Custom White Balance for 10 Stop Filters

10 stop filters are getting more and more popular enabling us to get longer exposures during the day, helping to create some beautiful and sometimes quite surreal shots which isn't normally possible without this wonderful piece of equipment.
This blog post is to share my technique for creating an easy and fast way to get a custom white balance to try and combat and correct the ugly colour cast you get from using these filters.
Once learned, this technique will get you better quality shots in camera with minimal processing saving time and frustration afterwards.

Some info on 10 stop filters first before the technique

These filters come in different shapes and sizes and from different brands.
  • B+W (circular, screw onto lens)
  • Lee (square, slot into filter holders with various sizes)
  • Hitech (square, slot into filter holders with various sizes)
Above are just a few of the more popular brands.
I have the B+W and the Hitech Pro stopper filters.
The B+W screw in filter is a fantastic filter which I loved but it was frustrating screwing on and off the filter everytime I needed to focus or re-compose but the quality is superb and the slight cast is very easy to correct in post processing.
My main workhorse is my Hitech pro Stopper 100mm version which slots into my Lee filter holder.
This filter has a foam gasket so when you slide it into the holder the gasket stops light leakage with its nice tight seal.
The two main advantages to this square filter is if I need to refocus or recompose I just slide  the filter out then back in when the adjustments have been made and also I can use additional filters which slide in the extra slots of your filter holder, so I can use my Lee hard edged Grads to really darken skies making them very dramatic.

Check out my blog post on Graduated Filters

The Hitech filter has a very reddy orangy cast which can be corrected with the custom white balance and the dropper tool in Photoshop Hitech pro Stopper
This filter is normally in stock and is very good quality and can produce excellent results when you learn how to use it to it's best.

The Lee Big Stopper is also a square slot in filter and even though I haven't had the opportunity to use one reviews and comments online state this is the best one you can get with optimal quality.
The problem I found with this one is they are always out of stock and I got so fed up of waiting I went with the Hitech, waiting lists can go into months (shame on you Lee). Lee Big Stopper
Probably worth the wait if you are patient but if like me you get fed up you won't be disappointed with the excellent Hitech pro Stopper which is also a lot cheaper.

Custom White Balance

If you are getting a 10 stop filter or already have one I will show you a way to custom white balance out in the field to correct those colour casts.
You will need to know how to set custom white balance for your camera so will need to check your camera manual if your not sure.
As I have a Nikon D300s I will be showing you using this camera.

The scenario: you are standing outside on a cloudy day waiting to start taking long exposures.

  • If the lens you are using for the long exposure has a zoom extend the zoom as far as possible then with the focusing in manual turn the focusing ring until everything is totally blurred

  •  Next up your ISO as far as it can go, this will depend on your camera and should be around 3200-6400 for example

  • Next attach your ten stop filter to the lens.
  • Now set aperture priority and then press the WB button whilst moving the scroll wheel to choose Pre on the top LCD screen, then press in the WB button again but holding it in until pre flashes.
  • Now point your camera towards the cloudy sky(even though you cant see through the viewfinder with the filter on, your camera will be able to with the settings we have chosen).
  • Press the shutter button then look at the LCD top plate which should say the word 'GOOD' which means you have successfully saved a custom white balance on the pre setting of your camera, if it doesn't say good follow the steps above until you get it right.

You have basically used the clouds as your grey card for the custom white balance.
That's it you are ready to do some long exposures with the custom white balance you have pre installed into the cameras memory.
You should now have a pretty accurate white balance but you can also use the dropper tool in Photoshop to fine tune it if needed.
Now just set up your camera as normal for your shot and don't forget to drop that ISO back down to 100-200 and revert your settings but keep the pre selected for you long exposure.
The biggest mistake I made after doing my long exposures was not putting the white balance back on auto, don't forget to do this every time you finish doing your long exposures as your pictures will probably have a massive pink cast when taking normal shots.

I hope this helps and I hope I have explained it well enough for you to try and copy but if not just drop me a line and I will try and help more.

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