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Thread: A question about technique

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    Reed Waters's Avatar
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    A question about technique

    I took some shots of a friends 4x4.
    I had a number of shots with a lot of sky like this one.

    A question about technique

    I metered (center weighted) on the sky and brought out the shadows in PP. Was this the best way to do it or is there a better way? I'm still working on getting the shot right in the camera.

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    Re: A question about technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Reed Waters View Post
    I took some shots of a friends 4x4.
    I had a number of shots with a lot of sky like this one.

    A question about technique

    I metered (center weighted) on the sky and brought out the shadows in PP. Was this the best way to do it or is there a better way? I'm still working on getting the shot right in the camera.
    Hi Reed,

    In scenes like this you never will "get it (completely) right" in-camera because there is no 1 magic shutterspeed / aperture / ISO getting that's going to give you the ideal exposure of the sky and the ideal exposure of the 4x4 (due in part because parts of the 4x4 low-tones are in shadow). So you're always going to need some degree of post-processing unless everything is evenly lit.

    So in this type of situation the "best" exposure is the one that doesn't blow any of the highlight detail but isn't so far from the maximum that the sensor can handle that you get excessive shadow noise when you reveal the shadow detail that you want.

    Metering modes are simply a way to tell the camera what parts of the scene are important - BUT - (and as you can see, it's a BIG but), it doesn't tell the camera how to expose it, because the camera has no way of knowing if you're shooting a polar bear in a snowstorm (so everything should be white), or a black cat on a black rug (in which case everything should be black) so it always assumes that what you're metering is a medium gray (in terms of luminance, not the actual colour). Metering a blue sky will generally under-expose it slightly (the real sky probably looks more washed out than this), but having just said that, even though it's probably slightly under-exposed, it probably looks better that way anyway (one of the "tricks" of protography is taking a scene that may not look that great to the human eye and knowing how the camera can be made to interpret it - and the more you under-expose things like sky, the more the saturation increases (to a point) (or the more washout decreases)).

    The "downside" of under-exposing the sky slightly would be that it'll also bury some of your shadow detail a bit more, but generally that's not a problem as cameras generally capture a LOT more info than we typically use anyway - and regardless, we don't WANT to reveal all the shadow detail anyway because it would make the image look flat ("grey-ish").

    In terms of getting things "right" in-camera, about the best you can do is apply EC (Exposure Compensation) whilst keeping an eye on the histogram and watching for "blinkies".

    Hope this helps

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: A question about technique

    As usual, Colin hits the nail on the head. However, I would like to add one more suggestion.

    The sky is not really an integral part of your image. Unless the sky is very interesting with cloud formations etc., showing less of it will also help. In fact with your image, pointing your camera down a bit and a bit to the camera left will avoid a large expanse of the sky and also include the entire vehicle. Cropping out a bit of the sky in PP will also help.

    When you are showing less of the sky, the exposure range is not quite as important.

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    Re: A question about technique

    From the old film photography books I have, some of the authors have a way of dealing with this kind of situation. What they do is to select which part of the scene is very important to hold detail and spot meter that part. If it is the shadow area that you want to emphasize then meter that one and select whether you want it to be at Zone III or IV (-2 and -1 EV). If it is the bright area like a white dress, spot meter that area and set it at Zone VI or VII (+1 or +2 EV). If I would evaluate your 4X4 truck shot, I would probably consider the body of the truck as my main element and spot meter that one. I'd position the exposure on that one between Zone III and Zone IV so I will apply a -1.5 EV adjustment from what the camera's metering is recommending. As they say, nail the exposure on the important part to you and let the other part fall to where they'd be on the exposure. Just a thought.

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    Reed Waters's Avatar
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    Re: A question about technique

    Thanks for the interesting replies. We are shooting for the cover of a national mag. We needed a vertical shot with room for print. That's why the shot is cropped like it is.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: A question about technique

    There is always another way to nail the exposure... Auto exposure bracketing. This is available on all Canon DSLR cameras and can be shot automatically in three shot burst modes...

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