White Balance Discrepancy

A Facebook friend asked me this:

I shoot in Kelvin and there is something I don’t understand when I open my raw files up in LR. For example: I have a shot I took and I had the kelvin set to 6500 in camera but when I look at the temperature setting in LR it says the temperature is 5850. Why is this? I’ve verified that no presets are changing the temperature upon upload in to LR.

Good question, and let me explain.

First, the WB setting *is* stored in the EXIF file. Posts on the ‘net that suggest not are simply wrong.

here’s EXIF data from my RAW file:

And here, from my resulting JPG file:

The WB setting is stored, true. But what Lightroom tries to show is the actual look of the file. The WB number has to be interpreted, in other words. And Adobe does this by giving us its best guess as to what the image actually looks like. Don’t forget, colour rendition is complex (it involves colour temperature as well as tint, for a start).

So the phenomenon my friend describes is not a problem; it’s a feature. You can manually set it back to the exact setting your camera was set to, but this would not result in better photos; on the contrary, the quality would be slightly less, assuming you shot correctly.





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