A preset white balance is a useful tool to ensure an accurate white balance in your images and can reduce time in post production correcting colour casts. If you are shooting in the same lighting conditions regularly you can save a white balance as a preset which can be recalled each time you shoot under those specific lighting conditions i.e. for studio photography.
To calculate a white balance the camera needs a point of reference for the specific lighting conditions. The most popular tools for this are a plain white card or a grey card. An 18% grey card is often used in photography as it represents the mid point in tone between black and white.
To record a preset white balance hold the ‘WB’ button and turn the main command dial to alter the white balance to PRE on the rear control panel.
White Balance (WB) button on the rear of the D3
The PRE option within the White balance settings
The D3 has five preset channels however this may vary depending on your camera model. On the D3 you can save your custom white balance to a preset channel ranging from d-0 to d-4 with the sub command wheel.
Once you have selected a channel to store your custom white balance on you will need to record a white balance value. To do this follow this procedure;
1. Press and hold the WB setting for approximately six seconds.
2. The PRE will start to flash indicating that it is ready to record a value.
3. Before the PRE stops flashing, frame up your reference point (white paper or grey card) so that it fills the whole frame and depress the shutter completely to record a value.
4. The custom white balance will not be effected whether the card or paper is in focus or not.
If the reading is successful the camera will display a flashing ‘Good’ in the control panels or Gd in the view finder. If the lighting conditions are too bright or too dark the camera maybe unable to record a value and will flash ‘noGd’ and you will need to be repeated the process. If no value is recorded while the PRE symbol is flashing you will need to repeat the process. If you intend to use the new white balance value immediately, keep the white balance set to the same channel you tested on.
How to copy the white balance settings from one image to another
With the exception of the D1, D1H, D1X and D100, all Nikon DSLR cameras allow the white balance settings to be copied from a previously taken image. The user can select images* from a memory card inserted into the camera to copy the white balance from, these images can be JPEG or NEF files. It is possible to select and use NEF files modified using the white balance adjustment option in Capture NX. For more details please see the cameras user manual. Cameras can only read Images taken by the same camera model i.e. the D200 will only read images taken with the D200 camera.
Select ‘measure’ to perform the preset white balance calculation. When the preset white balance is selected, exposure and all settings are controlled by the camera. The camera will return to return to it’s original zoom position.
Note the internal Speedlight will not fire even if selected during preset white balance measurement. Preset white balance cannot be measured with the flash internal or external, if you wish to use flash set the flash white balance setting instead.
If you are unsure whether you camera has the option to set a custom white balance, please refer to your user manual.
I like to use this white balance/reflector from Amazon;