Light is Everything!

White Balance Woes? Hello Expodisc!!!

I never really paid much attention to white balance after I began shooting RAW because, let’s face it, you can make the WB anything you want when you process RAW files. That being said, when you watch videos done by professional photographers, they are the first to tell you to get as much of your image right in camera because it’s less time in front of the computer later on. Which is true. And, it helps you be a better photographer because you are learning the craft more when you do stuff properly in camera. White balance – as easy as it is to fix in Aperture & Lightroom – is one of those major image components that is better done right first.

Enter: the Expodisc.  I first saw it on a Kelby Training vid with James Schmelzer. I thought, “Hey, he’s a pro, it must be good!” So I looked it up. Basically it’s a filter that goes over your lens and allows you to nab a custom white balance that is true to the actual scene. Other alternatives are 18% Grey Cards, colorite passports and such. But the Expodisc is easier & faster and more convenient – especially on Nikon cameras where getting a custom white balance is a 3 second operation (Canon takes 12 seconds). 🙂

I decided to do some test shots with it last night after the sun had set. The trickiest white balances are always under man-made light, like say in a heinously lit small town hockey rink. But what about when you have a room with incandescent bulbs mixed with compact fluorescents? What do you set your WB to? The modes that the camera has are only generalizations after all, far from exact. These situations make the expodisc worth the cash.

The first situation I tried was a room lit by compact fluorescent bulbs. I setup the camera and my subjects, did a custom WB with the expodisc, then did an Auto WB and a Fluorescent WB shot. Take a look at the difference! Click on the photos for a larger view.

This next test shot is lit by old school fluorescent tube lighting – one of the worst to White Balance because they change color/temperature over time. Same format: Expodisc, Auto, Fluorescent.

Incandescent light source. Expodisc/Auto/Incandescent.

Only on-camera flash as the light source (notice the heinous shadow caused by the lens?) 😉 Expodisc/Auto/Flash WB setting.

So, you be the judge. I think the difference is tremendous!

In summary, if you shoot only .JPG then the expodisc is a necessity that would never not be with me on any shoot ever. You can’t change the white balance as easily on a .JPG image so getting it right in camera is necessary for accurate color. If you shoot RAW, I also think it’s a useful tool, especially for tricky lighting scenarios and for portraits that you need to have the color bang on.

One final recommendation, they make expodiscs in many sizes for different lenses. I bought the 67mm size (because the majority of my lenses are 67mm) but it will also work on smaller lenses too, just by holding the expodisc on front of the lens. It won’t click into place like it does when it properly fits a lens, but it’s only there for 3 seconds (on Nikon) 😉 anyways. So, buy the biggest one you can because it will also work on your smaller diameter lenses too – more bang for your buck! I bought mine at Don’s Photo in Regina.

Expodisc on lanyard with case

Side view

back view - looks like a pringles chip can lid


front view - looks like a fluorescent light cover


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