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How to use grey cards and white balance to get accurate colors in your photographs

How to use grey cards and white balance to get accurate colors in your photographs

Getting accurate colors in your photos is not an easy task. And if we're talking about product photography, having precise color representation is a must. 

This will help you reduce the number of returns and keep your customers happy and loyal.

A photography grey card and white balance can make your life so much easier.

white balance

But what is a grey card, and how do I use it?

A grey card is a cheap and easy-to-use tool designed to help photographers adjust their exposure and white balance settings by providing a reference point. This reference point will set a white balance or color balance point for a particular image set and all images captured afterward.

A grey card is 18% grey. This corresponds to a mid-grey, the middle point between the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights.

A grey card is a great tool to get good exposure. The light reflected from an 18% grey is perceived by your camera meter as “normal” exposure.  Grey cards can also be a reference point to detect any color cast and correct the white balance in your images.

First, to measure your reference point, place the grey card in the set in which you intend to take a photograph with the grey side facing toward the camera. Then, if you want the most accurate result, place the card directly where your subject might be. 

To use the grey card to set the exposure of your scene, please follow the following steps:

✅  As we have mentioned, place the grey card in the scene

✅ Point your camera at the grey card

✅ Adjust your camera settings to ensure optimal exposure and focus

✅ Take away the grey card from the scene and take photos keeping the exposure you set in the previous step

When light conditions change, you need to repeat the process.

Why is white balance essential?

grey card photography

After you have captured the image, you can then navigate the camera’s internal shooting menu and select one of the preset white balance options or “custom white balance.”

A grey card will help you to set the correct white balance and capture colors accurately. In addition, the grey card has a neutral tone and can be used as a reference point.

How to correct white balance in post-production

If you failed to capture the correct colors during the photo shoot, you could always correct the image retouching stage.

This what you have to do:

✅  Open a test image that contains your grey card in Photoshop and create a Levels Adjustment Layer. 

✅  You will find three eyedroppers stacked next to the Levels histogram. Select the middle-eyedropper from the three-eyedroppers next to Levels histogram, and click on the grey card. 

✅  Photoshop will automatically adjust the image’s color levels.

✅  If you need to apply those settings to other images taken in the same lighting conditions, click the drop-down menu in the top-right corner of the Levels column and select “Save Levels Preset.” 

In Lightroom, it’s even faster:

✅  Select the White Balance eyedropper tool in the Basic menu of the Develop Module and click on the grey card. 

✅  Use the eyedropper to pick a spot in the grey card

✅  Click on the spot, and Lightroom will correct the image about this spot

✅  Highlight all of the photos you want to color correct and click the “Sync” button in the lower right corner of the screen.

✅  Check “White Balance,” click “Synchronize,” and it’s DONE.


A grey card is an affordable accessory that will help you get accurate exposure and color in your photographs.

You can use your grey card to correct both white balance and exposure on the spot. In white balance, the most common thing to do is use the grey card during the photoshoot as a reference image. This will help you to correct your colors in image editing.

To ensure that you’re getting the best colors possible, it is recommended that you use artificial strobes in a stable lighting environment and lock your camera settings to ensure consistency from image to image in your inventory.

Need more info? 

Find out what services we can provide for your business and why countless international brands have been collaborating with us for years for their photography and image retouching needs.




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