White Balance In Lightroom Using A Gray Card

Correct white balance is important in digital shooting and most cameras will do a decent job if left on auto white balance. You are however at the mercy of the cameras electronics.

gray card

An often used approach is to leave the camera set on Auto White Balance (AWB), shoot in RAW mode and then choose the white balance later in your RAW converter: Lightroom, CS3 or whatever tool you prefer.

When accurate color work is required it pays to have a much more precise method of determining the white balance.

Gray Card

I now carry a small gray card in my bag and will try to always take a shot of the gray card during the shoot. You can either fill the whole frame or just lay the card in the shot.

Lightroom Grey Card Images

I took the three images below on a beach in flat light. The blue color of the first image looks wrong as the rock was a black slate. The third image is of my gray card and again looks bluish.

Using the eye dropper

Next I select the white balance eye-dropper tool and click on the gray card image. You can see immediately, assuming your monitor is profiled, that the color is showing as a much better gray color.

You then note the white balance values, Temperature and Tint, and apply them to the image that you want to correct. In Lightroom this can be easily done in a number of ways but the way I prefer is to create a Develop Preset of the corrected Gray card white balance.

Develop Preset based on the Gray Cards' corrected white balance

This is how I do it in Lightroom

Develop Preset based on the Gray Cards' corrected white balance

In the Develop module I save the white balance settings for the gray card image as a Preset.

Click on the little plus sign to the right of Presets(use 'Copy Settings' from the main Lightroom 'Settings' menu). Just check the white balance box and then save as a Develop preset.

Uncheck all of the settings except for white balance.

Save your user preset with a meaningful name. In this case ' Gray Card - Torcross Jan 9th 08'.

The advantage of saving the Gray Card white balance setting as a preset is that you can use it on any image you like in your library.

The images below, following Gray card correction, are much more pleasing to my eye!

Final Images - Gray Card Corrected

Related Links

Douglas Gray Card

Gray Card Instructions Tutorial - Digital Arts Photography

See more tips Image-Space Lightroom Tips Library.

See the Rock Strata Portfolio - featured above