It doesn’t seem that long ago that the big discussions everywhere were all about how to get good white balance in-camera…then came RAW and the resurgence of the “fix it in post” mantra. I own no less than six different white balance calibration tools and yet I am as guilty as it gets when it comes to getting my white balance set in-camera before a shoot, except on certain occasions. In most shooting situations if I get at least a gray card shot, I can fix everything in post production extremely quickly, and even in large batches. However, when we are shooting events where we are printing on-site (some charity events, proms, grad nights, etc) then we have to shoot in JPEG and there is no ‘fixing it in post’ before it heads to the printer. In these cases, white balance is critical as nobody wants a weird color cast on them making them look like Pappa Smurf on Prom Night.
So what’s wrong with existing white balance tools and why is the ColorRight Pro supposed to fix it?
The main problem with most white balance tools is that when you take your calibration shot, the gray card or white balance filter can be getting light contamination from different light sources. The theory here is that the only light source that really matters is the main (key) light. If we can narrow down the source of light we are calibrating for to mostly just the main light source, then the subject will generally have the correct white balance.
The ColorRight Pro attempts to solve this by having an angled opening in the dome that collects light from multiple angles yet favors the light from specific angles by “aiming” the dome at the main light source.
Does it work?
This may seem like a simple question but the answer can be fairly complicated. For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s just say “it depends”. This isn’t to say it doesn’t work in some situations, but more that the usefulness may vary from situation to situation which is of no fault to the ColorRight Pro and probably speaks more to improvements in modern DSLR’s ability to have automatic white balance. Let’s look at a few examples:
In the first example, the ColorRight Pro corrected the white balance by only 50 degrees. Not really enough to make any real difference in the visual appearance.
In the second example, the ColorRight Pro produced exactly the same white balance values as the camera’s automatic white balance.
Next it was time to see how it would do in a more unfriendly environment…under the hot lights!
Under the tungsten hot lights the ColorRight Pro really showed what it is capable of. The camera’s auto white balance failed miserably to correct adequately for the extremely warm cast from the tungsten bulb. After getting a shot with the ColorRight Pro and setting the custom white balance, the next shot was perfect and required no color correction in post production.
Is the ColorRight Pro For You?
If you are only shooting outdoors during mid-day or using flash for really solid daylight balanced conditions, you may not need the ColorRight Pro and your camera will probably do pretty good. If you ever shoot in the late afternoon when the color from the Sun has gone into the warm side, ever have to deal with awkward lighting setups, or ever need to shoot JPEG, then you certainly need some kind of white balance tool.
The ColorRight Pro sells for $129.95 at B & H Photo which might be a bit pricey for some people but when you really need to rely on your white balance tools, you want to make sure what you are getting is going to do the job correctly.
I said it right up front, I don’t often use a white balance tool but when I do need one, I REALLY need one. There is simply no better way to speed up your post production workflow than to be able to completely ignore having to do white balance correction. Secondly, if you find that you need to shoot in JPEG (yes folks, there are reasons like I described above) then white balance is absolutely essential to getting the shots right.Â What you have to ask yourself is if it’s worth $130 to have exceptionally good white balance. This is going to depend on you. You can spend $15 for a cheap white balance lens cap and it may be better than nothing or you can spend $130 for extremely accurate color. Only you can place a monetary value on the quality of your own images.
ColorRight Website: http://colorright.com