White Balance for Raw


Today’s Question: I think it is also important to mention that if you shoot in RAW then the white balance doesn’t really matter compared to shooting in JPG.

Tim’s Quick Answer: An excellent point. It is worth repeating that if you are shooing in the raw capture mode (rather than, for example, JPEG), the white balance setting on the camera has no impact on the actual raw capture data. In other words, you could use any white balance setting you’d like on the camera, and adjust that setting in post-processing with no impact on overall image quality.

More Detail: When you are using the raw capture mode on your digital camera, many of the in-camera settings don’t actually affect the capture data you’re recording for each photo. That includes the white balance setting, which means you can use any white balance setting you’d like at the time of capture, without worrying about how it impacts the final image.

To be sure, it can be convenient to have the colors in your photos be as accurate as possible right from the initial capture. But if you’re using the raw capture mode, that accuracy is a convenience rather that a requirement in terms of overall image quality.

For raw captures, the in-camera white balance setting is really just a metadata value. That setting determines the initial color appearance when you process the raw capture with software such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. However, you can refine the setting for white balance with your initial processing of the raw capture, and that adjustment will not have any negative impact on the overall image quality.

So, if you find it is helpful to set a particular white balance setting for your raw captures, by all means take advantage of that option. But keep in mind that regardless of what white balance setting you use for raw captures, you can adjust that setting during the initial processing of the raw capture without any negative consequences in terms of the color or overall image quality for those photos.