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What is a grey card?
It is a card photographers use to set the white balance for their shots.
What does this mean?
Different light gives you different colour casts on your images, sometimes we want this as we are trying to be creative, but often it takes from the image instead of adding to it.
How often have you thought you have captured a great image only to bring it up on the screen and go, “it wasn’t like this at all?” Most of us have and this is mainly because of a wrongly set white balance.
Can you never get skin colours that look like skin colours? This is also usually a white balance problem.
Ok, so how do we fix it?
We set the white balance to custom and get a person to hold a grey card up in front of their face and then set your white balance. You can also take a shot including the grey card that you can use in post processing to set the white balance if you are shooting in RAW.
If you don’t have a grey card you can also use a white piece of paper or if there is a road nearby and you live in Australia then you can shoot the road as your grey reference point. However it is much more accurate to use a grey card.
We can buy these at most photographic shops or online, but you can also make your own to get you out of a spot.
To make a grey card
An easy way to do this is open up Photoshop (or any image editor that can handle layers) and make a new document that’s sized at 8.5″ x 11″ and has a white background.
Make a new layer and fill it with black.
Reduce the opacity of that layer to 50%.
If your printer has a colour profile, you may want to switch to that off before printing for more accurate results.
Even if your grey card is uneven and not wonderful in general, it will still give you better and more accurate colour than the camera’s automatic white balance.
A proper grey card is definitely better, but when you need something quick you can get by with even this fairly inaccurate method.
Another way that I often use is to create the image above and then add it to my iphone. I then set this as my background and when I need a grey card I just open up my phone and I have one, or if your lock screen is automatically grey like mine you can use that, unfortunately that doesn’t help when I am using my iphone to take the shot.