04 JPEG white balance
This is a JPEG version of the same picture. At first sight it looks identical, but if you take a look at the white balance panel you’ll see that although the Temp and Tint sliders are still there, the values they display are different. They’re centred on a value of zero rather than showing absolute values. That’s because the JPEG has no extended colour data to draw on and the starting point for any adjustments is simply the image as it stands.
05 White Balance Selector
So I’ll do the same thing with the White Balance Selector tool, clicking on the white cloth over the altar. So far, everything looks just the same…
06 Corrected JPEG image
But although the corrected picture looks much the same as the corrected RAW file, the white balance panel shows that something different has happened. Lightroom has shifted the existing colours relative to their original position rather than accessing extra colour data. But does this matter if the picture looks the same at the end of it?
07 RAW versus JPEG white balance adjustment
Well let’s see. I’ve created this split image with the adjusted RAW file on the left and the adjusted JPEG on the right. They might look similar, but there are differences. The RAW version has a little extra contrast and cleaner shadows and highlights. The JPEG version is similar, but the colours just aren’t as clean and there are signs that some of the tones are ‘clipped’ – the JPEG image does not have the extra data needed for the highest quality white balance adjustments.
At the same time, this proves that you don’t have to shoot RAW in order to adjust the white balance later. As you can see, you can adjust JPEGs too, and the results are still pretty good.
It’s not just Lightroom that differentiates between RAW and JPEGs in this way. All other programs work the same way, offering absolute temperature and tint values for RAW files and relative values for JPEGs.
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