Archive for the ‘Exposure’ Tag

Don’t Let the Mid-Day Sun Ruin Your Photo Outing

2012 2012 08 31 31 | 12 30 56 | B83H5981 HDR  Version 2

Yes, for outdoors shooting it’s hard to beat the “magic hours” of sunrise and sunset – and the two to three hours after sunrise and before sunset aren’t too bad either.  But what do you do with that “11-3″ slot?  Here’s two scenarios to try.

Get in Close

The harsh mid-day light will have less impact on your shots if you get in close to the subject and eliminate any background elements.  You purposefully minimize the high contrast range in your shot.  The engine shot above was at high noon.  By getting in close I eliminated the bright sky and white concrete – not to mention the reflections off the leading wing edges.

2012 2012 09 08 08 | 10 19 37 | E01C0139 HDR  Version 2

Shoot HDR

You don’t like HDR you say?  Really?  Maybe it’s the “grungy” HDR that doesn’t suit your style?

Remember, that “grungy” and exaggerated look is only one style of HDR.  High Dynamic Range photography can look anywhere from very natural all the way to over the top.  Shooting HDR at high noon (the way the second image above was shot) makes the lighting conditions virtually irrelevant.  Take 3 to 5 shots over a range of exposures, use your favorite HDR or stacking program and make a great natural looking shot.

Many More Ways

There are many other scenarios to use during “bad” lighting times, not just these.  Plenty of interesting things can be found in the shade and a small diffuser can give you a bit of your own shade for smaller objects.  Flowers, insects, old fences, abandoned equipment.  Take the time to look and you’ll find your mid-day shots!

Stay in Focus,

Mark

White on Darks

Excerpt from “The Shooter’s Blueprint” Series

MCT Vanity

It’s tempting to try and balance the overall exposure on this type of shot – but if you’re exposing for the subject, it’s pretty hard to accomplish!

Shooter’s Blueprint

White Primary Subject on a Darker Background

The settings can always vary, but the chart below calls out the general scenario.

White dark scenario

Unlike with a white on white subject, you will not be able to place the majority of the image into the right half of the histogram – you’ll be using most of the range.  Since you are exposing for a white subject, you will very well end op blocking out some of the dark elements in the scene – that is the compromise we’ll need to make.

Blueprinter’s disclaimer – there is always more than one way to accomplish something, this just happens to be the way that works for me.  All adjustment references are related to Apple Aperture software – other packages have similar adjustments.

Camera Setup:

  • Exposure Program:Shutter Priority
    • This is my preference with a subject that could start moving a little more a quickly, but Aperture Priority or Manual will certainly work.
  • Shutter Speed: 1/750th
    • Depends on lens and subject activity.  For the sample image, I would not go below 1/750th of a second.
  • ISO: The lower the better to keep the noise out of your darks
  • Exposure Compensation:0 ev
    • Take prep or sample shots to determine how far you can push it, but ideally,  you don’t want to clip any of the whites (you’ll see in the original image below that I went just slightly over the line)
  • Focus:AI Servo (Canon speak for continuous focus) with one focus point – varied selection depending on location of the swan and keeping the focal point on the eye
    • This was my choice as I was very close and the subject was swimming around.

These settings resulted in the raw image below:

Original RAW Shot

Original

Original Histogram

Original Histo

Post Processing:

  • White balance: Adjusted for swan
  • Recovery Slider: Adjusted to recover the few areas that were over exposed
  • Black point:Left at base adjustment
    • No need for an adjustment here due to dark background
  • Definition Slider: Moderate adjustments (up to half way)
    • Be careful not to blow any highlights out in the process
  • Shadows Adjustment: Moderate to high adjustments here returning depth and detail
  • Levels Adjustment:Basic adjustments as needed for accurate balance.
    • Be careful of a blueish color cast bleeding over into the white’s of the subject
  • Sharpening: To personal taste and output goals

The adjustments above yielded the results below.

Final Image

MCT Finished Swan

Final Histogram

Final Swan Histo

Your camera’s dynamic range can’t match our eyes – so with a contrasting subject like this we have to compromise.  Ask yourself what is the most important element (obviously it’s the swan here) but I had to sacrifice a little detail in the darker face to ensure I was able to keep detail in the feathers.  The brighter the light, the more difficult this will be.

One Final Tip . . .

As mentioned in similar posts – don’t attempt this type of shot with JPEG, this is a RAW only technique.  JPEG will limit you and yield less than favorable results.

Have fun and stay in focus!

Mark

White on White

Excerpt from “The Shooter’s Blueprint” Series

MCT Vanity Owl

I’ve received a lot of questions lately due to a guest post I did on Photographer Rick Sammon’s Blog regarding capturing a white subject on a white background.  Especially with winter around the corner for some of us, I hope the tips below help.

Shooter’s Blueprint

White Subject on White Background

The settings will vary depending on what the exact scenario is, so let’s use the parameters below.

NewImage

The trick to this shot is to expose as far to the right as you possibly can, without blowing any highlights out.  With a white subject, you want your data to be almost entirely in the right third of the histogram.  Anything less than that and your whites will start to look muddy, and correcting them will result in less than stellar results.

Blueprinter’s disclaimer – there is always more than one way to accomplish something, this just happens to be the way that works for me.  All adjustment references are related to Apple Aperture software – other packages have similar adjustments.

Camera Setup:

  • Exposure Program: Shutter Priority
    • Aperture is not an issue with this shot – there is only one subject and it is fairly far away.  (Depth of Field on this shot was around 1.5 feet)
  • Shutter Speed: For a moving subject, 1/1,000th is minimum – I chose 1/2,500th for these owl shots
  • ISO: 400
  • Exposure Compensation: 1.67ev
    • It’s takes time to get a feel for this, just remember what you’re trying to accomplish (exposing for the whites, as far to the right as you safely can and no blown highlights) takes practice.  It was a bright day and a lot of white in front of me – I started at 2.0ev and came down slightly after consulting my histogram. (oh yea, take test shots before the feathers start flying!)
  • Focus: AI Servo (Canon speak for continuous)
    • I used a cluster of focus points in the right of my frame as this owl was making his runs into the wind (right to left).  Using the right points allows me to leave room in front of the owl.
    • When focusing on a white subject, find some contrast to lock onto (that’s how most focus systems work)  The Owl’s upper chest with the dark bands was perfect and roughly on the same plane as his head and eyes.

Original RAW Shot

MCT Raw owl

Original Histogram

Raw histo

Post Processing:

  • White balance: Tweaked slghtly
  • Black point: Adjustment cranked up about halfway
    • Just shy of blocking the dark claws
  • Definition Slider:Moderate adjustments (up to half way)
    • Be careful not to blow any highlights out in the process
  • Shadows Adjustment: Moderate to high adjustments here returning depth and detail
  • Levels Adjustment:Basic adjustments as needed for accurate balance.
    • Be careful of a blueish color cast bleeding over into the subject
  • Sharpening: To personal taste and output goals

The adjustments above yielded the results below.

Final Image

MCT Final owl

Final Histogram

Final Histo 1

Your digital sensor captures more detail in the right third of the histogram, so the goal here is to get as much of this “white” data in that area – without blowing any highlights – I know, it’s a thin line to walk, but you can get ever closer to it with practice.  Post processing (Black Point, Definition and Shadows adjustments) then allows use of this maximum data to adjust as needed and end up with a great shot!

One Final Tip . . .

This technique is accomplished shooting raw – so don’t go by the image on your camera’s back screen as reference in the field (it will look washed out).  Rather make sure you didn’t blow any highlights (no “blinkies” in your histogram) and create your final image in post.

Have fun and stay in focus!

Mark

Overexposed?? – No Problem (Part 3)

We left off with last time in this series having completed exposure and recovery adjustments.  The next step is to selectively adjust only the highlights.  The easiest (90% of the time) way to do this is the Highlights and Shadows Adjustment sliders (as Aperture calls them).

In this case, we obviously want to reduce the highlights, so that’s the one we’ll work with.  Pull the slider to the right and watch the preview.  It’s takes a little bit of a feel to know how much is too much, but the general rule of thumb is to watch the mid-tones.

Move the slider while watching your preview, as soon as you see the mid-tones of the image being impacted by the Highlights slider – stop.  Now back off the adjustment just a bit.

Highlight Adjustment

The results can be significant, as the histogram below demonstrates.  Notice the better balanced readings, with nothing on the right edge.

Ending Histogram

Compare that to the original histogram before we started with any adjustments.  Major improvement here overall – including a successful recovery of the blown out areas (Only RAW would allow you to accomplish this!

Beginning Histogram

And here is the final exposure result.  The only other adjustment made here was a slight tweak to the Black Point slider.  A usable and pleasing image has emerged from a shot that was destined for the trash can!

5  Black Point Adjustment

Stay tuned . . . more tips to come in the week and months ahead, including one technique where we will actually straddle that right exposure limit – on purpose!

(Part 2)

(Part 1)

Overexposed?? – No Problem! (Part 2)

The first step in this quick process starts with the Recovery Slider (Note, this is what Aperture calls it – other programs have similar functions with different names).  The key feature of this slider is that it’s a “selective adjustment”.

~A selective adjustment only impacts certain areas of the image, based on different criteria.  The Recovery slider selectively reduces exposure and allows recovery of only the most “blown out” areas of the image~

The impact of this slider is significant as it pulls back the most overexposed elements of the image, beginning the process of recovering detail.  We then adjust our second slider, exposure.  Notice that we tweak this just about a third of a stop negative, to assist in our recovery.  Go easy on this slider, and only use it after you’ve gotten everything you can out of the Recovery Slider.  Exposure is a global adjustment, and will impact all areas of the image.

At this point in the image, you can start to see the blown out areas begin to tone down – but it looks like we still have a long way to go (as you can see in the image blow, sampled after these two adjustments were made).

Now, don’t get discouraged yet!  Even though the image still shows a long way to go, look at how much improvement we’ve really made – as indicated by the histogram.

So demonstrated progress has been made – and sets the foundation for everything else to come.  With the highlights themselves now properly recovered, we’re ready to move on to the most visible corrective adjustment.  In Part 3 of this series we will focus on selectively recovering detail in the highlights – this is where the image really starts to “pop”.

Part One

Part Three

 

Overexposed?? – No Problem!

Overexposed?? No Problemo!

. . . . as long as you’re shooting in RAW, that is!

“Raw” is the generic name for a camera manufacturer’s native file format, and it includes a wealth of information – everything your camera saw at the time of image capture.  (learn more abut RAW format here)

Unlike a JPEG, a RAW image doesn’t have any picture formatting or style settings baked in and is capable of being edited without a reduction of quality every-time you edit and save.  Shoot JPEG’s and you loose the flexibility to turn the overexposed image above into a usable image like the one below.

Now that looks better!

A RAW file format contains enough exposure information to easily correct for up to a stop of overexposure.

Now the picture above isn’t perfect, but it was certainly saved from the trash can!  Notice the highlights and detail that have been recovered in the Swans – this is what RAW – and understanding exposure adjustments in your image editing software – allow you to accomplish.

Well heck, so why wouldn’t someone shoot RAW?

As usual, there are a few downsides:

  • RAW files are BIG!  In megabytes that is.
  • If shooting in continuos (rapid fire) mode, you can’t shoot as many back to back RAW images as you can with JPEG’s without the camera stopping to empty it’s buffer.
  • RAW files, straight out the camera are . . . well . . . RAW!   They can tend to be flat as no processing was done, so you will have to either directly edit or apply camera styles before use.
Once a saw the flexibility of RAW, I never turned back to camera generated JPEG’s!  Look at that great image of those swans, it would have been ruined without RAW – what a difference!  Speaking of these “before and after images” – the next series of posts will take you step-by-step and show you how to get these basic results, in under two minutes!  So check back over the next few weeks.
Part 2

Part 3

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers