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How to get the correct colour balance when shooting a room that is decorated all in bright red

Hi. I've been having this challenge of late, especially with the holiday season upon us, and that's shooting a scene indoors that has a lot of red in it. Can anyone advise on any good colour balance that I should set? Using AWB seems to throw it off and even using flash it doesn't seem to properly balance out the colour. Usually in post I have to go and desaturate the image quite a bit in order for it to look natural otherwise everything around the subject (which is red) also has a reddish cast to it as well.

Any advice would be great. I'm assuming that I need to set up a custom WB on my camera as the kelvin rating is properly reading to much on the red side. Thanks for any help.

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Set custom white balance using a gray card. If you don't have a gray card, you can use a plain white sheet of paper in a pinch. You could get an Expodisc but they are expensive. You could try putting one of the white bags, that held the body or other bits and pieces when the camera was shipped, over the lens then point it at the subject and set custom white balance.

Hope this helps you.
Hey thanks for the advice. I've always heard about using a grey card but never took the time to set a custom white balance. Guess I should try that and pick up a grey card. Thanks again. Have a happy holiday season.
Yes, your bang on there.. I use one myself and it's fantastic.
You might try this tip I found in another forum posted by Charles Glatzer. This is very easy to learn, and takes the subjectivity out of removing casts. Play around with the layer opacity in step 6 to fine tune your results. This is sort of a "digital gray card" that you apply in post-processing.

1. Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl J)
2. Select the duplicate bkgd layer
3. Filter > Blur > Average (produces a solid color matching the color cast)
4. Open Levels Adjustment Layer, click duplicate bkgd layer image w/ middle (gray set) eyedropper.
5. deselect layer visibility icon (eyeball) of duplicate bkgd layer
6. tweak adjustment levels layer opacity to suit taste (50% is norm)

I always shoot RAW so in-camera balance settings are of no value. Most RAW converters offer a good balance adjustment, but sometimes you want to nail it to neutral before you adjust it to taste, and this technique lets you do this.
Cameras see light differently than we do. Our brains adjust for color cast automatically over a wide range of lighting conditions. Cameras don't. Sometimes adjusting to the correct white balance will make photos appear too cold and the photo will be more pleasing if the adjustment is less than complete.

I tried the process outlined by Charles Glatzer -- reported by Gene, and it adjusted the levels but did nothing for white balance which had to be adjusted in a separate step so, you still have to know what temperature the light was, or know which part of the scene is really neutral (white, true gray, or black).

When I shoot RAW with Canon cameras, the white balance setting is recorded and used by either of the Canon RAW converters or Photoshop Elements Camera RAW, so while I don't use Expodisc, the methods I do use which give a similar result, have a place in the process even when shooting RAW. RAW gives a lot of latitude to fix errors when the photo was taken but if you get exposure and white balance correct in the camera, the results from post processing are easier to get and of higher quality.

If I think I will run out of memory cards or expect to take a few photos in rapid succession, I set the camera to RAW, only. If I expect to take a lot of photos in rapid succession, I set the camera to JPG because it can take about ten times more JPG's than RAW before running out of buffer and needing a write time out. The rest of the time I shoot RAW + JPG. The post processing savings can be huge, if you like the JPG, you are done. If not, you can use the RAW to fix it. Covered both ways!

Last night we were at a hotel for dinner, I took a few minutes to experiment with a rubber lens hood to shoot through a tinted window from a very brightly lit hall into a much darker parking lot. I got some of the hood in the photo and since it is just a test shot with no composition, I left everything alone except color cast. The camera's white balance was set to auto since I knew the window was tinted but had no idea how it would affect color cast and was not interested in taking time to adjust white balance anyway.

This presentation shows part of the power of RAW. The camera was a Canon EOS 30D which takes 12 bit RAW, the newer 40D, 50D, 5D MK II, 1D MK III and 1Ds MK III all take 14 bit RAW which provides even greater latitude for adjustment.

This is the original JPG, unedited:


This is the JPG with color cast removed using the snow in the shadow of the tree toward the lower center left. Notice what happened to the lamps.


This is the RAW file with color cast removed using the same area of snow, but while still working in Camera RAW in Photoshop Elements. After the single adjustment the photo was opened, converted to 8 bit mode and saved as a JPG.

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