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White balance in Camera raw


Is setting white balance important when shooting raw? I shoot raw and process in Camera Raw and on the limited testing I have done can see no discernable diffrence between Auto white balance in camera and the correct white balance. I can alter it when processing anyway or am I missing something?

Andy 0

Always on
No, white balance 'rides sidecar' so essentially it has absolutely zero impact.

White balance is pretty easy for a camera to nail 'spot on' in general situations, even the lowliest models. I would just leave it in auto and tweak in post if it needs a nudge to get it where you want it.


Always on
Premium Member
I asked this question on this forum two or three years ago and I'm not sure it was fully answered.
My understanding is that if you use a custom WB, that setting is stored in the meta data and can be used, if desired, in post processing. I've not tried it.


Always on
From my understanding I use auto white balance and then change it in editing to what I prefer. Recently I've noticed that photographing in heavy fog produces really blue images but when the WB is adjusted they change quite considerably. Altering WB to a warmer shade tends to brighten the image especially when photographing in dark conditions with a high ISO.

To me it's purely and simply a matter of taste with nothing right or wrong.

Andy 0

Always on
White Balance doesn't alter RAW data, so it's just a number that rides along side-car with the RAW file to tell the display application how to handle the colour rendition.

Ultimately RAW is RAW, until it's cooked it's only raw sensor data, so post-processing white balance can be non-destructively adjusted as seen fit by the photographer.


EXIF Seeker
Super Moderator
I always use auto WB in cam and adjust in PP as needed. The exception is when taking an infrared image with an IR filter where I set a custom WB in cam, using (green) grass to get the custom WB


Always on
Premium Member
When shooting raw, the White Balance is simply identified as a tag in the metadata, the image data was not changed. Auto White Balance in a camera continuously evaluates the light and changes the tag value based on the light. Nearly all editing applications read the metadata tag to determine how the camera assessed the light, they then adjust the white balance accordingly and you will see an adjusted image in your display. The benefit of shooting raw allows you to overrule the White Balance assessment. Unfortunately, most of us leave the White Balance "As Shot" trusting that the camera was correct in its assessment. However, Auto White Balance is rarely accurate but usually good enough. There are situations where using Auto White Balance may not be a good idea. For example, when shooting a panorama where the light changes across the scene where you want the white balance to be the same for each frame. Shade also may cause the white balance to be incorrect and of course mixed lighting types can confuse Auto White Balance. It is always a good idea to have a neutral white balance card.

An 18% gray card is best used for metering and a white card is best used for white balance. Why? Because you want to balance to neutral white, not gray. What's the difference? In my experience, in the field not much, however in the studio you will see greater color accuracy useful for doing standardized headshots or product photography. (https://www.xrite.com/service-support/18graycardversesawhitebalancecard)