Custom White Balance and Exposure by Jim DiVitale

There's something that really drives me crazy with digital photography and Photoshop. Why is there so much emphasis on color correction? When did we all become such bad photographers where we have to spend so much time correcting color instead of shooting an image properly to start with? Want life to be better? I have three words for you today... Auto Is Evil... Now, three words that will make everything a lot better... Custom White Balance. Doing a custom white balance at the start of a photo shoot will save so much time on the computer that you will actually find time to be creative again, instead of being a color correcting technician. I have worked with several different color charts over my 30 years in professional photography, and the one that I have found that works better than any other is the Photo Master Target developed by my good friend Jean-Francois O'Kane. I am not saying it because he is my friend... I didn't even know him before discovering this tool that is part of my everyday workflow in or out of he studio. I met J F while Helene and I were teaching a weeklong workshop at the Niagara School in Canada. At first glance, it might seem like other targets you may have used before, but it's not... Using this target has saved so much time for both Helene's portrait photography and my commercial images in the studio and on location. Here's how it works...

The target has 4 patches of very neutral tones. They are created to give you a nice middle gray, and black with detail, a white with detail, and a forth tone of white that is slightly darker the white with detail patch.

When starting a new photo shoot, you set the custom white balance by shooting a reflective image filling the frame with the middle gray patch, or shooing through the semi translucent white patch for an incident reading.

Once the white balance is set, you then photograph the entire target filling the camera frame with all 4 patches that will give you a very unique histogram. What you are looking for is 4-peek histograms that will help you determine the proper highlight contrast. If you can get the two lighter peeks to have slight separation between them, you will have proper highlight contrast and exposure.

When working with a group of images that are shot under the same lighting situation, you can open all of them up in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom and enhance the tonal range to all of them at once by adjusting the histogram of the target and applying the enhancement to all the files at once. This will save a great deal of processing time and help with consistency between all the files on the shoot. You can find out more information on the Photo Master Target at You can use the discount code 68VT284 that J F has provided for all my readers. You won't be disappointed.

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Article posted with author's permission.

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Filed under: Photo Tutorials March 04, 2009
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