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Thread: Where can i find a grey card?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Posts
    54

    Where can i find a grey card?

    I am looking for a grey (18%) card to use with subject lighting in field. I kno w I can just find a middle tone subjest to meter from, but I would rather use a grey card. Can I buy one, make one, where or how?

  2. #2

    Where can i find a grey card?

    They are fairly common, most photo shops can supply the kodak ones, or you can sometimes find them as a inside cover in basic photography books.

  3. #3

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Try the B&H site (http://www.bhphotovideo.com). Enter "gray card" in the search field and you should see cards from Kodak, Delta, Sekonic, etc. The prices range from $1.95 to about $30 depending on the size, etc.

    ..........................................

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Location
    GA
    Posts
    12,770

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Try to find one made from a plastic rather then paper or cardboard. They can be cleaned and last much longer.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    2,325

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Another source would be Porter's Camera in Iowa at www.porters.com. They sell a plastic 8x10 gray card (under $10.)

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Posts
    54

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Thanks for all the responses it is greatly appreciated! Is a grey card as good the next? The delta lifetime card seems the best offer since it is more durable, and $8.95, but is the sekonic better at $39.95?

    Thanks,

    Clark

  7. #7

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Light meters area skewed to 13% grey, not 18% grey. Why in the world doesn't anyone make a 13% grey card? I was quite surprised to learn this. You can confirm this with Mamiya USA, the Sekonic importer. They offer a good book on this subject.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    632

    Where can i find a grey card?

    Before you buy a grey card, consider why you really want one. They're one of the most misunderstood and frustrating pieces of photographic equipment ever invented. For example, if you take one outside (where they're useless), you can hold it up and meter from it, and you will quickly find that if you adjust its angle even slightly, it will give you radically different meter readings, covering a range of about three stops or more typically. Finding that it will not give you an accurate reading within this huge range, you will resort to the correct ways to meter-- looking around the image at the different elements and making the metering choice based on what's actually in the picture.

    The problem with grey cards is that they stay the same shade of grey always, which means that when you expose from one (if you can get it at the correct angle), it will always produce the same shade of grey on film under any lighting conditions. For example, if you took one to the top of mount everest on a sunny day and exposed for it, it would come out perfectly 50% grey on film, even though if you LOOKED at it up there it would be extremely bright grey-- close to white, and that how you would want it to look on your photo. having used it for your exposure, however, your photo would come out horrendously underexposed because the metering process doesn't take into account that you WANT it to come out brighter than neutral grey because you are in an extremely bright place.

    the grey card also doesn't take into account differences in the range from grey to white-- in some images that might be 2 stops, and in others (such as in the snow in sunny weather) it might be six stops. in either case, if you metered from a grey card, you'd get the wrong exposure.

    same thing in reverse when it's dark out: if you held a grey card up and looked at it, it would LOOK DARK, and if you photographed the scene with the card in it, you would WANT the card to look dark. but if you metered off the card, your photo would be exposed such that the card would look the same as it did in the Mt. Everest photo-- perfectly 50% grey, which means your photo would be way overexposed.

    So, the only time grey cards are useful is under controlled lighting conditions (i.e., in a studio) when you want the card to look in your photo just the way it does in "real life." In the studio, they're great because they let you peg your exposures perfectly. usually. but you bracket just to be sure, which makes using the card useless in the first place.

    The secrets of metering all come down to knowing how your film reacts at the edge of the exposure scale (i.e., in the highlights if you use transparency film, and the shadows if you use negative film), and exposing for those things. If you properly expose for the highlights on transparency film, then everything else will fall where it is supposed to. Same thing with negative film. Where you place the greys in either situation is not very relevant.

    But, with all of that said, if you really want a great grey card, go to your local mega-hardware home depot type of store, and go to the countertop department and take get free sample pieces of all of the grey formica-type materials they have, and then meter those in comparison to a grey card until you find one that gives the same reading. you can actually make a whole greyscale for yourself using these little chips, and practice metering and experimenting under different lighting conditions.

    One really interesting thing to do is take ALL of the samples, colors included, and make a big board with them all, and then meter them and photograph them and see what results you get. This will help you understand how different colors meter (i.e., Pacific ocean blue is 1.5 stops darker than neutral grey; grass green is about equal to grey, etc.), so when you're looking around your image you can take the colors of things into account when metering.

    whoa, that was quite a brain dump-- i hope it helped...

    ~cj

    www.chrisjordanphoto.com

  9. #9

    Where can i find a grey card?

    I agree that gray cards are problematic outdoors if part of the scene is in the shade and part is in the sun. In this situation, you can get misleading results depending on where the gray card is placed (sun or shade). However, as long as one understands the limitations in a scene with sun and shade, then I think it is a useful tool, but not the only tool, to be used for determining exposure.

    I think that the use of any kind of plastic material for a gray card exacerbates the extremes in meter readings. The best gray card is cardboard with a matte surface because it will have the least amount of variation in exposure when placed at various angles to the meter. Insofar as being able to wash a gray card, a small amount of dirt will not make any difference. I have a cardboard gray card that is over 20 years old that is a little dirty but works perfectly. If the cardboard gray card gets so grungy that it is disgusting, then you can always buy a new one.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    632

    Where can i find a grey card?

    hey Michael, you are just Mr. Counterpoint around here , aren't you?! comments well taken though.

    *grin*

    ~cj

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