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As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

Grey Card Questions

I don't know how many of you use a grey card to get color balance, but I do have a  question about using one:

There is a function space in my town, and I have worked in there a few times. I seem to have a lot of difficulty with consistency, even after using LR. It's a converted barn, open ceiling, wooden beams, pink-ish walls, traditional/old-school(?) round florescent fixtures hanging down, tungsten wall sconces, and the setting sun blazes in through a set of windows.

If I were to use a grey card for this room - and actually I guess this could apply to any room - when I take the shot of the card, other than manually focusing and filling the spot-meter circle with the card, do I take the shot as if I were taking a picture of someone? By that I mean would I bounce my flash if I were using one, gel my flash, etc. Or, would I just use ambient light? After answering that, would I shoot the card in four different directions, meaning facing each wall?

I know, as I get better with LR, I could fix stuff. But as I wrote, I have difficulty getting consistency even with LR. Facing one way and getting the skin tones correct, the walls and fixtures do not come out the same way as facing a different direction after adjusting the skin tones.

I really haven't found any good/great advice on line, so once again I've come to the best place.

Thanks - Dave


  • TrevTrev Moderator

    You merely take a shot with the lighting/flash you are going to use, no need to 'fill the frame' as long as the card is visible in the shot under the same lighting conditions.

    Generally to get the WB, open your photos up in LR/ACR, raw converter, find the shot with the WB card, using the dropper tool click on the grey card in the shot and your image should go to a neutral 18% reflective grey, the goal of a 'correct' WB.

    Now, if you were using a gel on flash to match ambient tungsten light say, still do the same thing, all you need to do is place the card in the shot, but make sure you have it where you are wanting the light to be correct, no use having someone hold it way above their head, or near the floor, just near their face, take the shot, then just start shooting without the card.

    Don't be confused by Grey Card WB in post production and Custom White Balance shooting, the Grey Card is taken in the shot, then WB synced later on; whereas you may take a shot filling the frame, then setting that image to a Custom White Balance, so you are actually shooting 'correct' WB for remainder of shoot.

    Of course if you start shooting near a different coloured surface, etc. etc. you will need to repeat the Grey Card shot or fill frame, and do a custom WB for the actual shoot.

    2 different ways to get to a WB.

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