Why Using A White Balance Cap May Be Bad For Your Pictures

One of the possible ways of handling unexpected and varying lighting conditions is to use a white balance lens cap to average the light temperature. Haje over at Photocritic makes a very valid point about white balance and white balance averaging lens caps.

Basically he says that if direct sun is hitting the lens cap while your subject is in the shade your reading is going to be off. Makes perfect sense to me.

Here is a typical situation Haje describes where this method will not work.

Why Using A White Balance Cap May Provide Bad Pictures

“You are in the sun, but your subjects are in the shade. Your white-balancing cap will measure the light that’s hitting your camera (direct sunlight – or around 5,500 Kelvin or so). However, your subject will be in the shade (around 7,000 Kelvin or thereabouts).

The outcome is utterly predictable: Your white balance is going to be miles off.#

Solution is pretty simple, either use your camera to do white balance or make sure that the light hitting the white balance lens cap is the same that hits your subject.

[Why white-balance lens caps don’t make sense | Photocritic]

P.S – if you want to give this a go and see for yourself you can use a Coffee Filter or a starbucks coffee cup lid without spending big $$.

  • Dan

    This is why you don’t see pros using this stuff. Shoot RAW and use a gray card

    • http://DChinPhoto.com/ David Chin

      “This is why you don’t see pros using this stuff.”

      I direct your attention to this tip from Erik Valind, professional commercial photographer (around 0:59)


      Yes, he does use a grey card but he isn’t above using a white balance cap as the situation dictates.

  • Jamie W

    Proof read, ffs.

  • KC

    Sure enough: “This is why you don’t see pros using this stuff.”

    Only Zach and Jody Gray, David Guy Maynard, Ken Sklute, Clay Blackmore, Judy Host, Claude Jodoin, James Schmelzer, Monte Zucker, Eddie Tapp, and Don Gale have provided video tutorials on using such a device for ExpoImaging: http://expoimaging.com/support-video-lessons.php?support_id=6&keywords=ExpoDisc

  • matt haines

    A white-balance cap is a lot like an incident meter: you have to take a reading at the subject position, not the camera position (if the lighting is different). This seems so obvious to me as being beyond the need for discussion, but apparently not! :) AS for the comments about gray card being better than WB cap…can you prove it? Seems like mindless snobbery to me.

  • Robert Miler

    It is a scientific art, but still art. So unless you are doing scientific documentation, I suggest shooting in raw and adjusting your white balance during conversion.

  • Miguel Coelho

    If you use a light meter, you’re going to set it up where your subject is, and not where your camera is. Likewise, if you’re “measuring” the white balance, you have to do it where your subject is. Just because you’re using a camera to do it, doesn’t mean you can leave it on the tripod.

  • rmediacraft

    The suggestions to use the wb cap like a light meter (measure/calibrate from subject position) are dead on. If you can’t get a good white balance with one of these, you’re doing it wrong.

  • sbode

    Unless you want to carry a gray card (or white card) every where you go I would suggest shooting raw. Also an incident meter can really improve the accuracy of your exposures. A little more work of course but if you do a lot of outdoor portraiture not a bad idea.

  • Rick

    Three glaring typo/grammatical errors in the first two paragraphs. Does anybody proofread this stuff?