Get Beautiful Color in Your Photos

Having beautiful color in your photographs not only helps your products sell, but it also helps make you look like the pro we know you are.

Recently, one of my clients/friends sent me some of her product photographs asking why the color was off and how she could fix the problem. It’s a question that I get often.

There’s always a way to fix what is going wrong, whether you do it before, during, or after taking the photographs. Really, the choice is yours as to how you approach the problem.

One of my personal favorites is using a grey card that costs around $12 on Amazon. Using a grey card may not always make sense, like when you’re photographing a wedding where you can sneeze or blink and miss a huge moment. But if you’re a product photographer and the color of your photographs makes or breaks the sale, then a grey card may be the way to go.

[Tweet “If you’re a product photographer then consider a grey card to get accurate color.”]

A grey card is a reference point that can be referenced either in the camera (which I will not be covering in this post), or during editing. Using the grey card allows you to get the true color you want.

So, now the question is, how do you go about using a grey card? Here’s what I do:

1.First, I set up my shot. I find the right location, preferably a place with great light. This often ends up being the coffee table in my living room, where the light comes in from the big, north-facing windows.

I then take all my clutter, typically consisting of mail and adult coloring books, off my coffee table and put a white poster board down as a backdrop. On top of the white poster board I create a little scene with the items I’ve chosen for the shoot, then I take a couple of test shots. The test shots are to make sure the camera’s settings are correct, since it’s very likely the last time I took photos with my camera the settings were for a completely different place and time.


2. Next, I take my grey card and I place it in the photograph exactly where I plan to focus my camera. I put it there so I can get an accurate photograph of the grey card from where the light is hitting the subject in the photograph. All you need is just one photo with the card.

Remove the grey card from the photo and take more photos of your pretty objects (whether that’s your handmade product, stylized items on your desk, or what you had for breakfast). Whenever you change positions enough that the light is different or if the light changes in any way, then you’ll need to take another reference shot with the grey card.

*Note: There is a way to change the color right inside the camera using the custom white balance function. I personally choose not to use this function and do the white balance during the editing process.


3. After you’ve taken all your photos, it’s time to edit them. I use Lightroom in order to get accurate color using the grey card. It’s a really easy process. Lightroom and Photoshop are only $10 a month when you sign up for the Photographer’s Creative Cloud subscription. This is a steal and way more than worth it to get great product photos.

When using Lightroom, I choose the photo with the grey card and use the color picker to select the grey on the card. Then presto! You’ve now got accurate color. After I make the necessary changes to the first photo, I then select the following photos where the lighting scenario is the same. Then I use the sync button to basically copy and paste those settings to the rest of the photos selected.

This whole process takes just a few minutes in most cases and saves me a lot of frustration and heartache. I can continue to edit the photos to make them look exactly how I want. Then I save the photos to use on social media or my blog.


Here is a short video sharing the editing process, so you can see just how easy it really is.

If this post was helpful but you still need more tips, you can book a consultation with me. One of my favorite ways to help clients is during a brand consultation, where we talk about how to improve the photos for your brand.

The book pictured in the photographs is a new favorite, Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists, by Jenny Doh.

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  1. Gin Nixon says

    LOVE IT! I went YEARS without ever using a grey card until one day another photographer asked me about borrowing mine. LOL. Had NO clue what he was talking about. Once I got one it was SUCH a life changer for my photography! You are so right about this. Its something super simple to do to help get those photos looking good without over editing.

    • Amanda says

      Yes! I completely understand about not using it for years because I didn’t use one until a couple years ago. Now it’s just the easiest thing for me. It saves a lot of time when editing, that’s for sure!

  2. JK says

    Hi Amanda,
    I need to purchase a gray card and have been looking at a few different types. I am curious why you chose this one over other gray cards. Do you use the color squares for post processing? I know very little about post processing at this point but plan to become proficient (with any luck) in the future.


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