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Thread: Skies look dull

  1. #1
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Skies look dull

    I'm obviously too stupid to do this properly...
    My camera, a Sony a55, does great pictures. The colors are wonderful, I take lots of pictures of produce and they look gorgeous.
    When I take pictures of artificially lighted places such as a cocktail bar with unnatural colors, the results are beautiful.
    Only skies suck.
    The other day I was shooting the rising sun. The sun was glowing in a wonderful dark red and I was really disappointed when I saw the results. Everything looked faded and dull.
    In PP (LR), I made sure my WB wasn't way off. That didn't help too much.
    A polarizing filter IMO wouldn't help either since the sun was just rising.
    Would an ND filter be useful? Do I get better colors by exposing for a second or somewhere close?
    Or is there anything I can do to achieve better results?

  2. #2
    Momo's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Hi Alexander, can you possibly share one of these photos with us so we can get a better idea?
    Do you shoot JPEG or RAW?
    Are you shooting directly into the sun?
    Are you using a lens hood?

  3. #3

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alexander: can see the image it would help greatly, best if you could include both the unedited and your edited images. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

    Cheers

    Allan

  4. #4
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    I suspect you may need to increase the exposure. The camera light meter will default to making neutral grey overall, so in low light you will need to increase the exposure. I am ignorant of the Sony A55, does it have an exposure compensation dial? If It does try a couple of shots at plus settings starting at plus 1 (one) and then looking at the result to either increase or decrease until you obtain the image you are trying for. Alternatively you can go manual and decrease the speed/decrease the fstop to allow more light into the camera.

    You are right about the filters, of no use in this instance.

  5. #5
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    You folks are so amazing.
    Will upload pictures tomorrow.
    Thanks for the input.

  6. #6
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Quote Originally Posted by thatguyfromvienna View Post
    I'm obviously too stupid to do this properly...
    My camera, a Sony a55, does great pictures. The colors are wonderful, I take lots of pictures of produce and they look gorgeous.
    When I take pictures of artificially lighted places such as a cocktail bar with unnatural colors, the results are beautiful.
    Only skies suck.
    The other day I was shooting the rising sun. The sun was glowing in a wonderful dark red and I was really disappointed when I saw the results. Everything looked faded and dull.
    In PP (LR), I made sure my WB wasn't way off. That didn't help too much.
    A polarizing filter IMO wouldn't help either since the sun was just rising.
    Would an ND filter be useful? Do I get better colors by exposing for a second or somewhere close?
    Or is there anything I can do to achieve better results?
    Hi Alexander,
    We look forward to seeing the images and can take it from there.
    Until then, just a few words. A Polarising filter will do absolutely nothing. These work best at 90 degrees to the sun and as that angle gets smaller so the effect is reduced. By the time that gets to 0 degrees (head-on to the sun) there will be no effect at all. All a ND filter will do is reduce the amount of light entering the camera which will compensate by increasing the shutter speed or opening the aperture.
    The normal trick is to meter for the sun, then for the foreground and HDR the results. But, if you want to do this in one shot then just take the shot and check out the histogram, making adjustments as necessary to avoid blowing the highlights.
    Sunrise/sunsets are always tricky and often you just have to trust to luck.

  7. #7

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alexander, you have discovered for yourself a major truth about camearas, any camera. They cannot see the light as we can.
    This is discussed over and over in books about photography. A book I happen to have in front of me answers your exact question.

    "The light looked better than it does in this picture. Why?"

    "Most cameras can only record a useable range of about five f/stops of light before they lose detail. The human eye perceives 11 to 14 f/stops between the brightest highlight and the deepest shadow" Brenda Tharp

    For example, we can see detail in a shadowy area like the inside of a room. The camera will only see and record dark.

    "Digital sensors record no detail for pixels that are too overexposed. And no detail translates to nothing, nada, when it comes to ink going down on the paper in a print." BT

    Read up on Histograms and to help answer you specific questions about skies and sunsets, read up abut taking photos of sunsets and sunrises. Pay attention when they suggest the 30 minutes before and after each as well.

    BTW I have lots of throw away photos with washed out skies!

  8. #8
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Here is an example.
    The sun looks yellow but it was glowing in a dark, saturated red actually.
    Skies look dull

  9. #9

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alexander: you have the classic problem here of shooting a sunrise/set. Your camera wants to adjust exposure for the sky, so the foreground is underexposed, if your had adjusted for the foreground your sky would have been overblowen. So a GND (graduated netural density) filter would have helped here, you could have stoped down the sky 2 to 3 stops and this would have lighten up the foreground by that much. If using GND filters a tripod is a must. Another way to have helped the image would be through the use of layers and masks in PP, one to darken the sky down a little and then lighten up the foregound and then using masks which can be done in CS, as great as LL is, no mask or layers that said someone in LL will correct me and I will stand corrected (that is one way to learn, by being corrected). All the best in the future with your images.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  10. #10

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alexander, I checked this site http://www.photographyblog.com/revie...image_quality/ for your camera. I see you have settings for "creative style"/sunset. Would that help?

  11. #11

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alex,

    Here's what's going on, it is always hard to get correct exposures on this type of image. Remember this type of capture, the sky is always over exposed if you get a correct exposure on your foreground. When I capture something like this I always get 2 images and merge them. Get a correct exposure for the skies then another exposure for the foreground. It's just a simple trick in Photoshop using the eraser tool Another way is to use a Gradient tool on your post process where you can under expose.

    Here's an image where I merge to come up with a good exposed foreground and sky.

    Skies look dull

    Now on this image above, if I had exposed it for the foreground the sky would be blown out and you won't see the details on the clouds and same way if I exposed it for the skies then the foreground would be dark.
    Last edited by Crovean; 30th March 2012 at 04:28 PM.

  12. #12
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Alexander - For sunset shots, I often use a graduated neutral density filter. As has been pointed out, sunset scenes have such a large tonal range, that your camera's sensor simply cannot handle it. The light meter picks and average setting an you get blown highlights and blocked shadows as a result. What the grad filter does is that it is dark at the top and by the time you get to the middle, it is clear. This 2, 3 or 4 stop difference allows for proper exposure of the sky, without blocking your shadow detail.

    The other way to do this effectively is to create an composite image (usually 3 or more shots) taken at a constant f-stop, but different shutter speeds, and then blending them together (tone mapping) with a special piece of software. The resultant High Dynamic Range Image (HDRI) will have proper exposure of the sky and the ground.

    I've attached two pictures to this posting. The first one uses an 0.3 grad filter (2-stop) and the second image is made using the HDRI technique. I used Oloneo Photoengine and Photoshop CS5.1 to create it.

    I hope that this helps.


    Grad Filter

    Skies look dull

    HDRI

    Skies look dull

  13. #13
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Hi, Alexander -

    One other thing you might want to do is to take a RAW photo you've already taken and experiment with a 30-day trial of the Tiffen Dfx 3.0 software. In this package, they have all the filters that they make for twisting onto the front of your lenses. So, you can see what the effects are before you buy any physical filter (or decide not to buy anything but polarizing and ND filters). Personally, since I refuse to lay out buckets of money for PhotoShop for something I can write a computer program to do (and be a lot more entertained while I'm doing it), I bought the standalone version of the Tiffen software, mainly because I didn't want to spend the next n years fiddling the filter designs to include in my own program.

    v

  14. #14

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    Re: Skies look dull

    In LR 3 or later (afaik) you have available gradient filters, and the adjustment brush. While these tools don't have the same power and control of layers/masks in the likes of Photoshop, they can still be used to great effect.
    A free plugin for LR, Enfuse does exposure blending from within LR, again without the myriad of controls available in Photoshop, or a dedicated HDRI program such as Photomatix, yet the effects are often much more subtle than the "typical hdr look".

    I have found a good deal of experimentation, being mindful of settings and how they effect exposures helped me greatly, supplanted by the reading of a good book or two. I can whole-heartedly recommend "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson.

  15. #15
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Thank you all so much for the valuable input and sorry for answering that late. I was quite busy working.
    I read so much about photography lately and I really wonder why I didn't come up with the exposure thing myself.
    You really opened my eyes. Took a test shot the other day. Free handed, only a single shot. Exposure isn't perfect but I'm really happy with the result because at least, it's definitely not dull!
    I'm really eager to take my tripod and make multiple exposures for both the sky and the buildings.
    Again - thank you very much. You're all life savers.
    Skies look dull

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    Re: Skies look dull

    Quote Originally Posted by thatguyfromvienna View Post
    Thank you all so much for the valuable input and sorry for answering that late. I was quite busy working.
    I read so much about photography lately and I really wonder why I didn't come up with the exposure thing myself.
    You really opened my eyes. Took a test shot the other day. Free handed, only a single shot. Exposure isn't perfect but I'm really happy with the result because at least, it's definitely not dull!
    I'm really eager to take my tripod and make multiple exposures for both the sky and the buildings.
    Again - thank you very much. You're all life savers.
    Skies look dull
    Alexander, I can only hope to learn as quickly and as beautifully as you did in such a short time. *bows* I love the feeling of depth in your photograph!

  17. #17
    thatguyfromvienna's Avatar
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    Re: Skies look dull

    Quote Originally Posted by M Aella View Post
    Alexander, I can only hope to learn as quickly and as beautifully as you did in such a short time. *bows* I love the feeling of depth in your photograph!
    Aaaaawww... I'm blushing.
    Thank you for these kind words.

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