Remove The Color Cast With A White Balance Card

Sometimes the camera, post-processing software, or human eyes are unable to correct the white balance of an image. In scenarios like this, you can use the WhiBal white balance card with Lightroom or similar software.

The WhiBal is a white balance card that has a neutral gray color. The company Michael Tapes Designs makes and tests each card to ensure it’s 100% neutral. The margin of error is 1%. Though it’s gray, the white balance card by WhiBal is different from the typical gray card which is used to measure exposure – the WhiBal is used to measure and correct white balance. You need an accurate white balance card to correct the white balance in the examples below. You don’t need a WhiBal brand white balance card, but make sure the white balance card you use is 100% neutral.

In this tutorial, I’ll remove the color cast of the van which was photographed under tungsten light. The automatic-white-balance function recorded a temperature of 3400 and tint of 25.

van with white balance info

Van without color correction

First (or second), you must photograph the white balance card in the area you are photographing. Note the temp of 3400 and tint of 28. Next take the photo of your subject, in this case the van (see above).

whibal card under tungsten light

WhiBal card without color correction

Now color correct the photos in Lightroom.

Use the white-balance-selector tool in Lightroom to remove the color cast of the white balance card photo. Click on the gray area of the white balance card. Now notice the color cast is removed. The new temp is 2050 and tint is 17.

WhiBal card with color correction

WhiBal card with color correction

Use these new white balance amounts to remove the color cast of the van. Simply replace the temp and tint amounts with 2050 and 17, respectively.

Van with color correction

Van with color correction

The white balance card removed the color cast of the van photo without guessing what the temp and tint amounts should be.

Instead of using Lightroom to remove the color cast, you can use the white balance card and the camera’s custom white balance function. The camera will use the white balance card as a reference point to remove the color cast. You’ll have to see the camera’s manual on how to do this.

Important: If you move locations or change lighting conditions, you’ll have to retake a photo of the white balance card.

You can’t always be taking pictures of the white balance card, especially if you are a travel photographer. You’re in the moment and using the card is not feasible. This is understandable. Just take the shot.