Don’t use GoPro Native WB

A year ago, when I got my first GoPro (a Hero 6), I searched the web for the correct settings. It took me a while to figure out what modes I should be shooting in (1080p50 linear 95% of the time, 4K25 wide when I need the wide angle), as well as other settings, such as white balance.

I prefer to shoot everything as flat as possible. I don’t mind the extra work required in Lightroom or Davinci Resolve to make the picture look good again, as long as I know I captured as much as I could. So naturally, I figured that settings the white balance to ‘native’ would mean that there would be minimal processing applied to the image, and that it would capture the native white balance of the sensor (if that even is a thing). I made this decision based on a couple of sources (here and here), but in my experience, I found that setting proper WB is essential to getting a nice picture. If you set WB to ‘native’, it seems like a lot of color information is lost that you cannot recover in post. I will try to explain what I mean.

For instance, take this wonderful picture. I tried to get a lot of colors in the shot. I’ve shot two videos, both 1080p50 Linear, ProTune flat, minimal sharpness, with only the WB setting being different between the shots. First, lets take a look at the ‘native’ WB setting.

WB: native

This image looks nice and flat, especially when you look at the picture that’s taken with the WB set to 6500K (as it was a cloudy sky).

WB: 6500K

However, when trying to grade the ‘native’ WB image, it is very difficult to get the color to match up to the nice 6500K image. Lets take a look at the scope in Davinci Resolve.

Scopes of the ‘native’ WB image
Scopes of the 6500K WB image

As expected, the 6500K image shows more contrast and the colors are more separated from each other, compared to the native WB image. However, this is what I end up with when I try to make the native WB image look nice.

Native WB after grading

While this picture looks fine, it clearly illustrates my issues with native WB. As you can see, the tomatoes and the oranges share the same color. If you look at the 6500K image, you can see a bigger color difference between the two.

6500K WB after grading

For the grading process, I’ve increased saturation and added color boost in the native image, and only applied a little color boost to the 6500K image. Both images have increased exposure, and I adjust the WB in both images, to get the white background to match up.

Now, while the tomatoes in the native WB image might look tastier, this does illustrate my experience in that you lose color information when you set the GoPro to native WB.

I can only speak for the settings of the GoPro Hero 6, as this is only GoPro I’ve used and compared these settings with.

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