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Thread: Grey or white card?

  1. #1

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    Doug Anderson

    Grey or white card?

    I've been using white on the recommendation of another photographer who thinks it makes the photos livelier. Any opinions on this?

  2. #2
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Alexander Rose

    Re: Grey or white card?

    Depends on what you want to accomplish.
    For white balance, I'd prefer a white card.
    For exposure metering, it's 12% grey.

  3. #3
    xpatUSA's Avatar
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    Re: Grey or white card?

    Perhaps it depends on how you use your camera. If you let the camera decide the exposure it turns an all-white scene into a gray image anyway. On the other hand, if a white card is part of a scene, then there is a danger of over-exposure of the card which would invalidate any attempt to correct a scene's color imbalance by "clicking on a white area". I usually use a gray card and that only for setting a custom white balance in the studio for a specific lighting set-up.

    Just my 2 pence-worth ;-)

    Ted

  4. #4

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    Re: Grey or white card?

    Quote Originally Posted by thatguyfromvienna View Post
    Depends on what you want to accomplish.
    For white balance, I'd prefer a white card.
    For exposure metering, it's 12% grey.
    Hi Doug,

    What Alexander is saying is that it depends if you're talking about getting the exposure right or if you're talking about white balancing the shot afterwards in post production.

    - If you're talking about white balancing then what's needed is a SPECTRALLY NEUTRAL card (ie EXACT gray) (albeit any shade of gray all the way up to white) (it's the evenness of the colour that's important, not the brightness of it).

    - If you're talking about exposure, then a gray card (some will say 12%, some will say 13%, many will say 18%) (the difference is small) can be used to spot-meter off to ensure an accurate exposure. You can also use a white card, but you need to apply 2 stops of exposure compensation or the reading will be interpreted as a gray card reading.

  5. #5

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    Re: Grey or white card?

    If we’re talking about white balance then the other photographer may just like his images to be "warm". Most white objects will have optical brightening agents that increase the amount of blue that the object gives off. this fools the camera's custom white balance process into removing too much blue, giving your scene a slight red cast.

    If you prefer to take a reference image of your WB card to use in post processing, then here again white is not a good choice. You still have the possibility of having OBAs in your reference, and you also risk overexposure if you're not using the card as an exposure reference. This is why WB cards tend to be light gray...when tossed into an image as a reference they're more accurate (supposedly) because they're bright, but there's little risk of clipping a channel.

    I don't think you're talking about exposure because a white object will give an exposure that's too dark...which doesn't seem very lively to me. In any case, 18% cards are good for full-frame multi-segmented metering modes such as Matrix on a Nikon or Evaluative on a Canon. 12.7% is the correct value for spot and center-weighted metering modes. Unfortunately there are no exposure references of that value, although Lastolite makes a 12% reference. You can use spot metering with an 18% gray card and simply increase your exposure by 1/2 stop. That works well.

  6. #6
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Grey or white card?

    A couple of Scott Kelby's books include white/gray target cards. I have used the white card for color balance. Since, I don't always want a totally accurate color rendition but, rather desire a flattering rendition, these cards work fine as a benchmark.

    I often like a slightly warmer rendition in a portrait rather than an exactly accurate color balance.

    I sometimes also use the white of my Maltese dog's coats as color balance targets (when I forget to include a card in the series of shots). That will also usually put me pretty well in the ball park as far as color balance goes.

    My smart phone has an app which portrays an 18% gray card on the LCD but, I have not attempted to work with it.

  7. #7

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    Re: Grey or white card?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I sometimes also use the white of my Maltese dog's coats as color balance targets (when I forget to include a card in the series of shots).
    Hi Richard,

    I sometimes forget as well -- keeping in mind though that if we're shooting with studio strobes then the colour temp isn't going to change a lot (mine seem to sit at about 4800 / -8 for what it's worth).

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