Custom White Balance: Gray Card or White Card?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Steve Cutchen, Oct 21, 2005.

  1. I shoot indoor sports, and gyms often have a combination of lights and
    skylights. So I do a custom white balance. But I'm confused. My card
    has a white and a 15% gray side. Which is best for calibrating custom
    WB? I'm using a Canon 300D. The Canon manual says white. But it
    seems that gray would have less chance of over-saturating.
    Steve Cutchen, Oct 21, 2005
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  2. Steve Cutchen

    GTO Guest

    Can you use RAW? If not, is your Canon 300D corrected for ANSI gray or Kodak
    gray? Gray isn't gray anymore since we moved away from film. BTW, to ensure
    color accuracy, I prefer a MacBeth color chart
    ( But again, you should work with

    GTO, Oct 21, 2005
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  3. Steve Cutchen

    Mark² Guest

    The white side is for WB...the grey side is for setting exposure in tricky
    light (meter off of the grey card under identical light as your subject).

    You MAY be able to white balance off the grey too...try it.
    Mark², Oct 21, 2005
  4. Steve Cutchen

    jim evans Guest

    You can try this and see which way gives the results you like best.

    Shoot a picture of the gray card in the lighting you're trying to
    correct for. If different areas of the arena have different lighting
    shoot one in each area.

    Then when you are processing your pictures put the shot of the gray
    card in Photoshop and open Levels. Choose the gray eyedropper. Click
    on the image of the gray card in the picture. Click Save to save this
    adjustment. Now put one of your real shots from this lighting in
    Photoshop. Open Levels, click Load and load the adjustment you saved.

    If you are using a Kodak gray card for film I'm not sure how well this
    will work because gray cards for digital are not the same as for film.

    jim evans, Oct 21, 2005
  5. Steve Cutchen

    Bill Hilton Guest

    Steve Cutchen writes
    Either one will work fine. In theory the side that's the most
    perfectly neutral will be slightly better (there are manufacturing
    variances, unfortunately) but in practice you won't see much
    If you meter them the same (ie don't overexpose for the white) it
    shouldn't matter.

    Bill Hilton, Oct 21, 2005
  6. Steve Cutchen

    Annika1980 Guest

    If you shoot JPG then you do need to do a custom white balance first.
    You'll probably get similar results using either the gray or the white
    side of your card.
    I'd use the gray side to determine the exposure. Then set the exposure
    accordingly and use the white side to do the custom white balance.

    If you're shooting RAW, get a WhiBal.

    I got one of these this week.
    The advantage of shooting RAW with the WhiBal card is that you can take
    a pic of it anytime during your shoot and then do your custom white
    balancing when you convert the pics. Also, if lighting conditions
    change just take another pic of it in the new light.
    It's also very portable. My last gray card kept getting scrunched up
    in my camera bag.
    Annika1980, Oct 21, 2005
  7. Steve Cutchen

    Jim Guest

    The white side is the one to use for custom white balance.
    Have you ever seen one of the TV photographers use a gray card to get the
    white balance correct (anyway as correct as you can in the NTSC system)?
    Jim, Oct 21, 2005

  8. White balance?

    Oh yeah...I shoot RAW, so I don't give a shit.
    Randall Ainsworth, Oct 21, 2005
  9. Steve Cutchen

    kctan Guest

    Gray card can be used for gray balance and it is useful for shooting RAW
    file. I use it to work with PhaseOne digital back.
    kctan, Oct 21, 2005
  10. $> Steve Cutchen writes
    $>The Canon manual says white. But it
    $>seems that gray would have less chance of over-saturating.
    $If you meter them the same (ie don't overexpose for the white) it
    $shouldn't matter.

    I didn't read the original post so I don't know if you said what
    specific Canon camera you're using.

    The manual for my EOS 20D says that "Instead of a white object,
    an 18% gray card (commercially available) can produce a more
    accurate white balance." Now, I believe this is more to do with
    neutrality, as a commercially available gray card is more likely to
    be truly neutral than any old white object you happen to see near
    where you want to take the picture; the "white" object might actually
    be slightly off-white, which would throw off your custom WB, whereas
    the gray card is more likely to be neutral. It's also probably
    more likely to resist metamerism.

    As long as the object you use is neutral, and is neither horribly
    overexposed nor horribly underexposed, the WB should be fine either
    way. Horrible overexposure could lead one colour channel to saturate,
    which would throw off the balance; for instance, RGB value
    (128, 127, 129) would be usable for WB, but if you double those
    values by giving more exposure, two of the three channels saturate,
    and you get (255, 254, 255), which will yield a slightly different
    WB. Underexposure gets into quantization errors; cut those
    values in half and you might get (64, 64, 64), which also yields a
    slightly different WB. Noise also becomes more prominent if you

    I would think that if you're using a JPEG for custom WB, you'd
    want to move it towards the right of the histogram (but not so far
    that it clips a channel); the overexposed one is obviously no
    good, and the underexposed one looks perfectly neutral when we know
    that in fact the target is close but not quite neutral. If you're
    using a RAW image, quantization error is reduced on cameras which
    record more than 8 bits per pixel; my 20D records 12, for instance,
    so on the 0-255 scale, JPEG rounds things off to the nearest whole
    number, but RAW records to approximately +/-0.06, so the underexposed
    example above would render as (64, 63.5, 64.5) in RAW, and custom
    WB should be as accurate from that as it would be from a
    (128, 127, 129) JPEG.[/QUOTE]
    Stephen M. Dunn, Oct 21, 2005
  11. Steve Cutchen

    Lorem Ipsum Guest

    It's White balance. Use the white side. Easy to remember. The grey card is
    to simulate incidence light meter readings and is done at the subject, not
    at the camera (unless the light is the same).
    Lorem Ipsum, Oct 21, 2005
  12. Steve Cutchen

    Colin D Guest

    The grey side is spectrally neutral, so it's ok to use it for 'white'

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Oct 22, 2005
  13. Gray ~should~ work - with my old Sony digital, I could get a pretty
    decent custom WB in open shade by metering off street or sidewalk
    Bob Harrington, Oct 22, 2005
  14. Steve Cutchen

    Mark² Guest

    If it is a truly neutral grey, then it should work.
    Mark², Oct 22, 2005
  15. Steve Cutchen

    DHB Guest

    I'm just an amateur photographer but I have 26+ years
    experience with 35mm film SLR's & 5+ years with digital & I am open
    mined to trying new ideas. Having said that here is 1 I tired with
    considerable skepticism but since the price was virtually free, I
    figured that I had nothing to loose but a moments time. Simple or
    not, it worked great & I use it often with great results & it is in
    all of my camera bags now.

    The suggestion appeared in a photography magazine submitted by
    a reader & this is it.

    Use a white coffee filter to cover your lens, holding it in
    place with a rubber band works great. Then follow the normal WB
    procedure for your camera to set the WB.

    Make sure that the filter is out of focus, easy to do being so close
    to the front of the lens.

    Make sure the WB photo is not over or under exposed or it may not
    work properly.

    You can use it aimed directly at the light source so long as
    it does not cause overexposure or at your subject if there is enough
    light to prevent underexposure.

    Before I get flamed, let me point out that I almost did not
    try this because coffee filters are bleached white but there is no
    reason that they should or would pass the full light spectrum evenly
    because that was never their intended purpose. Also variations may be
    considerable form lot # to lot # & from brand to brand.

    So I used a Kodak gray/white card as a reference & was
    surprised at how close it worked out compared to the Kodak card. For
    95+% of what I photograph, the tiny difference is not worth
    mentioning, nor visible. As for the variations noted above, coffee
    filters are very inexpensive & can be purchased in quantity, so
    calibration testing need only be very infrequently. I carry a few in
    a clear plastic zip lock bag in each camera bag. The bag keeps them
    clean & dry.

    It's such a simple idea, it's rather like the paper clip,
    obvious & so simple "after" you see 1 but somebody had to figure it
    out 1st.

    Flame me if you wish but before doing so, I suggest "you
    actually try it 1st" & then let me know what you think.

    Just a suggestion that has worked very well for me in many
    situations & I too have a Digital Rebel/300D & it works fine with it.

    Hope this helps somebody.

    Respectfully, DHB

    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
    to the American public."--Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918
    DHB, Oct 22, 2005
  16. Steve Cutchen

    Mark² Guest

    That sort of thing DOES work.
    I've done similar things with other materials. The reason it can be helpful
    is that you only need a small piece of it in your kit, rather than needing a
    large white or grey card.
    Mark², Oct 22, 2005
  17. In Message-ID:<[email protected]> posted on Fri, 21 Oct
    2005 22:02:22 -0700, "Mark²" <mjmorgan(lowest even number
    here)> wrote:
    I use a white plastic lid from something, think it was whipped cream,
    and it's large enough to cover any lens, acts like the incident adapter
    for a photometer. Sure was cheaper than the ExpoDisc.
    Justín Käse, Oct 22, 2005
  18. Steve Cutchen

    none Guest

    Does this mean that you can also white balance off of a 100% black object?

    none, Oct 22, 2005
  19. Steve Cutchen

    Mark² Guest

    No, because black absorbs light rather than reflect it. It is the quality
    of reflected light in comparison with a neutral (white or neutral grey) that
    forms the basis for determining WB. Black would simply absorb all light
    hitting it (if truly black) and would therefore not allow analysis. By
    neutral grey, I simply meant no color cast. The degree of reflectance of
    the grey...would only effect the exposure setting. Neutrality would effect
    WB...not exposure.
    Mark², Oct 22, 2005
  20. Assuming your query was in jest;
    You can only get a 'black balance' with the black object,
    and in the dark, all colors are the same ...nonexistent <g>
    Justín Käse, Oct 22, 2005
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