How to use a gray card

written by Beckie of

What is a gray card? You’ve probably heard this term before, but maybe didn’t have any idea on what it is or even how to use it.

A gray card is a small, handy tool to aid in adjusting your white balance. They can be used two different ways. There are so many different types out there, and are set in different price ranges depending on the kind you purchase. I chose a simple lanyard style with 4×5″ sized cards on it. It is nice and compact and fits nicely in my gear bag!

First: you can use it to adjust white balance in your post-processing. You’ll snap your first image of each lighting setup with your subject (or an assistant) holding the gray card in the frame (each time you change positions or lighting setups, you’ll need to snap a new shot with the gray card). What this allows you to do is while in your processing software (I am using Lightroom), you can use your white balance dropper and click on the gray card and set and sync the white balance for the entire set that is using that particular lighting setup.

Second: you can use it to set custom white balance in-camera. Set your white balance selector on your camera to “custom”, and hold the gray card in front of your camera (filling the entire frame with the gray card). Press your shutter release half way down (this allows the camera to tell you what your balance should be set at for your current lighting situation). Your camera should flash a number on your information panel. Adjust your white balance dial until you reach that number. Your white balance is now set in-camera! (as with the first option, each time you change positions or locations where your lighting may change, you’ll need to reset your white balance for each situation). And when you’re done with custom white balance, don’t forget to set it back to your normal white balance setting (I typically shoot in auto white balance).

If you enjoyed reading my post and would like to follow more of my journey through life in photography, feel free to visit my blog or follow my Facebook page!


About Beckie

I'm Beckie, a fun, think-outside-the-box mama to 2 miracle children.
I love all things photography, and being able to share in this art with others!


  1. Thanks Beckie, I have a few questions.
    “Your camera should flash a number on your information panel. Adjust your white balance dial until you reach that number.” …….. my camera only say “good” or “no good” I don’t have a number, and if there was a number, I don’t understand what you mean by “adjust your white balance dial”.
    I shoot with a Nikon D7000

    Also, on post processing – is copying settings something that is only available in Lightroom? or is that something I can do in CS5? I use one of Amanda’s actions to set white balance in post processing, but not sure how I can apply the setting to other pictures

  2. keep up the great work , I read few posts on this website and I believe that your weblog is real interesting and holds bands of excellent information.

  3. Thanks so much for this article, really good.!
    I have a whibal (credit card sized) – do I use it in exactly the same way as described here?
    Thanks again!

  4. Great post! Thanks Amanda for bringing this. I use a light meter and a gray card for all my sessions now and my post processing time has been cut in 1/2!!! Once I get the exposure and white balance correct, it is so much easier!!!

  5. Debbie Borato says:

    And where can I find this awesome lanyard with the cards? Thank you

  6. Debbie Borato says:

    Yeah, clicked on picture. Got it!!!

  7. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything.
    However just imagine if you added some great photos
    or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips,
    this site could undeniably be one of the greatest in its niche.
    Amazing blog!

  8. A motivating discussion is worth comment.
    I do think that you should publish more about this
    subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually folks don’t
    talk about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

Leave a Reply to TidyMom Cancel reply