Photographers continually strive to be neutral, as in neutral gray. Despite the fact that we often purposely shift and enhance colors, this is often done in post processing, but it is always helpful to start with correct neutral tones.
In the studio, when photographing products on a white or black background or all the gray shades in between, it is critical that not only the product’s color is accurate, but in addition, it is equally important that the background is also perfectly neutral. We often shoot on laminates because of its durability and texture but often finding the the right neutral tone has always been problematic.
When looking into purchasing some new laminate backgrounds, I came across a study done by Dan Kushel, professor at SUNY Buffalo State in New York, where he did some extensive calibrations of different Formica laminates and paints for the photographic lab renovations at the school, from which he narrowed down the ones with the best neutrality. In the studio, it is also ideal to have neutral walls to avoid color casts.
For paint, the best gray selections with different reflective values were Benjamin-Moore “Steel Wool”2121-20, “Sterling Silver “1461, and “Pelican Gray”1612. And for Formica, “Mouse”928-58, “Fog”961-50, and “Folkstone”927-58. The two page PDF with the data and recommendations can be downloaded here. And if you are also looking for a gray card to balance out your images, next time you’re at Home Depot or Lowe’s, pick up free sample of Wilsonart’s laminate gray “D-90”, that will also work just fine and save you a few bucks.