Archive for the '24 lies/sec' Category

A Nikon system for all bodies, all focusing methods, all lighting situations (or: how to get me to post here – write long answers to Facebook questions.)

‍‍כ״ג סיון ה׳ תשע״ג - Friday, May 31st, 2013

In response to this question in the F2 group on Facebook.

Did a quick run up through that list, and his price would be consistent with dealers selling those items used (without adding in smaller items, prices on the MD2+MB-1 and PB/PS-6 can vary a lot, didn’t bother with the Vivitar; it’s not really worth much) at roughly Adorama’s Ex- or bettter cosmetic KEH BGN items my running tally on my calculator was 3050. Of course, you would get a 3 or 6 month warranty there, respectively, plus grace return, but you would not likely get boxes.

It’s neither here nor there – much will depend on what you want. I own much of these, have tried, rejected some. Here are some notes, FWIW, Bjorn Rorslett is a good subjective resource; I only disagree with one or two of his assessments. (I ended up reordering these by focal length to consider overlap.)

20 2.8 AIS I’ve handled it, some in store images, played with a freind’s copy; never felt the desire for it. While Rockwell and Rorslett end up giving it a similar “rating,” I think Rockwell’s description of it as “typical wide Nikkor prime” (barrel distortion, veiling flare wide open, etc.) is dead on; better “technical” performance will be found in later designs.

24/2.0 AIS This feels a lot like the 35/1.4 to me, only it take even longer to sharpen up and dispose of flare; it is a lens I’ve tried and don’t own.

28/2.8 AI It’s a dated, albeit fine lens, but the AIS close focus is better (for my purposes) and other than price ($150), I would skip both of these and go for the real gem of the MF Nikkor wides – the 28/2.0 AIS.

35/1.4 AI (mine is AIS; identical as far as I know, other than the standard mechanical change of focus throw/grease and 7 vs 9 (AIS) blades.) I use this lens out of necessity; had the Samyang or Zeiss been out at the time, I would own those. Very bad CA on FF digital. AIS copies I’ve seen tend to have Schneideritis, haven’t seen enough AI copies to speak to that.

50/1.4 AF(D?) Nothing specific to say about this; it’s very much a typical post AI 50/1.4. Manual focus will be a weakness. With respect to other options, it doesn’t have the technical distorion flatness of the 50/2.0 AI, the low light abilities of a 58/1.2, the romance and sheer T/stop of the 55/1.2, the modern utility of the CV 58/1.4 SLII, the unique formula of the 5.8cm/1.4, the pastels of the 50/1.4 non-AI SC, the modern abilities of the 50/1.4G or (and fantastic non-vignetting of the) Sigma 50/1.4 – of course, these would be useless on all but the last AF film bodies. Yes, I have a lot of normal lenses for 35mm.

85/2.0 AI (I think I have the AIS) Bjorn is correct on his claims of a “grey” rendition; Ken Rockwell is correct about the handling of this lens; it’s almost exactly the same barrel, size, and weight of the K style non-AI 50/1.4. If you need a compact 85 to go with a FG or FM bodies, this is your one choice. But it has a rendering style that doesn’t do much for me.

85mm/1.8 AF If this is the non AF-D version, then this is the first AF Nikkor I ever owned, bought from B&H used, I think just after they moved into the “new” store on 9th Ave. It is really a nice lens, I think formally better than any of the other slow 85mm options and a 9 blade AF lens at that. However, this really is ever slightly larger than the worst AF focus rings Nikon has made (70-210/4, I’m looking at you) and it is pretty bulky given the maximum aperture; this also makes the screwdriver AF particularly slow.

80-200mm/2.8 AF-ED If this is the one ring/push pull version, I hate it. Whether 1 or 2 ring zoom designs are better for manual focus, that one ring design is not. Now the 2 ring version, well, consider that in 1996 that was the top of the line tele zoom and remains for sale today, unchanged, outlasting numerous successor models. Even by the standards of manual lenses, this is a decent manual focus feel. I haven’t used this on my D800E, so I don’t know how well it holds up there, but if you want to avoid G lenses, what else are you going to use – often for $500 used?
***NOTE*** The M / A ring on the 2-ring tends to slightly fracture and can completely break. Be gentle with it; you may need to encircle and support the ring with your thumb and index finger to properly rotate it.

Wow, I just meant to write the 1st paragraph. If you knew all this, well, I hope it’s useful to someone. I don’t know if you are using this to jump start a working Nikon collection on an F2 body, (this doesn’t feel like a shelf collector’s set) whether you plan to use this on MF and AF film bodies, digital Nikons and/or Canons (I do all those). Now, this is obviously in light of my use (tending towards available light, MF, and avoiding G lenses), but I think there is too much overlap here; and some more modern, cheaper options. For that person, well, I would spend my money today on some combination of these:

Nikkor 17-35/2.8 AFS – $800 and forget about the below
Zeiss 24/2.8 – 500(ZF)-800(ZF2) though not a huge fan, no CRC but close focus
*Nikkor 28/2.0 AIS -$500 CRC and really good at it.
Samyang 35/1.4 – $450 certainly over my 35/1.4 AIS
Nikkor 35/2.0 AIS – $250 budget option, no CRC

40-58mm – Depends on purpose.  Always keep one of the AI/AIS 1.8 low distortion ones around for “in the field” copy type work $100.

*Samyang 85/1.4 – $260 (Yes, really.  One lives on one of my F2AS bodies.)
*Nikkor 105/2.0 DC – $700-$1000 (watch for decentering – may be wise to buy new, best manual focus on an AF lens, very misunderstood)
Nikkor 80-200/2.8D – As needed, above.

Some other older notes from a while back (though considered for a 5DII, many Nikkors though).

outgrown (facebook) status

‍‍ב׳ אייר ה׳ תשע״ג - Thursday, April 11th, 2013

finding sorting old clothing fascinating- as uncertain numbers and intended fate dictate placement, variations on folding affect the interaction of placements, object valuation based – and weighted – between functional utility, social utility, and personal totemism — of memory, of self indulgence, interplay between a systemic approach and the feel, the music playing on Pandora: its distraction and relation to memory, and the subsumption of all – and me – to the end task.  Should have done this sooner.

far more interesting than most social interaction in recent memory and the repetitive, inevitable discussions the apologia, leading EITHER to confrontation borne of ego and the bludgeon of validation or worse, bullet point, wielded OR the prophetic cloak of inspiration being thrust upon me.  and still it infects me as i run through those thoughts in their broad curves and the precise turns of recent iterations.  and letter to score unneeded conflict where I’m in the right compose themselves once more for the the thousandth fragmented time. but still, this, this, these clothes, unlike people, I can’t so easily predict and I’ve seen each of these threads before, but until this job, never the tapestry.  also, my Zepp channel on Pandora is pretty good.  To wit – How Many More Times is on and I’m out.

Facebook Q & A, June 3, 2012

‍‍י״ד סיון ה׳ תשע״ב - Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Tonight, Shirley Roberson asked about the work posted to Facebook and the Public Rotation album in particular :

I really like the ones where the subject is in the back and very sharp and the people or things up front are muted. How do get this look, if I may ask. And do you ask the people for permission or are these candid shots?

I had written up an answer that was going up as a Facebook comment, but it got so long, I decided to move it here for the ability to provide links and edit text.

Answer:   The area in space that is rendered as sharp is called “depth of field” and is often the marker of so-called professional work for a number of reasons and (not exhaustively) these are some good ones: lenses or mechanisms that provide for shallow and/or controllable fields are typically expensive, and the camera sensor/film size must larger than common cameras for it to be distinctly notable, and the thinner and more complex the shape of the plane the more skill is required.

The shape of that area is effectively controlled by three things: the magnification ratio – the ratio of the object in reality to the object as recorded by film/sensor, the aperture of the lens, and the lens position and (focus, tilts, swings, etc.) relative to the film/sensor. Also, you have to realize (as you implied) that what’s important in terms of composing for human perception is the contrast between sharpness and unsharpness. You only begin to see unsharpness once you go below the weakest link in the chain – for example, it doesn’t matter if you have sharpest lens in the world – you won’t see it if you are printing to newspaper (which has very coarse, dithered dots). It’s actually a moderately complicated subject.

As far as permission or candid – that too is complicated. In general, in the US so long as one is in public and a person’s likeness is not used commercially – think in an advertisement, not a sold fine art piece, permission is not needed. Much of my work is wholly surreptitious even though my cameras – which usually weigh at least 4 lbs – are worn openly. Nevertheless, to call it candid is inaccurate. People are generally predictable and actually are controllable. Eye contact, shifting equipment or limbs, changing the angle of your path on the street, and so forth can not just elicit responses, but actually induce people to move to the desired part of the frame for purely compositional reasons, e.g. to control weighting of areas or to present color and luminous contrast to a chosen background.

You might not realize that I need to use manual focus lenses for these techniques and have to have my lens set well before I even get to the time, place, and angle I intend to use… and I usually can’t be looking in the direction of my subject. In short, I usually have 1-6 inches of error, have to predict the future, envision the camera’s perspective from another point in space (and time), and not have the subject (or sometimes anyone) notice what I am doing. The last two mean, that in effect, I work with my eyes closed (sometimes less than effect – I have worked that way). I find that most times people assume – to the point of not asking – that a motor drive is used, that I shoot many frames per second. In fact, to keep the mechanism of my usual digital camera quiet, my 5DII is set to an advance mode where I can release the shutter once every two or three seconds at most – and that maximum doesn’t usually work either, because that begins to give away your interest in the subject. The film cameras typically don’t have motor drives.

That process isn’t magic and can be taught, but it does require time and exercises and I know of no one who has written this down.  (Yet.  Maybe.)  I also don’t know of many “photographers” who would put in the time to develop the ability.  A related concept (minus the surreptitious prediction and manipulation bit) is called blocking, but being a cinematography  concept, usually needs to be explained to still photographers.  (Not that “DP”s are any better.  They suck too.  Except for the ones that don’t.)

[UPDATED] Spending $15,000 at Adorama? Salesman: you’re “hardly worth it” and your “wife is a bitch.” Behind your back of course.

‍‍כ״ח שבט ה׳ תשע״ב - Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Update : having a very good exchange with Helen Oster of Adorama which I expected, given her deserved reputation for fast and attentive help. Will continue to provide relevant and continuing facts as best I can. Also wanted to add the following. Original post from 2/21 follows after.

[2/22/12 7pm]

I went back and forth about posting this. I could have written about the things that happened two months ago at that time. But once it went beyond me, I no longer felt “in person” conversations were sufficient. It also occurred to me that I had recommended Jimmy to others, in addition to pro/serious amateur/artist friends who drop serious money there, and I had an obligation to them, especially the first group.

I want to make it clear that I am writing about my experiences as factually as I can – while holding back names of people who have done nothing but be supportive – and on my own feelings. The one thing I won’t do is suggest a course of action for anyone. That includes both Adorama management and customers. While I really would like to recommend certain other salespeople there, I think it’s reckless because I haven’t worked with every person there, and others deserve chances. I wil make those recommendations, as I have in the past – because I do like to help those I think care and provide service – but only on a direct basis and not in “broadcast” form.

I went into the NYC store on 2/21, to mention the post to managerial staff and certain involved parties, to make sure they had a chance to deal with the situation or to object to any facts presented. Of course, they are dealing with the situation and have been in touch with me. I do not know what they are doing at this time; frankly, it’s an internal matter and I won’t offer an opinion. All businesses make missteps with customers, the point is to do right when they are in the wrong. I have a long history shopping at Adorama – some time ago I found a grey card I bought there in 1996 – and in the past, we have managed to solve any problematic issues. I am and remain a fan.

[2/21/12 4am]

You know, I spend a lot of money at Adorama.  I can wallpaper a room with my receipts.

Those receipts add up to a car, and not a cheap one.

I spend a good amount of time there and recommend the store to my personal students. With an exception or two, the sales people are nice, if varied in their level of techinical familiarity, and honest given their knowledge and the profit model of consumer electronics.  Unfortunately, this is about an exception.  One they are aware of and not dealing with.

So I write this story regretfully – it was going to be private initally, has been told in confidence to some of my friends, some of the highest-end, most accomplished photographers in the city, some with university teaching positions.  But since the story extends beyond me, since the conduct was observed by others at the store, done brazenly across the sales floor, I suppose there is no issue continuing the public trend.  Moreover, in this economy, captial expenditures are a major choice and a risk.  I think people should know whom they are dealing with, their character, when people make business choices that can make or break them.

One evening [EDIT: 8 Feb 2012, 6pm], a few weeks ago I had an issue with a used item I bought.  Mistakes happen, the rating system is more about cosmetics than function, I know this and life goes on.  I was standing at the used desk, chatting with Andy, who really is one of the nicest, fairest people you will meet.  He loves cameras as objects, as a craft, and has decades of experience to draw upon, and really works to treat people selling their camera equipment in the most honest fashion in the city – and I have dealt with just about everyone.  In any case, I moved on to looking at some used piece.   From across the floor, Jimmy Newmark, my former usual salesman, shouts out to Andy about pricing a Leica M9P and some lens, a $15,000 package.  Nothing unusal about that, except for decorum, perhaps.

Now, for the next five minutes, across the width of the floor, say 25 feet, a three, well, four way conversation is held.  Apparently, the guy was selling some equipment as well.  He was calling from his car and had his wife with him, but she was unhappy with the prices he was getting on his trade-in and was pushing for him to sell privately.  This continues for a bit and the call ends.  From his sales station, he recaps the situation as above, mentioning that he is a rich S-Y (Jewish slang for a Syrian Jew) and that he makes a fortune, real estate I believe it was, and that his wife was a pain.

A few minutes later, the call resumed, and some sort of deal is reached. Or it wasn’t. I stopped paying attention. Call ends.  Jimmy then left his station and came to talk loudly – standing next to me, initially – at Andy and other staff at the used desk.  I say “talking at,” because this wasn’t a conversation, it was a monologue, a rant. In short, he stated that the he’s a big guy, the guy drops $15K every year on a whim, but his wife is such a bitch, it’s not worth the hassle.  Nobody acknowledged him in any way; they just looked at him and walked off when he was done.

And it was a performance for my benefit.


confessions of a speed freak and glass addict – part one : my problems

‍‍ד׳ שבט ה׳ תשע״א - Saturday, January 8th, 2011

I didn’t start out this way – ok, I cut my teeth on a Contax IIa with a prewar collapsible Sonnar.  But despite the name, f/2 is not fast.  But I soon found myself using a Nikon F (FTn) as a teenager.  I liked it.  I liked it far better than my Nikon 6006 – my first AF body and the only body I’ve lost and never looked for – eventually using a Sonnar type 105/2.5 Non-AI because I could MF a long thread portrait lens faster than the 6006 could screw drive an 85/1.8.  And it was good.  I, like many, started on Tri-X, and aside from an odd dalliance with an Ilford here and there,  I embraced the whole T-Max family.  But TMZ was my baby.  And I would push and pull it… almost to the point that i have to admit that the 400-3200 range and usual 1600 settings on my 5DII seem oddly familiar.

I was a speed addict, but I didn’t know any better with no one to teach me. While I would use the 50/1.4 Nikkor-S from time to time, I figured that the 55/3.5 – my third lens option until the until my AF era – was pretty much the same… plus MACRO.  It made no sense to use the 50/1.4.  And I didn’t.

To be fair, I wasn’t alone : Bjorn Rorslett laments the change in optical formula on the non compensating 55/3.5 (K type, single coated, if you must know).  So (the) hoi polloi had been doing what I thought was a brilliant idea since the late 60s; I have some pity on my 16 year old self.  Furthermore, the deep recessed element was easier to protect sans filter… and looked cooler.  But f/3.5 is f/3.5, and even at EI3200, it was not good.

As I fell in and out of photography, my minimum fast aperture dropped… when I stopped shooting in my early 20s, it was 2.8.  When I picked it up again in 2004-5, it had widened to f/2.  In the last year – and with good cause, I (obviously) think, an f/stop that doesn’t begin with a “1.” is a luxury, a shamefully deep DOF to cover hip shooting, and the beginning of marginally useful when encountering situations where f/1.2 at 3200 nets me exposures 1/10-1/40th long, even with my usual -1 exposure compensation.  Which is a nice segue to the point of all this:  after years and years of lust, I have succumbed: in September, direct from Hong Kong, a Noct – a Noct Nikkor – with all its hype and handpolishedness entered my life.  

Now mind you, I have a number – and that number would be significant – of 1.2/1.4 lenses in full 35mm format and some example of every Nikon normal focal/aperture combination (I returned my Nikkor AI-P copy – for being too slow):

5.8cm/1.4S (Several)
50/1.4 S (Several)
55/1.2 S 
55/1.2 SC (AI converted, but the flange tabs were damaged so it went back)
58/1.2 Noct (Chosen over two tested AIS copies for the better build and long throw)
50/2 AI
50/1.2 AIS 
50/1.8 AF-D (China)

Technically, I also own Nikon’s other 1.2; the Nikkor-O 55/1.2 CRT/Oscilloscope lens.  Being in an extended M39 mount with a rangefinder type flange focal distance, it is reserved for use on my GH1 and not relevant to this use.  Additionally, and far more relevant, I own a 58/1.4 Cosina Voigtlaender Nokton in Nikon AIS mount, the CV 40/2 Ultron in both Nikon and Canon mount (it is that useful), a recently acquired Sigma 50/1.4, plus the C/Y Zeiss 50/1.4 Planar and several Pentax M42 offerings, along with some others.

If the point of this post were to list my lenses, I would just point you to the Google docs list.  The point is that not only do I have some very considered and clear opinions on the *use* of the above lenses (there are no good lenses, just overpriced ones) of which several are in common rotation in the middle position of my typical three lens kit (and the Ultron can also play wide angle if I take a 58mm lens) but I am in a unique position to offer some feedback on the Noct, especially relative to the other 1.2 Nikon offerings.  The other 1.4 options must be considered, and I own many of them; notably absent is a 50/1.4 AIS and any AF version of the same.  In any case, my feelings are a little different than conventional wisdom on these lenses – but there is nothing wrong with the conventional wisdom for conventional (read: most) shooters.  

I will write a full comparison, but there is no reason to keep you waiting: if you’ve ever been squeamish about stopping down from f/1.2 to f/1.4, or if f/2 has begun to feel like f/8 – and espeically if you have forgotten that f/8 exists, if your lighting situation is often one where no method – CDAF, PAF, manual by prism, or manual by live view is a crap shoot, do not pass go, do not buy the Canon 50/1.2L (not owned, but I did try several), get a Noct.  Practice your focusing skills.  I shoot my Noct wide open from the hip. I shoot it in venues where hip focusing might be more accurate than using a visual method. There is no reason that reliable focus cannot be had for all but the darkest situations or fastest subjects – and no, people are not that fast.  Stop making excuses and look at the viewfinder – watch how things come into focus.  I’ll save that for another post… or a book.

Now, if you want to shoot at f/1.4 get a 50-58/1.4 of whatever rendition style meets your fancy. Neither 1.2 is particularly “better” than its contemporary or subsequent offerings at 1.4, with even the “modern” 50/1.2 AIS suffering notable SA in daylight situations until f/2.  The 50/1.2 AIS is just a disappointing lens – for me.  It has better “technical” characteristics than a 55/1.2, but is pictorially inferior at any aperture that matters with these lenses. I do not think the more controlled SA and higher contrast were worth the cost in bokeh quality.  The 55/1.2 is charming and very bright.  If you are shooting f/4 and smaller the 50/1.2 is the better option.   If you are doing that, you probably want to look at the sturdier and cheaper 50/2 or again, a 1.4 for an extra stop if needed.  

The later, multicoated 55/1.2s are better than the earlier models – and I never say any lens is “better,” but in this case, its just a matter of it being brighter (I would prefer to test t/stop values but this is my rough experience in having reviewed my 55mm samples today) while being otherwise identical in character.  I have read others’ preferences for the earlier S version, preferring lower contrast.  I may feel that way about the 50/1.4 S against later lenses, but I’m not seeing a material difference – especially if you shoot for the dark/Lightroom as I always have – that would merti forgoing the benefits of MC elements.

The 5.8cm 1.4 is wonderful, just wonderful – if you know how to use single coated lenses – and is second only to the Noct in terms of frequency of use, not just in this class of lenses, but my shooting overall.  I own several copies and will probably collect more samples as stock of 48 year old lenses can only decrease.  I really have found the 58mm FL to be perfect for my eye.  It’s sad that there is only one readily available option here: the CV Nokton 58/1.4.

More to come.

Also, I plan on actually shooting off comparisons of these lenses (I’ve done this before, but never with a plan, just a tripod and a lamp (as a subject)) to confirm my opinions, and I have no problem in correcting myself.  But the broad strokes are on –  you probably dont need a 1.2 lens and for you the Noct is just so much hype – unless it isn’t.  The 50/1.2 is boring and functionally dubious when choosing what to carry.  The 55/1.2 is undervalued and has a distinct charm, with later versions offering the most flexibility.  The 50/1.4 Non AI have charm as well, albeit different, and the 5.8/14 perhaps the most charm of all – and entirely different in its optical formula when compared to all the offering (excluding the very modern designs).  The 50/2 is the best technical option.   I’ll cover the non-Nikkors another time – and the Sigma and Zeiss (C/Y Planar, I do not know anything about the modern ZF/ZE version other than some poor feedback, displeasure at the Cosina reality, and my general skepticism of the branding, fueled by owning and comparing both a C/Y and ZF 25/2.8 Distagon) are of particular note.


but Adam, how do I fix white balance?

‍‍י״ג אייר ה׳ תש״ע - Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

A simple tutorial for a girl I know who asked me the question above – and I didn’t have time to answer cause there was so much to say and she was tired and overloaded and everything.   Time to answer.

I never have enough of that one.

Ok, so you get back from your photo shoot… and all your pictures look orange.


In the old days, you bought film and made choices.  You would choose film speed (ASA/ISO, and perhaps DIN if you were a Nazi or are collecting Social Security), film size (35mm, 120, etc.) negative or slide, color or black and white.  If you chose color you had another choice – what type of light would you be shooting under?

Our brain makes things we know to be white look white under a range of lighting situations.  Film doesn’t have a brain. See, if you were outdoors, there was a film to make a pure white subject look white when lit by (midday) sunlight (5600K); if you were indoors, you could choose film balanced for Tungsten B lights (3200K) and even, and rarely, Tungsten A (3400K).  In an ideal world, our indoor lighting would be at the same color temperature-

-wait. I’m not going to get into the physics here, but you do need to know something about “color temperature” – and this is all you need to know, at least to start.  Those numbers above are in Kelvin (absolute temp= Celsius + 273.15). What heat has to do with any of this is not important.  You just need to remember the following five things:

  1. Sun = 5600K
  2. Cheap, powerful inefficient lights (Photofloods) = 3200K
  3. Expensive, powerful efficient lights (HMI) = 5600K
  4. The lower the number (temperature), the redder, and yes, confusingly, “warmer” the color
  5. The higher the number (temperature), the bluer, and yes, “cooler” the color

Now digital is awesome, because the sensor doesn’t actually see color, so we can make it up as we go along.  We can tell the sensor what to consider white, and then it figures out the rest of the palette from there.  Not only do we not have to worry about having the wrong, uncool film (pun mildly intended) in the camera, but we actually can balance for any temperature light source – not just the three options from the film days (and don’t ask about multiple light sources with different temps in the same shot.  That’s for later.)


This is all well and good – important stuff to know – but your model still looks like a tangerine.  In all your shots.  And she’s already gone home or out to party with the band and do blow.  There is no reshoot.  You accidentally set the camera to shoot for something like daylight, but you were using cheap continuous bulbs from the hardware store and don’t even know what color temperature they are.
You are fucked.

Maybe not.

Now, the following steps will work with JPEG and RAW images, but it is far better to do this with RAW images.  There is no quality loss, and if you have to fix the exposure (because of human vision relating certain colors to luminosity) there is much more latitude and shadow detail to bring back.  For our workflow, we’re going to be using Adobe Lightroom (version 2.7 here), because we want to fix an entire photo shoot’s worth of images.  Photoshop is better suited for in depth correction of a single picture.  We’re going to fix all the shots perfectly – no estimation or guessing – in about one minute – assuming we took one simple precaution.

We’ll get to that.

Let’s have a look at our orange model.

Tangerine, Tangerine

Pretty, ain’t she?  But even she would agree that while warming filters are flattering, she is plenty orange enough without the help.  In fact, not only was this shot screwed, so was this:

This one too.

Hell, the prima donna  won’t even look at us until we have this taken care of.

Not looking at you.

So, let’s fix this.  See, we were careful and using a color balancing card in one test shot.  A 18% gray card would be fine, and another method could use a white card.  (Yes, I was going to do both as you might notice from the Lightroom screenshots, but it’s 3am now [edit: 4:50am])  Gray cards are traditionally used for establishing a exposure level for a section of the image with a reflective (often a spot) meter, however, as they are color neutral and fairly standardized (there are other mixes of gray, but 18% is the traditional choice),  you can use them as the basis for color balancing.

In Lightroom, this is very easy.  Below is a color calibration card set; there is also a pure gray only card, but this is fine – the colors are printed on a 18% gray background.  That’s all we’ll need.  This is a fancy card with at least four ways to do color balance.  Forget that.  This method will work on a $2.49 card.  (In other words, you need this and cost is no excuse.)

An ounce of prevention…

Ok, great you took this shot.  So you can fix this picture because you have a neutral tone that you know. “Wonderful,” you say, “but I need to fix all the shots.  Even the ones with different exposures, lighting angles, and with no pretty calibration card sitting the frame.  What now?” Well, here’s the thing.  Your camera was set to 5400K (warm daylight type fluorescent bulbs).  There was only one source of light in the room – an incandescent light of unknown color temperature.

Since there is only one type of light source, the difference between what your camera expected and what was there is exactly the same in every shot lit by the lamp.  If you needed to drop the color balance by 2,550K (which you will in this example), then all the shots need the same correction, regardless of how much light actually was reflected in the scene and regardless of the color of what reflected it (sorta, but again, that’s for later).

So to clarify – if your camera thinks the white is cool (a high number) and it’s warm (a low number), we’re going to be subtracting.  How did I know that I was subtracting 2,550?  And isn’t this is taking way longer than a minute to explain?

Well.  Now that you know the problem and you have taken the one precaution YOU WILL ALWAYS TAKE IN EVERY SHOOT, that is, YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE A SHOT WITH THE MODEL HOLDING (AT LEAST) A GRAY CARD WITH EVERY LIGHTING COLOR CHANGE, the rest is very quick.

We’ve imported our shots into Lightroom and from the Library, we see the problem in all it’s ginger glory:

Red Read Red

Ok, so we see we have the important shot right there – a card with our preferred neutral color, 18% gray.  We click on it, and then go to Develop in the top right corner.  This will open up that image alone and give us more and finer tools to use.  When the mouse hovers over the image, it turns into a magnifying glass. We click on the part of the picture with the card to zoom in.  Now, on the right, you’ll see the Basic (very top) panel is open, set to Color (default), and there is a circle with an eyedropper.

Click on the eyedropper.

The tool we need

Now, that the mouse has turned into an eyedropper, we can move around and see the effects of picking various tones as the white balance point in the preview in the top left corner. We just want things “normal.” So, find the most even sample of the gray in the card that you can:

The place we need

And just click… and:

If it ain’t white, it ain’t right…

Now, that looks right.  But I said we would fix all of them in a minute, and even if you went slow, I should have 30 seconds left. More than I need.

While still in the Develop section on the picture we just fixed, right click on the picture (either the big one you just worked on or the small one in the filmstrip), and find Develop Settings/Copy Settings and click…

Where do we go…

Now we are going to take the important development change we made here (the white balance) and copy it.  Hit Check None at the bottom and then check the White Balance box (not suprisingly, the very first option, from an English reader’s perspective).  Click Copy.

Oh where do we go now…

Now that we have the change that we want, the rest is pretty obvious.  Go back to the Library View (top right corner) and select all the pictures that were from the late night photo shoot.  Don’t worry if you have the “fixed” picture in the selection.  We are going to paste a calibration number, not just “subtract” a number from all of the images (but that is the practical effect).

Where do we go…

Now we just do what we did to copy, but instead choose paste –  right click on any of the selected images and find Develop Settings/Paste Settings and click…

Oh where do we go now…

And just like that-

Sweet Child / Sweet Child O’Mine

Our model has her fluffy white hair back in every photograph… and is now ready for you to mess with her colors, but as you choose.

Addendum:  This is the most basic and simple method to get a decent working white balance after the fact.  There is always a gray card around, but it might not be perfectly neutral (though this is more common with the rise of digital cameras).  Color panels and white/gray/black card sets exist for a reason.  I use one of these. I have that with me at all times.  If I know I’m going to really be doing complicated color work with time to set up, this bigger and more versatile card is a lot more flexible (and my colormeter might come along).