Lightroom auto white balance

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Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 19,131
Lightroom auto white balance
8

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years.  I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic.  The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been.  While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do.  I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade.  Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great.  The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

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Henry Richardson
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Dareshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 4,904
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
3

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

Tom Axford Veteran Member • Posts: 7,701
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
1

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

Just a guess:

The in-camera algorithm has more information to go on.  It can use previous images from the live view stream to gain a much better idea of the overall ambient light balance.

I have no idea if cameras really do that, but one thing is certain: Lightroom cannot do it because it has to compute the WB from that image alone; it has no other data to use.

Mike Engles Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

dj_paige
dj_paige Senior Member • Posts: 2,407
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
1

Mike Engles wrote:

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

I almost never use Auto White Balance.

If you are using the eye dropper, the number of pixels in the sampling grid for white balance correction can be adjusted from 5x5 to 15x15 (I think, I didn't actually count). Naturally, changing the size of the grid will change your results for better or worse, depending on the photo and the area selected.

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dj_paige
dj_paige Senior Member • Posts: 2,407
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
1

Henry Richardson wrote:

The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

That's a question that no one here can answer ... why does the algorithm perform that way? No one here programmed Lightroom Classic, no one here designed Lightroom Classic, no one here sets the priorities for Lightroom Classic.

Could Adobe do better? Sure. Do they put effort into it? I have no idea.

But I think it is true that when it comes to color rendition, the camera manufacturer's software generally performs better than Lightroom Classic/ACR. The camera manufacturer's can tailor their software to produce "better" colors because they know the guts of the hardware and software and are able to make them work together. Adobe doesn't have that luxury.

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Mike Engles Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

dj_paige wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

I almost never use Auto White Balance.

If you are using the eye dropper, the number of pixels in the sampling grid for white balance correction can be adjusted from 5x5 to 15x15 (I think, I didn't actually count). Naturally, changing the size of the grid will change your results for better or worse, depending on the photo and the area selected.

Is the WB grid option in Lightroom 6.14?

Mike Engles Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Mike Engles wrote:

dj_paige wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

I almost never use Auto White Balance.

If you are using the eye dropper, the number of pixels in the sampling grid for white balance correction can be adjusted from 5x5 to 15x15 (I think, I didn't actually count). Naturally, changing the size of the grid will change your results for better or worse, depending on the photo and the area selected.

Is the WB grid option in Lightroom 6.14?

After all these years I have just found it, where all such options are. I have never noticed it. Thanks for the hint

Joachim B Contributing Member • Posts: 643
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

Is this something that you FEEL, or have you actualy shot a calibration card with your camera to see how that turns out in Auto?

Then again, the world isn't 50% gray, and that is just what the software assumes. So using auto anything might be fast but almost never gives the result that you are after as a photographer.

"Make everything mediocre, please"

richardplondon
richardplondon Forum Pro • Posts: 11,034
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Is the WB grid option in Lightroom 6.14?

After all these years I have just found it, where all such options are. I have never noticed it. Thanks for the hint

The behaviour for sampling WB has sometimes been different for LR vs ACR / other editors. This can be relevant to the outcome. If you sample from only a few original pixels you suffer from noisiness and over-specific lighting effects within the photo. If you sample from a lot, you lose precision as to what part of the photo you are selecting for WB. Balance of mutual opposites.

In some instances - I don't recall which is current - the sampled area reflects how much you are zoomed in, so that when you are zoomed out a larger section of pixels are considered. In other instances, how much you are zoomed makes no difference.

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ggbutcher
ggbutcher Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Tom Axford wrote:

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

Just a guess:

The in-camera algorithm has more information to go on. It can use previous images from the live view stream to gain a much better idea of the overall ambient light balance.

I have no idea if cameras really do that, but one thing is certain: Lightroom cannot do it because it has to compute the WB from that image alone; it has no other data to use.

I think this is the right perspective.  The camera sits at the scene, regarding the illumination.  I don't know if/how cameras are programmed to use this, but the actual light temperature is available to the camera for consideration.  All LR or any other software has are the light measurements taken through the bandpass so-called RGB filters of the sensor.

I pretty much keep my camera WB mode set to Auto, as I use that in batch processing of proofs, I find it really works pretty well for most situations.  Sometimes it doesn't, or I have multiple light sources to contend with, and I've not found many Auto modes in PP software that do well...

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Joachim B Contributing Member • Posts: 643
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
2

Your camera does exactly the same als your software, it evaluates sensor data, and has no clue whatsoever of the real surroundings. If anything, the camera is a bit dumber than your PC, because it has less processing power. All calculations are done after the fact, so on the raw data.

So if we are talking colour, and want to get out of the 'how we feel about colour' discussion, you should have some objective data. Did you shoot a color-calibration card, and is your monitor calibrated? Do you use a camera calibration in LR? What do the RGB numbers say for patches that you KNOW should be perfectly white or gray?

ggbutcher
ggbutcher Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
1

Joachim B wrote:

Your camera does exactly the same als your software, it evaluates sensor data, and has no clue whatsoever of the real surroundings. If anything, the camera is a bit dumber than your PC, because it has less processing power. All calculations are done after the fact, so on the raw data.

So if we are talking colour, and want to get out of the 'how we feel about colour' discussion, you should have some objective data. Did you shoot a color-calibration card, and is your monitor calibrated? Do you use a camera calibration in LR? What do the RGB numbers say for patches that you KNOW should be perfectly white or gray?

I do not know what any of my cameras do to auto-determine white balance.  I do know performance; the WB multipliers reported by all three of my Nikon cameras give me good white balance in most single-illuminant scenes I've encountered.  I haven't experienced the same performance applying any PP auto white balance tool.

I used to shoot a gray card, but when I started comparing the patch-based multipliers from the card with the as-shots for the same scene, I wasn't getting much improvement for the effort.

In my hack software, I implemented the standard 'gray-world' auto whitebalance mode.  There are better algorithms available, but I've just come to rely on camera auto as a starting point.

I'm not going to take the time to illustrated this, just relaying my experience.  Take it for what it's worth.

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dj_paige
dj_paige Senior Member • Posts: 2,407
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Mike Engles wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

dj_paige wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

I almost never use Auto White Balance.

If you are using the eye dropper, the number of pixels in the sampling grid for white balance correction can be adjusted from 5x5 to 15x15 (I think, I didn't actually count). Naturally, changing the size of the grid will change your results for better or worse, depending on the photo and the area selected.

Is the WB grid option in Lightroom 6.14?

After all these years I have just found it, where all such options are. I have never noticed it. Thanks for the hint

Option? The only way I know to adjust this is using the scroll wheel thingie on the mouse after you have clicked on the eye dropper to set the white balance. Is there another way to adjust this?

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Paige Miller

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Mike Engles Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

dj_paige wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

dj_paige wrote:

Mike Engles wrote:

Dareshooter wrote:

I never bother using it for reasons which you pointed out.I just use the eye dropper where possible or adjust the WB via the eyeball method with the temperature slider.

White balance depends a lot on the range of values that is taken into account. This can be chosen in Photoshop and possibly other applications. Lightroom gives no choice, but does show a 11 pixel sampling grid, so I assume its default is a 11 pixels square, quite broad and very often leaves a slight cast that is not quite neutral for the area chosen. The auto is very different from that done by Photoshop 5

I almost never use Auto White Balance.

If you are using the eye dropper, the number of pixels in the sampling grid for white balance correction can be adjusted from 5x5 to 15x15 (I think, I didn't actually count). Naturally, changing the size of the grid will change your results for better or worse, depending on the photo and the area selected.

Is the WB grid option in Lightroom 6.14?

After all these years I have just found it, where all such options are. I have never noticed it. Thanks for the hint

Option? The only way I know to adjust this is using the scroll wheel thingie on the mouse after you have clicked on the eye dropper to set the white balance. Is there another way to adjust this?

Quite amazing, the scroll wheel. Never thought of that.

Also at the bottom left above the film strip  and the main window there are 3 options and one is a pixel sample slider.

OP Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 19,131
Re: Lightroom auto white balance
3

Tom Axford wrote:

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

Just a guess:

The in-camera algorithm has more information to go on. It can use previous images from the live view stream to gain a much better idea of the overall ambient light balance.

I can't see how the camera has any more information than Lightroom, but maybe I am wrong.  The light hits the sensor and is converted to digital.  The camera software then sets the white balance when Auto WB is used.  Lightroom, I think, has the same info in the raw file to set the white balance.  By the way, the idea about the live view stream seems to me to not be valid in this case, but I may be wrong.  My DSLRs don't have a live view stream.  My mirrorless cameras are usually off or asleep and then I take a photo.  And yet the auto white balance still works pretty well most of the time.

I have no idea if cameras really do that, but one thing is certain: Lightroom cannot do it because it has to compute the WB from that image alone; it has no other data to use.

I think the cameras also only have the data from the image.

But, I may be wrong.   I thought about this all some before posting though.

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Henry Richardson
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ggbutcher
ggbutcher Contributing Member • Posts: 967
Re: Lightroom auto white balance

Henry Richardson wrote:

Tom Axford wrote:

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

Just a guess:

The in-camera algorithm has more information to go on. It can use previous images from the live view stream to gain a much better idea of the overall ambient light balance.

I can't see how the camera has any more information than Lightroom, but maybe I am wrong. The light hits the sensor and is converted to digital. The camera software then sets the white balance when Auto WB is used. Lightroom, I think, has the same info in the raw file to set the white balance. By the way, the idea about the live view stream seems to me to not be valid in this case, but I may be wrong. My DSLRs don't have a live view stream. My mirrorless cameras are usually off or asleep and then I take a photo. And yet the auto white balance still works pretty well most of the time.

I have no idea if cameras really do that, but one thing is certain: Lightroom cannot do it because it has to compute the WB from that image alone; it has no other data to use.

I think the cameras also only have the data from the image.

But, I may be wrong. I thought about this all some before posting though.

I know, me too....  but my three Nikon cameras, D50, D7000, an Z 6, have all demonstrated this remarkable trait. 

I've done some reading on analysis of white balance from image data, rapidly gets into assumptions, or AI....  So, I use the camera notion for proofs, then I either mess with it based on the histogram (you can see the non-white shifts in some histograms at the upper end), or look for (or place in the scene, if I'm serious about it) a white or gray patch to do the assertion after-the-fact.....

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OP Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 19,131
My 1999 digicam auto WB was fairly good
2

Henry Richardson wrote:

There is something that I have been somewhat perplexed about for years. I have been using Lightroom for 10 years and for the last 4 years I have had the subscription plan so I have the latest version of Classic. The auto white balance setting is awful and always has been. While adjusting white balance in Lightroom for my raw files I will usually give it a try just to see what it will do. I don't think I have ever seen it give even a half way decent result a single time in a decade. Not even close.

In contrast, the auto white balance setting of my Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Sony, etc. cameras is usually pretty good, often great. The algorithm used by various camera companies is much better than the one in Lightroom, but why is that?

As far as I know, all camera companies have developed auto white balance algorithms that work pretty well analyzing the raw data in the photo.  Why does Lightroom do a poor job?

I bought my first digicam just to play with in January 2000, but it came out in January 1999 so already an old model when I bought it.  Looking at the old photos from it I see that the auto WB in that 1999 model was fairly good and usually better than 2021 Lightroom.  Of course, more recent cameras in the last 15 years do an even better job.  With all the financial resources of Adobe and the computing resources in modern computers why does Lightroom do a poor job?  So far, no one seems to have any ideas about this.

How is the auto WB in other programs?  C1, DXO, Affinity, ACDSee, On1, etc.?

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Henry Richardson
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Joachim B Contributing Member • Posts: 643
Re: My 1999 digicam auto WB was fairly good

Then again, what do you qualify als 'good'? Is that correct whitebalance by the numbers, of is it something you personally find fitting? And how wel is your setup calibrated to show colour?

Color is a very subjective thing. That what feels 'correct' for you, isn't necessarily correct for someone else.

Could you post some pictures here, and state which ones have correct and incorrect WB in your opinion?

Mike Engles Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: My 1999 digicam auto WB was fairly good
1

Joachim B wrote:

Then again, what do you qualify als 'good'? Is that correct whitebalance by the numbers, of is it something you personally find fitting? And how wel is your setup calibrated to show colour?

Color is a very subjective thing. That what feels 'correct' for you, isn't necessarily correct for someone else.

Could you post some pictures here, and state which ones have correct and incorrect WB in your opinion?

I cannot see how RAW data can show the tonal balance of the picture. I think it has to be decoded and then assessed.The sensor itself is not 3 colour. It just has a 3 colour grid, so it seems that the apportioning of colour is statistical and I imagine the white balance is also

In the darkroom days I used a colour analyser, that used a diffuser in front of the lens to average the light (blurred to greyscale). The light was then read for each colour and the colour balance of the enlarger was adjusted either using the CMY filters in the colour head or by using combinations of filters. To do this one had to calibrate the printing paper and then apply that calibration to the colour analyser. This worked as a starting point, but each picture usually needed further adjustment, just like it does in software. At least in software you do not waste a huge amount of paper and chemicals to achieve a neutral balance print

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