Prior to shooting digital there was no adjusting white balance with film photography. My lab adjusted the color for me. But with digital I now set the white balance. I can set the white balance before or after I take the shot. That is if I’m shooting RAW files?
With RAW, I can always adjust the color in my RAW editing program later to suit my taste. And this is my preferred method of getting good white balance. For this I need two things:
1) I need to set the camera to a RAW file setting.
2) I need a color corrected monitor to view the image later.
For this reason I don’t worry so much what my white balance is set at. As I can always change it later. Color is subjective anyway. Especially with skin tones. What might be perfect white balance for my clients skin just does not look pleasing to the eye (also why I stopped doing a custom white balance in my camera with portraits). That is why I like to tweak the white balance later when I’m viewing it on the monitor.
I use a spyder to color correct my monitor. And that way what I see on my monitor matches that of what my pro lab sees on their monitor. Before I did this my prints would come back from the lab with a different color than what I saw on my monitor! Now they come back looking the same.
If I were to set my camera to shoot jpg format then I’d have to be more careful when getting the correct color. As it cannot be changed so easily later on. Shooting Raw versus Jpg has been an ongoing debate with photographers for years!
I tend to use Auto White Balance when shooting outside. Even when shooting RAW I use this setting in my camera. As I found when the sun goes under a cloud the light temperature changes and I’m not fast enough to adjust for it at the back of my camera. This saves me time when editing the color later.
The real problem with shooting outside on sunny days is that I tend to get color casts in skin tones of the portraits I take.
Sun can bounce off green grass and create a green cast in the skin of my subjects. When in open shade I can get a blue cast from open sky. That is why I like an overcast day for doing portraits. It eliminates both the direct sun and blue sky. I get less contrast on the face as well. See the video above for more details on the subject.