wb makes the windows blue i will just usually use the color picker and reduce the saturation on the blue of the underexposed image (and sometimes the normal image too) to reduce the blue cast on the final infused image.
    Remember this is my base budget friendly packages. For my premium images i use an outsourced photoshop processor.


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