Custom White Balance Fail?… Not So Fast

Share it with your friends Like

Thanks! Share it with your friends!


Our good friend Marlene Hielema ( and recently ran into an issue with the custom white balance settings on her camera where the colors just seemed to fluctuate no matter what she did.  After a TON of research and finally conferring with a colleague who had a lot of experience shooting at the particular venue in which she was experiencing the difficulties in question, Marlene got to the root of the problem, and her experience can serve as a valuable lesson to us all.

Here’s how Marlene tells the story…

Let me set the stage

  • Camera: Panasonic Lumix GH3 with 12-35mm f2.8 lens

  • I took an in-camera custom WB using a shutter speed of 1/60s (i.e. slow)

  • I shot in Manual Video mode for the video clips using shutter speeds of 1/60s to 1/200s

  • I shot in Shutter Priority mode for the stills and used various shutter speeds up to 1/800s

  • I used various ISO settings and took a lot of shots at ISO 12,800

  • I shot jpgs and raw files (but the jpgs were clearly superior, so I never used the raw files)

  • The files were to be used for hybrid eProducts

  • I wanted color consistency across the board, so I didn’t use any of the built in artistic modes for this shoot

The problem: Photos taken at fast shutter speeds in burst mode, had a color shift from one photo to the next

I sent some of the files in question to my colleagues at DiscoverMirrorless. This is what Will Crockett wrote back:

“The vapor lights in the ceiling are a non-continuous light source.  They cycle at 60hz or sometimes 120hz and change in intensity – and in color value as you mentioned.”

After conferring with numerous other colleagues, I spoke with a photographer named Barry Giles who shoots in the Calgary Olympic Oval on a regular basis. When I told him my problem and asked him about the color temp of the lights, he just laughed out loud.

“Yup, we’ve got four kinds of lighting in there: Tungsten, fluorescent, halogen and mercury vapor, all of them pulsating at different frequencies. There’s even a bit of daylight sneaking in at the very top of the bleachers near the ceiling.”

So much for Custom WB

Because I did my Custom WB capture at 1/60s, I was probably balanced for the mix itself which was fine if I would have shot at 1/60 second for the whole event, but that’s not a good way to freeze the action.

And this color shift didn’t show up in the video clips as I was shooting anywhere between 1/60 and 1/200 second, so more time to grab all of the colors which is what I measured for in the first place. Plus in the video clips things are moving and you don’t notice it as much because you’re watching the action.

Can this problem be solved?

  • If you shoot events when the TV People are there, you’re probably going to be fine.
  • Do your in-camera custom WB at a slow shutter speed to get the mixed lighting accounted for. It won’t be perfect.
  • When you are shooting at slower shutter speeds the light will mix better and you’ll probably have less problems. It won’t be perfect.
  • Try fill flash – I did a few of those with good results in close-ups, but it’s not so good for the overall shots
  • If you are shooting for a client in a place like this, then you should count on some color shift problems, unless you bring lights and light everything.
  • Might be a good time to make friends with the TV People.

Final answer: It depends.

Have a look at Marlene’s hybrid eProduct from the event here. It was created with ProShow Web.

(Read article on


Comments are disabled for this post.