How to use a gray card

In yesterday’s post I showed pictures of my oldest that I did using the gray card to get the proper white balance. However, I didn’t include how to do that. So, I figured I would make a new post explaining how do use it. I’m by no means the expert on this because that set was my first time successfully doing it.

From what I read in the instructions, you can use the gray card to determine exposure, light ratio and color balance.  What you want is a peak right in the middle of the histogram. What I did for this set of photos I had her hold the gray balance card in front of her face. I switched my camera to manual focus and filled the frame with the card. Focused on the card then snapped a picture.  To determine a new white balance, select PRESET MANUAL and press the WB button until the “PRE” display starts to flash, then frame a white or gray object (or card)  full-frame in the view finder and press the shutter release button. The new value for the white balance will be stored in preset d-0. To copy a value from an existing photograph, (which is what I did) select preset  manual, and choose the preset where the value will be stored from preset d-1 to d-4, then choose select image and select the photograph you took of the gray card.

These are the instructions for the D90. I’m not sure about the D80 or any other model.

You want to make sure that you check your surroundings frequently as you photograph because if you move locations, the lighting conditions may have change on you. Someone once told me that when doing portraits for a wedding, using the gray card to set the white balance will help to avoid the “bluish” look in the white dresses.

B & H sells gray cards for around 11.00 dollars. I’ve included the link below.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. suehenryphotography
    Mar 16, 2009 @ 06:50:10

    Thanks, Julie. Good information and most certainly something I need to work on.

  2. gerald johnson
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 20:23:32

    There are many instructions on the net on how to use. Many many many
    All are different darntist thing I ever did see.
    No one tells the samr thing.
    on a few of them, the gard works best not in focus. strange thing
    e-male me back if you choose.

  3. ed
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 10:37:52

    Thanks for the tutorial. I shot a baptism (informally) recently with my D90 and all my pictures had a reddish color cast( sunlight through stained glass, reflective wood surfaces, lighting, etc.) I used an SB-600 with a diffuser. I also had saturation to +1 which didn’t help. Time for me to invest in a gray card!

  4. Donny L Larsen
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 02:25:05

    I have tried to use a small grey card from Photo Basics to set a custom white balance on my Canon 50D
    shooting inside with my 580 II flash wth no success. The directions say all I need is to make sure the center circle of viewer is covered with the grey..ok..did it. Took the picture without the flash, couldn’t do that, the reflection from the flash made the image look white and when I assigned it as the custom wb the following photo’s had a real bad blue tint. Help

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