Easy White Balance with a Lastolite Ezybalance Grey Card

| February 10, 2011
lastolite ezybalance grey card

Before and after white balancing with the Lastolite Ezybalance

How many times have you taken a picture with or without a flash and the colors in the photo just did not look right? Were they too yellow (warm) or too blue (cool)? Every source of light in your photos, be it from the sun, a flash, or a light bulb, has an absolute temperature that is expressed in Kelvin (K). Without getting too scientific, the important thing to remember is that the temperature of the sources of light within your shot can dramatically influence the captured color of the objects in our photo.

I was hired last week to shoot photos of a luxury apartment complex for use in print and web advertising. Knowing that the client would expect my pictures to represent the true colors within the apartment, I decided to use a grey card to help me out. What a grey card does is provide a reliable neutral color reference that the camera can use to remove the temperature influence of light sources, which will enable you capture true colors. Past experiences have wired our brains to expect objects to be certain colors. The objective of white balancing is to capture true colors so they just look “right” to the viewer of the photograph.

The grey card I use is a Lastolite Ezybalance. Like many of Lastolite’s products, the Ezybalance has a spring metal frame sewn in so it so it can be collapsed with a flick of a wrist. My Ezybalance is 12″ fully open but can be collapsed into a 4″ circle for easy storage in its included case when not in use.

lastolite ezybalance

The Lastolite Ezybalance collapsed and it its case

Take a look at the split photo at the very top of the post. The photo on the left is before white balancing with the Ezybalance and the the photo on the right is after white balancing. My handy assistant in the photo on the left is my son Matthew. The colors on the right look much more natural because the camera has used the 18% grey reference from the Ezybalance to compensate for the yellowing or warming effect of the incandescent lights in the apartment. Oh, you don’t have to use an Ezybalance to do this. Any card that approximates 18% grey will do.

How is this done you ask? Well it really is not that hard. All I need to white balance this scene is the Ezybalance or equivalent grey card and the custom white balance function in my camera.

canon 5D custom white balance

On the Canon 5D, select White Balance and then select Custom

First, I had Matt flip open the Ezybalance and hold it within the frame as I took a picture (top left). I then set the camera to use custom white balance using the “White Balance” menu and submenu above. I then told the camera to use a picture as the reference for the custom white balance by first selecting “Custom WB” in the menu (just below “White Balance”) and then selecting the picture, when prompted, of Matt with the Ezybalance in the shot. That is it! The settings took no more than five seconds and I now have perfectly white balanced shots for my clients. I did this routine for each photo setup within the apartment.

canon 5D white balance menu

Select the picture and set camera to use it for the custom white balance

Some will remind me that when shooting in camera RAW format, you can set the white balance with RAW image processing software. True, but the method I described above prevents me from having to do it in post processing and eliminates the guess work associated with remembering what the actual color conditions were in the the scene at the time the shot was taken.

Below is what one of my final shots looked like from this setup.

lastolite ezybalance

Our white balanced sink

Category: Photo Gear Reviews, Photography