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Ben, why do you use color balance to set black and white points?. I use curves, and some people use levels, but I've never seen color balance except over on the photo critique forum. RGB 5,5,5 is too dark to print and 254, 254, 254 is clipping.
I should probably point out to Ben, that I'm not using color balance to set black & white points. I'm using color balance to adjust neutrals where I find unwanted color cast encroaching them as a key to identifying WB issues or to contend with mixed lighting.
Neutrals could be at any tonal value and I largely try to stay away from picking black/white (near) end points when I'm trying adjust for casts. It should also not be missed that I've indicated that I often pull back on the saturation after using color balance to make such adjustments.
How do you get contrast and a good black point. I have used curves to simply pull it back or with the eyedropper on a dark point. But otherwise I don't know any other tricks. using color balance for this has a bit more control. I usually find too much blue so it needs to be pulled back more.
I am using a real neutral someplace in the mid range and my white is usually close to white so its also fairly neutral unless its a rad cloud sunset.
If I used curves and pulled back each RGB channel to about 5 it would be the same would it not? And if I pull it back until one channel is near clipping and another is still around 10-15, its not going to be very black.
I suppose I could pull each channel back to around 5 and then use luminance to avoid changing the cast.
If I don't set a good black point, the image usually looks flat. This is one of the big issues with most HDR images.