How to Nail White Balance Every Time: Discovering the ExpoDisc

I’m going to be honest with you. When it comes to White Balance, I have always been one to shoot in Auto White Balance (AWB) mode and “fix it later.” “It’s such a quick, easy fix in post-processing,” I told myself. Until it wasn’t. I’ve begun noticing just how inaccurate my AWB setting is in my camera, and found myself spending a lot more time than I needed to correcting white balance in post-processing. It became a time-suck, and was slowing me way down. One of my goals this year was to evaluate my workflow and find ways to save time on the things that were costing me the most time. You know what was near the top of my list? You guessed it. White Balance. It was time for a change. I needed to focus on how to nail white balance in camera. That’s when I decided to try the ExpoDisc.

*Note: This post is not sponsored by ExpoDisc. This is a real world experience that we are excited to share with you!

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What is an ExpoDisc?

An ExpoDisc is a tool that photographers can use to set a custom white balance in their camera. The ExpoDisc reads the light that is hitting your subject to get a super-accurate reading of what the white balance should be. You may have also heard of using a gray card for white balance. The ExpoDisc is different from a gray card in that it reads the all of the light coming from around your multi-dimensional subject, instead of taking a reading only from the light in one specific area of your image.

The ExpoDisc comes in two sizes. You will want to choose the size that is large enough to cover your largest lens. It’s ok if the ExpoDisc is larger than your lens, as long as it will fully cover the end of it.

How to Nail White Balance

How to Use the ExpoDisc

Use of the ExpoDisc requires setting a custom white balance, which most cameras will only do in Manual or a semi-manual mode, but not Auto.

  1. Set your camera meter to proper exposure (I do this using the ExpoDisc as well, but you don’t have to. I explain my process for this in the next section).
  2. Place the ExpoDisc over the end of your lens, with the plain white side facing your lens. You can snap it into place, or you can just hold it over the end. Just be sure it is fully covering the end of your lens.
  3. While standing at your subject’s location, aim your camera towards your intended shooting position. (Doing so takes a sample of the light that will be falling onto your subjects). Take a sample shot through the ExpoDisc. (If your shutter won’t release because it’s trying to focus, just put the lens into Manual focus while taking this shot).
  4. Follow your camera’s instructions for setting a Custom White Balance in your camera menu, using the image you just took through the ExpoDisc.
  5. Once your custom white balance has been set, you can begin taking photos!
  6. Repeat this process any time you move to a new lighting situation.

In the image below, I have my subjects standing where I will be photographing them. I am standing next to them, taking the reading of light by following the steps outlined above.

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Once I have used the ExpoDisc to set my custom white balance, I remove the ExpoDisc and move into position to begin photographing my subjects.

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Before I started using the ExpoDisc, one of my biggest concerns was the time required to set a custom white balance every time I moved to a new lighting location or when the light changed. I have been incredibly surprised at just how quick and easy this process really is! Even the very first time I used it, it only took a couple of seconds. It truly is a quick snap, press a couple buttons, and DONE. So much faster than all the tweaking and what-not of my white balance after-the-fact in Lightroom or Photoshop.

I have been incredibly surprised at just how quick and easy it is!

Using the ExpoDisc to Meter for Proper Exposure

You can also use the ExpoDisc as an Incident light meter. I’ve had great success using the ExpoDisc for accurate exposure, and because I adjust all of my settings while I’m taking my white balance reading, it saves me even more time. Here are the steps for setting your exposure using the ExpoDisc:

  1. With your camera in Manual mode, place the ExpoDisc over the end of your lens.
  2. Stand at your subject’s position and aim your camera toward the position you will be shooting from.
  3. Taking note of your camera’s light meter, set your Aperture, ISO and shutter speed until your meter reads a proper exposure.
  4. Take a test shot through the ExpoDisc and review the histogram (correct exposure will show on the histogram as a grey, centered spike).
  5. Use your test image to set your custom white balance, as directed in the White Balance section above.
  6. Now your exposure is set, and your custom white balance is ready.

ExpoDisc vs. Auto White Balance

The images below show a comparison of photos taken using Auto White Balance in camera vs. using the ExpoDisc to set a custom white balance. All images are unedited, and were taken with a Canon EOS 5D MarkIV and a Canon 135 f/2L lens.

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Even indoors, the ExpoDisc works with amazing accuracy. The first image below was shot under regular indoor overhead lighting in my basement office, using the Auto White Balance setting in my camera. To take the ExpoDisc reading for the second shot, I simply aimed the ExpoDisc directly at the overhead light, which was the single light source in the room.

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Using the ExpoDisc has given me excellent results, straight out of my camera. I could not be happier with my decision to give this tool a try! Now that you now how to nail white balance using this tool, if you struggle like I did, the ExpoDisc would be a great option for you.