How to set custom white balance with 18% grey card

jessica_t

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I am trying to learn how to set custom balance by using a 18% grey card. For some reason I am really having trouble understanding this concept. A lot of material I am reading online is very vague about the process. They say to take a picture in the same lighting situation as the subject you want to photograph while focusing on the 18% grey card, and to fill the frame. Soooo?- does it matter what mode is shot in, like manual or auto? Do I not use the flash? I am very confused. I am a beginner, literally just starting out in photography so I'm kind of at a loss right now. I am trying to learn how to actually do this in camera and not post processing, I know there are ways to do that by taking a picture of the subject and the grey card and referring to it later, but that's not what I am asking for help with. Any advice?
 

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You need to get a properly exposed image of the grey card (you can use the grey card to set the exposure using spot metering) that fills the requisite area of the frame (filling the frame is a good rule of thumb, but not required with all cameras) and is taken in the light you'll be shooting in. Then you use that image to set a custom white balance in camera. If you're lighting your subject with flash you should be able to just use the flash WB, but you can still take a picture of the card with the flash. You want to set WB to the dominant lighting in the scene, if you're lighting your subject with flash it wouldn't make sense not to light the card with the flash.
 

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You can also use the card as a WB reference you post processing software such as Lightroom, Photoshop and ACR
 

bratkinson

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When taking the requisite picture of the grey card, it should fill or nearly-fill the frame. Immediately after, go to the WB menu in your camera and set custom-WB to the image you just took. Thereafter, all pictures taken from that location and in that direction will be correctly white balanced. It should be noted that only JPGs are affected by in-camera WB setting. RAW images are not affected.

If your lighting changes, even, perhaps even aiming in a different direction in the room, it's time to take another WB shot and set the camera appropriately. However, if you go back to the same room or 'setup' as the first WB setting, you need only 'scroll back' in the pictures to the first WB shot and set that one as the WB.

For what it's worth, I did a birthday party in a small banquet room lit from the windows on one wall, brick wall on 2 other sides, and lit from incandescent lights above and from the 4th wall. I shot the 4 needed WB shots before the party. I did perhaps 25 or so shots that way and found going back and re-setting WB every 8-10 shots a real pain. Then I decided to delay WB setting until post processing with Lightroom. I shoot JPG + RAW, so I simply set WB during post processing the RAW images. I could probably do it with JPGs in LR, too. But I've never tried.
 
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jessica_t

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Soon you will realize it is a waste of time.

Can you explain why it is a waste of time? I sure dont want to be wasting my time learning sonething unnecessary afterall. Do you just prefer post processing
 
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jessica_t

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When taking the requisite picture of the grey card, it should fill or nearly-fill the frame. Immediately after, go to the WB menu in your camera and set custom-WB to the image you just took. Thereafter, all pictures taken from that location and in that direction will be correctly white balanced. It should be noted that only JPGs are affected by in-camera WB setting. RAW images are not affected.

If your lighting changes, even, perhaps even aiming in a different direction in the room, it's time to take another WB shot and set the camera appropriately. However, if you go back to the same room or 'setup' as the first WB setting, you need only 'scroll back' in the pictures to the first WB shot and set that one as the WB.

For what it's worth, I did a birthday party in a small banquet room lit from the windows on one wall, brick wall on 2 other sides, and lit from incandescent lights above and from the 4th wall. I shot the 4 needed WB shots before the party. I did perhaps 25 or so shots that way and found going back and re-setting WB every 8-10 shots a real pain. Then I decided to delay WB setting until post processing with Lightroom. I shoot JPG + RAW, so I simply set WB during post processing the RAW images. I could probably do it with JPGs in LR, too. But I've never tried.
Ok just to be sure I am understanding this correctly if shooting in RAW (which I do always) setting custom wb in camera will not affect my images. So in other words regardless I need to do post processong to set wb using lightroom, if I am shooting in RAW, am I correct?
 

Robin_Usagani

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I mostly shoot with AWB.. Once in a while i change it to tungsten.
The only thing I can think of where custom WB is good is for video.

What kind of work are you doing? Portraits? Weddings?
 

Robin_Usagani

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It will affect your preview and set the wb when you open he raw file. It is just like shooting B&W while in raw. You can convert it back to color.
 
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jessica_t

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It will affect your preview and set the wb when you open he e. It is just like shooting B&W while in raw. You can convert it back to color.


ok I understand, im a beginner just learning so nothing in particular, other than to just learn. But I get so much advice from diff people. Since we are in the discussion I would like to clear one thing up. Because im getting mixed answers. Some people tell me gray cards are for exposure and white cards are for wb. Others say vice versa or some say gray cards are to do either one....so ok which is it really? Because I find myself getting more confused rather then learning
 

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You can also use the card as a WB reference you post processing software such as Lightroom, Photoshop and ACR
FWIW - Lightroom's Develop module and Photoshop Elements/CS/CC Camera Raw are all ACR and use the same White Balance tool.
 

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I am trying to learn how to actually do this in camera and not post processing, I know there are ways to do that by taking a picture of the subject and the grey card and referring to it later, but that's not what I am asking for help with. Any advice?
Just wondering, why don't you want to do it in post? It's SO much easier than fiddling with WB settings on the camera while shooting as you go from lighting situation to lighting situation.

You should, of course, do what works best for you. But here's what works best for me:

I start each lighting situation by having the model hold my white balance adjustment target and shooting a photo of it. Then I proceed with the shoot. When I move the model or the lights, I take another shot of the model holding it, then proceed with the shoot.

After the shoot, I bring the RAW photos into Lightroom, click the white balance eyedropper on the gray section of the adjustment target to get proper white balance, then I adjust the exposure if need be so that I still have details in both the white and black sections of the adjustment target, then sync up the rest of the photos from that lighting situation. Just like that, they're all white balanced. It takes just a couple of seconds.

Here's a before and after comparison:

White_Balance_Compare_1004.jpg
 
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jessica_t

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I am trying to learn how to actually do this in camera and not post processing, I know there are ways to do that by taking a picture of the subject and the grey card and referring to it later, but that's not what I am asking for help with. Any advice?
Just wondering, why don't you want to do it in post? It's SO much easier than fiddling with WB settings on the camera while shooting as you go from lighting situation to lighting situation.

You should, of course, do what works best for you. But here's what works best for me:

I start each lighting situation by having the model hold my white balance adjustment target and shooting a photo of it. Then I proceed with the shoot. When I move the model or the lights, I take another shot of the model holding it, then proceed with the shoot.

After the shoot, I bring the RAW photos into Lightroom, click the white balance eyedropper on the gray section of the adjustment target to get proper white balance, then I adjust the exposure if need be so that I still have details in both the white and black sections of the adjustment target, then sync up the rest of the photos from that lighting situation. Just like that, they're all white balanced. It takes just a couple of seconds.

Here's a before and after comparison:

White_Balance_Compare_1004.jpg

Ok I understand, I suppose I will just do it post processing, it was never so much as I didnt want to, I guess. It was more like I know its easier to do it that way, but I just wanted to learn HOW to do it on camera, Just to have my options open, even if I wasnt going to be doing it that way all the time. Thanks everyone! Everyones been so much help
 

HughGuessWho

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FWIW - Lightroom's Develop module and Photoshop Elements/CS/CC Camera Raw are all ACR and use the same White Balance tool.

Why do I feel like I am always corrected over the tiniest things?

Yes, they are the same. Just pointing out how it can be done within each app independently. I don't believe what I said was incorrect. From a GUI perspective, they are not one in the same.
 

bratkinson

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I do what Buckster indicated above, I simply set my camera to AWB and shoot JPG+RAW. I've been amazed at what the 5D3 can do for AWB compared to my former 60D. For my 'personal use' photos, I use the JPGs with only the slightest bit of LR touch up, if any. The RAW shots aren't that far off, either, even with screwy, mixed incandescent/florescent/spot light lighting.

Basically, I've come to agree with Robin...setting custom WB has become an exercise in futility. HOWEVER...there are situations where setting it once prevents 'going nuts' during post processing. One such situation was a "Festival of the Trees" this past December...75-80 decorated Christmas trees with the only lighting provided by what's on the trees. I did the 'set it and forget it' method there. Fortunately, I don't do any 'critical color' photography, so, even with post processing WB setting, I have 'latitude' on what looks right...In Lightroom, I've used everything from white table cloths to white shirt collars to a white polka-dot in a picture to set WB and then do a 'minor tweak' from there. If there's multiple shots in the same 'set', I then synchronize those to the one with the WB set.
 

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