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General photography questions and answers: Discuss white balance and grey cards...Up until now, I've been using AWB but I guess it's time to take advantage of the custom white balance ...
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Old 20-12-2010, 05:13   #1 (permalink)
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white balance and grey cards

Up until now, I've been using AWB but I guess it's time to take advantage of the custom white balance feature. I looked into some articles about using grey cards but I still have some questions. hope you guys can help me out

why is it called an 18% grey card anyway? can we use a white sheet of paper instead? and what's the difference between using a grey card and a white paper. I know we can select the black point, grey point or the white point in photoshop.

thanks I seriously hope you guys can shed some light into this matter
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Old 20-12-2010, 06:56   #2 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

An 18% grey card has always been used as a calibrated target for a reflected light or in camera meter for establishing exposure. It's 18% grey so it's not actuallly a true mid tone; this was chosen so that it protects highlights as shadows retain more detail, later it was found that a dot of under exposure produced more pleasing results with colour film and slides.

It carried over into white balance as the standard for external white balance meters in the days where you needed trickery with filters and film types.

Obviously things are much easier with digital especially if you shoot raw. You can use white paper or anything white but often white paper isn't perfectly white and also, since your exposure is for midtones, whites are always slightly overexposed which can hurt accuracy. You can get cleaning cloths that are 18% grey so save you carrying a grey card. For studio work I use a nifty free card that I laminated from a Scott Kelby book which is divided into black white midtones and 18% grey it can save a lot of time as you shoot the card set the balance and copy it to every shot, for jpg just use the custom WB setting in the camera. If it's a lighting set up you use more than once you can save it as a preset.

Last edited by VinnyP; 20-12-2010 at 07:03.
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Old 21-12-2010, 16:58   #3 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

I echo what vinny said. In studio, I find that my skin tones are a bit better using a custom WB that I set using a grey card as well. If you are using off camera lights it is well worth the time to take a few shots with a grey card and look at them on your computer as different lights will also give you slightly different color temperture so having a preset is very handy. However, if you are shooting raw, then you can do most things in PS afterwards.
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Old 21-12-2010, 17:25   #4 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

Thanks dookie and vinny. Yesterday I tried this technique. I have actually used a printer casing as my grey card. I didn't even fill the frame with it but I used it as a reference image (beauty of going digital lol). Still I could see some improvements while using custom WB. I have ordered a grey card too. So let's see how it goes. I do shoot in RAW but I'd rather get most of the settings correctly while I'm shooting. saves a lot of post processing time. besides, I'm still not completely sure what all those sliders do, to be honest
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Old 23-12-2010, 11:19   #5 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

An alternative is to use a colour checker chart. I bought the XRite colour checker Passport mainly to calibrate my camera but can now include in a shot where the WB may be important (an outdoor model shoot). You just need one shot of the colour checker charts in the lighting conditions. You can then measure the WB in Adobe Raw by using the WB Selector on the neutral square. There are also adjacent squares which are fracrionally warmer or cooler which can be chosen to give the desired effect if not neutral. Once you have measured the WB, you can sychronise all of your shots from that shoot to the same WB.

I do use a camera custom WB for my Infra Red camera but this required taking a shot of green grass in full sunlight.
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Old 23-12-2010, 19:59   #6 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

thanks. hmm there was a complete color checker chart. the one I bought had CYMK (I still didn't get the card). don't know if there's a difference. I'll try my luck with that
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Old 24-12-2010, 10:19   #7 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

Whilst you are on that subject, it may be worth running a screen calibration tool....

I have one of these, and its worth its weight in wasted paper.
You also need to do a Printer calibration as well....

Ok, this is time consuming, but, you only do it once.

What you are in effect doing is setting things up so the image you see in your viewfinder is the same image as you see on your screen, which is then the same image as you get from your printer...
You do spend a bit of time with a printed image altering settings by comparing it to the screen version, but once set, everything looks the same from Viewfinder to Print...
Why do this?...as an example,
If your screen is set slightly to dark, you may lighten your image in Photo processing, and then what gets printed gets printed too light.

(Am I making sense here?... )

Google is your friend, there are many "Free" calibration tools and "Set by eye" type pictures where you alter the picture until you get the best "Balance" of range of colours.
Then run a Printer test page, and compare what you got printed to what you see on the screen, at this stage, alter the printer to match.

Good Luck.
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Old 24-12-2010, 10:33   #8 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

ah yeah. I've heard of monitor calibration - "Calibrate your monitor. Working with a monitor that is not accurate is like being together with someone you can’t trust. It always ends badly." lol

I don't print my images here. not even going pro, at least yet. but I guess it's worth looking into it, even if it's just a hobby you are not gonna be satisfied if your images look dull on your monitor.

thanks for reminding me googling right away
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Old 26-12-2010, 00:14   #9 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Dragon View Post
Whilst you are on that subject, it may be worth running a screen calibration tool....
Ok, this is time consuming, but, you only do it once.
.
Couldn't agree more about screen calibration but as for only doing it once. Only once a month sure but you will be surprised how much a monitor changes over a month let alone a year even high end ones. Using a screen comparative gamma calibration tool and adjusting it to your printer output is all you will ever need to do if you just want to print or view your own pictures.

If you want to send them to a printing house or sell them for publication then it's probably best to use a hardware calibrating tool as they will set your screen and printer up to the industry standard.
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Old 26-12-2010, 10:46   #10 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

Quote:
I don't print my images here. not even going pro,
With the plethora of affordable quality photo printers on the market right now, its worth it...

Neighbour of mine has set up a "Grotto", she is a child-minder by trade, and opens up this grotto every year for donations to Charity...
I get invited with Camera, (And other gear...) to provide a memorable photo of each child with the Santa in there...
Producing Instant results the child WANTS to see (Camera tethered to her 50 inch LCD tv,) and being able to print at the same time, costs pennies, but the couple of quid donation for the photo boosts the charity fund...

I have taken photo's of memorable moments with various people at our house, and the ability to produce almost instantaneous results is priceless.

Budget wise, yes, expensive to buy, mine, a meagre Epson Photo R300, is not the best in the world, but it has served me well for a few years now, and as it produces better results than I ever got with a 35-mill processed by the local chemists, as a NOT-Pro amateur photographer, I consider it a worth-while investment?...

Plus, its also a HUGE "Feel-Good" factor to know "I did that"....
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Old 27-12-2010, 20:54   #11 (permalink)
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Re: white balance and grey cards

yeah "I did that" feels really good. I'm really trying my best to take a good pic of my 2 year old baby sister. and make a large print. I have everything I need now. waiting for the flasher. and trying my best to stop her from running away for just one sec lol
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