I’d like to begin this post by telling you that the techniques I use for batch-adjusting white balance in Camera Raw can be used for any type of editing. For example, if you wanted to edit the saturation or contrast of multiple photos simultaneously, you can follow the instructions I’m about to give you below. I’ve merely chosen to focus on white balance because it’s a popular topic and extremely helpful to those who take many photos under the same light conditions, such as wedding, portrait and food photographers.
In this post, I’m going to use a few sample photos I just took a few minutes ago. I regularly shoot food photography under two distinct light conditions – one, where the light is too warm and two, where the light is too cool. I’m constantly adjusting white balance for these photos. It’s rare that I ever let a single image go through my editing process without evaluating this setting.
If you would like to follow along, you’ll need a gray card.
The test photos I shot for this project were taken in RAW mode. When using RAW mode, there is more information for Camera Raw to use while editing. It can also edit non-destructively, so it’s of value to take photographs this way. And since cameras don’t apply any sort of auto-white balance adjusting while in RAW mode, it’s perfect for our uses today.
My Sample Photos
Like I said, I just took these random shots a few moments ago. I ran around my kitchen looking for items that were somewhat vibrant in color so any differences in white balance were apparent. This is what I came up with:
If you look at the above thumbnails in Adobe Bridge closely, you’ll see that there are two batches of photos, each leading with photos of my gray cards. The first group consists of photos 1-6 and the second group consists of photos 7-13. I even named the files appropriately.
Now, if you look at the thumbnails again, more specifically, photos 1 and 7, you’ll see that the gray cards look strikingly different. This is because they are under two different sources of light – the warm and the cool.
Batch Editing White Balance
Since there are only two sources of light, I’m able to edit each group of photos all at once. This is the real benefit to using a gray card. There’s no guessing involved. It is what it is. The trick is to take a single photo of the gray cards under that particular light source before beginning any photography. This way, you’ll have a sure-fire neutral color captured under the light source you’d like to edit from.
To edit the first group, I need to select (click and highlight) each photo in that group and then open them all in Camera Raw by clicking the round Open in Camera Raw button in the top toolbar (circled in red).
After editing this first group, I’ll be repeating this exact step for the second group.
As you can see, the gray card in the above screenshot doesn’t look very gray. It looks more like it’s brown. So it only follows that each object photographed under this light conditions has a degree of inaccurate warmth added to it as well.
By the way, if you’re following along and don’t see the column of thumbnails to the left of the center photo, you need to either double-click on the left panel or click and drag it out to the right. The entire divider is clickable.
Selecting the Images
The begin my editing, I want to select all the photos in the left column. So to do that, I’ll select the first image, which happens to by the one that’s currently displaying in the center panel, hold down Shift on my keyboard and then select the last image in the column.
If you look in the left column now, you’ll see that all the images are selected. What this means is that whichever edit I make to the image that’s currently displayed in the center panel will be applied across all selected images. In this post, I’ll be editing white balance, but like I mentioned earlier, if I went ahead and made any other edit to this photo, such as saturation, lens distortion correction or exposure, each of those would affect every photo that’s highlighted in the left column.
Choosing the White Balance Tool
The next step is to select the White Balance Tool from the top toolbar.
It looks like a dropper.
Applying the White Balance Tool
To adjust white balance by using the White Balance Tool, I need to take a color sample of something that’s neutral gray. If I wasn’t using a gray card, I could guess which area of a photo is gray, but since I’m using the card (which is the reason for using it), I can simply go ahead and click anywhere on it. By doing so, the white balance will automatically be corrected in this first photo and every other selected photo. Take a look at the difference.
And if you look closely, all the thumbnail photos have been corrected as well. It’s that easy.
From here, I can either save these photos outright or open them in Photoshop for further editing. It’s really up to me. I can even continue on with my editing in Camera Raw.
Batch Editing the Second Group
This group isn’t as much fun. The white balance wasn’t terribly off, so we’re not going to be able to see much of a change. I’ll still go ahead and edit the photos. Let’s take a look at this next group after I launch them in Camera Raw from Bridge.
Now, if I go ahead and select all the photos in the left column and use the White Balance Tool again, we can see the corrected images.
Like I said, there isn’t much of a difference. If we look at the values in of the Temperature and Tint sliders over to the right though, we can see that the temperature has changed from 4900 to 4750 and the tint has changed from +17 to +27. Just because we don’t see much of a difference on the computer screen doesn’t mean there won’t be much of a difference in print or another output medium. It’s better to accurate correct white balance than eyeballing it with the risk of being off.
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