How to Use Grandpa's Gray Hair for White Balancing


One way to white balance an image in Lightroom 3 is to find what is called Middle Gray, using the white balancing dropper tool. When you hover over certain parts of the image, the RGB levels appear, and one of the best methods is to make sure that all of them are around 50%. Typically, this happens in the middle gray area. The following white balancing procedure transpired when I was searching through my archive for photos to use for another BHInsights blog post.


This was the original image in Lightroom 3. It was at a wedding I shot a while ago, where everyone was clowning around during the reception. While I personally found the white balance to be very good as it was, I wanted it to be even better.

So I selected the white balance dropper tool.

I started moving it around the image to find middle gray. Obviously the above target isn't middle gray.

Nor is this area around the man's shirt.

Obviously this isn't it either.

I'm getting a bit closer now—notice how the color levels are getting closer to 50%.

Whoa, look at that: I'm really close now, and my mouse point is right on the man's gray hair.

Here's a close-up of that area.

After looking around the area, I decided that it was close enough, and that I wasn't going to be that picky about my white balance being a couple of degrees off. With that said, the image is now better color balanced and it looks great.

So what's the moral of the story? You never know where those critical middle gray pixels will be. So you'll always need to keep searching—they might even be in grandpa's hair. 

When you're editing your images, keep this in mind if you don't want to sit there adjusting the white balance sliders.

1 Comment

Thanks for the tutorial.  It was very well done!