I see a lot of mistakes in the car event photos and a common one is white balance being incorrect. I often see that people use Auto WB in their camera, which lets the camera try to figure out the correct value. The problem is that if you are taking a photo of a yellow car, the camera will tend to shift the white balance and the photo will come out with a strong blue tint.
There are several ways that you can choose your white balance, and I’ll run through the basics below, and then explain how I set my white balance in different settings.
AutoWB in Camera
As I mentioned earlier, this leaves the white balance value up to the camera. In some situations this can work, like on a sunny day with clouds drifting through, but it often makes mistakes, so you should be prepared to correct it.
WB Presets in Camera
Most cameras allow you to select some other pre-defined WB settings. Common ones are corrections for flash, cloudy days, or in shady area. Most photo applications also have these options, so if you miss it in camera, you can usually set to one of these presets in post processing.
Most DSLRs have the ability to dial in a specific Kelvin temp setting. If you are shooting in consistent lighting conditions, and you know the temp, you can use this option to keep your set consistent. Kelvin settings are usually also available in post processing applications.
Gray Card Kits
Grey cards are one of the cheapest ways to get an accurate white balance. You can usually find them under $10, and they usually include an 18% gray card, which will help you set exposure as well. Since they are light-weight, cheap, and easy to use, there really is no reason not to use one.
A color checker is one of the most accurate ways to correctly set white balance, plus the colors in your photos. Simply take a photo of the card while you are shooting, and use it as a reference in post processing to correctly set sky colors, skin tones, etc. I have one and use it mostly when I shoot with strobes.
An Expodisc is more expensive option, but it is easy to set exposure and white balance quickly with one. I often use mine when I need an accurate white balance and exposure check. The catch is that you need to be able to make the reading from the object/scene that you will be shooting, so they aren’t perfect for every situation.
Manual Adjustment in Post Production
As I mentioned earlier, several of the above options are also available in post processing, so if you miss your white balance when you shoot, you do have the ability to correct it later.
My own methods of choosing white balance vary in different settings. I mainly select the route I want based upon how quickly the light will be changing, and how much time I want to spend in post processing.
For a set on location with lighting, I will usually go to a color checker card, but if I am moving around a lot, I will either use an Expodisc, or take a best guess and set Kelvin. If the light is changing too quickly, and I have to shoot many shots in a hurry in different lighting, I will look for obvious white and gray objects and remember them when I do post processing and use them as gray cards.