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05-26-2015, 06:30 PM   #1
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Can you tell which pic used a gray card for White Balance?

After hearing about the virtues of the gray card for years, I finally picked one up.

I do a lot of product photography for eBay items, and over the years I have settled on what I found to be an accurate white balance setting for pictures taken in my home studio with my strobes. I shoot in RAW, and when developing in Adobe Camera Raw I set my studio-pictures to my pre-chosen WB setting.

Now that I have a gray card, I tried it out, and found that it did indeed give me a different WB setting. So take a look at the following two pictures, and see if you can guess which one had WB set to taste, and which one used the gray card. It's the same pic, and all development settings other than WB were identical. (It may be easier to see the difference if you open each image in a separate tab, and flip back and forth between the two tabs.)





05-26-2015, 06:33 PM   #2
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Bottom one looks truer to me, so I'll guess gray card on the bottom.
05-26-2015, 07:06 PM   #3
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Top one has accurate WB, the bottom one is slightly warmer.

In portraiture a slightly warmer color temperature is usually a good thing, but in product photography, clients usually want brand specific colors to show, Coca-cola Red, John Deere Green, etc... But don't stop at a simple white balance target if you're shooting product shots, get a color checker. It will not only get your white balance correct, but also correct for certain deficiencies of the sensor. Pentax cameras for instance tend to under saturate blues and purples. Nikon does it too, it helps skin tones at the expense of blue skies.
05-26-2015, 07:51 PM   #4
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Top image looks more neutral, bottom a bit warm. My guess says card on the top image.

05-26-2015, 08:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
get a color checker
A grey card is pretty cheap. How much does the colour checker method cost? You have to buy software as well correct?
05-26-2015, 08:52 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by wissink Quote
A grey card is pretty cheap. How much does the colour checker method cost? You have to buy software as well correct?
Yeah, I'm not real familiar with that either. I take a lot of pictures of antique dolls, so color accuracy is pretty important in order to convey the true skin tones of the doll. More information would definitely be appreciated!
05-26-2015, 09:29 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
I do a lot of product photography for eBay items, and over the years I have settled on what I found to be an accurate white balance setting for pictures taken in my home studio with my strobes. I shoot in RAW, and when developing in Adobe Camera Raw I set my studio-pictures to my pre-chosen WB setting.
A lot of effort to go to when you have no control at all over the millions of poorly setup monitors, laptop displays, LCD TV screens and mobile device displays that will be viewing the images.
I have seen some horrendous colours on customer's laptops and home computer screens..

QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
I take a lot of pictures of antique dolls, so color accuracy is pretty important in order to convey the true skin tones of the doll.
See above.

Last edited by Steve.Ledger; 05-26-2015 at 09:43 PM.
05-26-2015, 09:37 PM   #8
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Lots of info here X-Rite ColorChecker Passport ? X-Rite Photo ? X-Rite Passport

05-26-2015, 09:38 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edgar_in_Indy Quote
More information would definitely be appreciated!
This is an OK video to show how [Datacolor] colour checking products work:


The Spydercheckr 24 pack isn't terribly expensive.
05-26-2015, 09:51 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Steve.Ledger Quote
A lot of effort to go to when you have no control at all over the millions of poorly setup monitors, laptop displays, LCD TV screens and mobile device displays that will be viewing the images.
I have seen some horrendous colours on customer's laptops and home computer screens..


See above.
You make some valid points, but what are you suggesting? That I just throw any effort at accuracy out the window? Since I'm selling something, I need to make a reasonable attempt at representing it as faithfully as possible. I use a professional monitor (Dell UltraSharp U3011) for my editing, but if somebody else is viewing my images on a screwy display, then that's their problem.

That being said, I've experimented over the years, by viewing my images not only on my main monitor, but also on our laptop, our TV, our mobile devices, and various run-of-the-mill computer monitors at my work. I've been known to run back and forth between my computer, and other computers in the house to make sure that the image I'm working on doesn't look good only on my main monitor.
05-26-2015, 10:31 PM   #11
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On my Dell monitor which has been calibrated, and under supposedly 5500 K LED room lighting (unmeasured), the top image's blacks and greys looks truer. In PSE the blacks are pretty close to black with RGB values of 5,5,5 in each top corner. The lower image on my monitor seems warmer and PSE confirms this with the blacks at the top corners of the image slowing a slight bias towards red 7,6,4 and 8,6,4.

Based on logic alone I would say the top image was with WB set by grey card. I would like think the top image was by grey card but I would not be the least surprised if it were in fact the lower.

How many times logic has got me into trouble I care not to count. As part of a recent course I undertook, one exercise was take images of grey cards and I must say it was harder than you would think to get the card to actually look grey. Pentax has a wonderful default setting that actually overrides White balance even if it set manually. Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw also has default settings that must be switched off. Not all sensors are linear in their response, especially at the lower reaches.

Given that the OP has gone to considerable lengths to test out his WB, I will buck logic and go with the lower image being the one using grey card WB.

Last edited by Bruce Clark; 05-26-2015 at 10:49 PM.
05-26-2015, 11:20 PM   #12
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An Xrite Colorchecker Passport is $99 US right now at B&H, but if you watch the deals section, it comes up pretty regularly. I think I paid $75 for mine a few years back. The software is included with the CCPP. You can also buy it bundled with several of the Xrite Colorimeters.

I would not dream of presenting my work to a client without using my Colorchecker. I use it and my light meter for every shoot. (Though I do have fall-back profiles for every one of my lenses in case I'm in a run-and-gun situation)
05-26-2015, 11:30 PM   #13
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I like the top one better and can imagine setting that wb based on taste, no matter what the card would set so I am going with the bottom image being the one using the card.
05-27-2015, 12:04 AM   #14
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I think the one below uses a gray card because the white on the Mug Root Beer is more accurate than the first picture.
I'm just guessing.
05-27-2015, 02:53 AM   #15
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the top image looks truer for me, the bottom is a little warmer (white -> orange)
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