Using a Gray Card for Setting White Balance in Adobe Lightroom


The technical range of digital photography has forever changed how we shoot pictures. Photo editing software also has changed how we manage our time in post production and has further simplified photography while improving results for our clients. It is essential for any photographer, professional or hobby, to have the technical knowledge still to compensate for what the camera or software alone cannot do. This is where programs like Lightroom or Photoshop can bridge the gap. Knowing how to use software to our advantage, however, is a different story. One such area is white balance.


Your camera can correct for white balance fairly well if you opt to shoot on auto. However, your range will be limited. 
Here is one shortcut to help you with white balance and color in your photography without having to take valuable time away every time you work on a project.

If you need better color balance, then you will need a relatively precise method for setting your white balance rather just relying on auto or expecting to make adjustments later. As always, it's best to practice this technique before you're actually on a professional photo shoot. 


Sometimes old school photography is still the best way to go - as long as you combine it with modern technology to your advantage! Adjusting color and white balance can be easier than you think. Pull out a trusty photography gray card and try this:

  • Take a picture of the gray card along with several pictures of something else. 
  • In Lightroom, you will need to use the "eye dropper" tool in white balance when you open the image of your gray card. You should be able to see that the gray is immediately improved. 
  • Look at the values of your white balance: Tint and Temperature. You can apply them to whatever image you'd like to improve. 
  • In Lightroom, the easiest way to work with your white balance values is with a Develop Preset you've previously created using the now corrected gray card.


  • Save the white balance settings of the gray card image you took earlier, but save it as a preset. This is very important!
  • Once you do that, then you will need to select the plus sign in your presets. Then select the white balance box and save it as a 
  • Develop Preset. Be sure to uncheck all of the other settings except for the white balance option.
  • You will need to save the preset and name it something relevant as you will need to return to it in the future. You will want to choose a name that is self-explanatory to the purpose of the preset or you will find yourself opening and closing a lot of presets and wasting valuable time!

There are many advantages to saving the settings for your gray card white balance so that you can easily return to it and use it quickly as a preset in any images. Rather than recreating the same settings repeatedly, Lightroom's preset function can you valuable time in post-production if you create presets by saving your settings for future use.

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