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Not so "obvious" -- I don't, usually. I usually shoot in full Manual exposure mode.
If you're shooting manual then what is the point of the gray card? Why not use your light meter to achieve a 0 EV exposure.
No idea what "dial in the EXIF" means.
I mean dial in the parameters (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) that yielded you your 0 EV exposure, so that your exposure parameters do not change from shot to shot.
(I made the prior statement under the impression that you were shooting in an automatic exposure mode, as using a gray card to set exposure while you're in M mode seems redundant and unnecessary to me)
No, I use that gray card shot to set a Custom White Balance for all the subsequent shots under the same lighting.
Well I guess that's another way to do it, although setting a WB in post and syncing it with all shots taken that day takes like 5 seconds.
(I'm under the assumption that most photographers doing this sort of gig shoot in RAW)
How do you know what's neutral if you don't have a neutral reference?
Well you have me here, truth be told, I don't care much for textbook or 'correct' White Balance ... I adjust my White Balance in post until I deem it aesthetically pleasing (even when I do have the option of using a neutral tone as reference). Sometimes the textbook or conventional definition of exposure and White Balance make for terrible pictures in my opinion. It is for this reason that I don't limit my creativity by these arbitrary constraints. I aim for a good picture, and that's it.
You only have to set WB once. Even when shooting raw captures, setting a CWB at the beginning of the shoot saves you from having to do 90+ adjustments in post, because the CWB info is attached to the raw files and can be applied to all the shots automatically during conversion.
Do you use either Adobe Lightroom or Canon DPP?
If you're shooting under the same lighting conditions, you can easily sync the White Balance between all those shots in under 5 seconds.
As far as built-in light meters solving the correct exposure problem, the light meter doesn't know if you're pointing it at a black man in a navy blue suit or a white man in a light gray suit; it will tell you to adjust your exposure to make both of them look the same. A gray reference works with the light meter to make the exposure not just fit within the DR of sensor, but to be the right exposure for that subject and all other subjects shot under the same light.
I understand what you're saying, but it appears to me you intend to use a gray card to expose for each subject? Lol, that's really unnecessary. While I understand that the camera might underexpose for Whites and overexpose for Blacks, changes in skin tones are not that drastic to warrant such a tedious workflow.
Furthermore, it just seems easier for me, to adjust my exposure manually until I am satisfied with what I see. (Yeah, yeah, I know I'm seeing just a JPEG preview but it is accurate enough).
Far from being obsolete, neutral references are more useful now than ever before; when shooting slide film there really wasn't much we could do to adjust color. We could choose a daylight balanced or tungsten balanced emulsion, and we could put a CC filter on the lens and/or gel our lights, but it was often just a rough approximation. Now, with digital photography, we can use a color managed workflow from capture to print and every point in between.
That's why I said photography has changed, with the advent of digital, all those tedious practices are not necessary unless you really feel like doing it.
When shooting 90+ shots of 90 different people, as the OP is doing, starting with an accurate exposure and color balance saves a lot of time.
In Lightroom 3 (and most programs today)
CMD+A - Selects all my pictures from any given shoot.
Hitting the Sync button - Allows me to sync anything I want between all selected images.
It's not really saving a lot of time.