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Thread: Underexposing the background

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    Equilibrium8's Avatar
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    Underexposing the background

    This was my first attempt at underexposing backgrounds (well first attempt to do it on purpose )

    What do you think of the overall ambient vs subject exposure?

    Any commentary would be appreciated, thanks!

    Underexposing the background

    Model = Canon EOS 50D
    Exposure Time = 1/250"
    F Number = F3.2
    Exposure Program = Manual
    ISO Speed Ratings = 100

    Softbox on camera left and hair light on camera right.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    It basically works for me, Kenny, but I just wonder if there is a little too much background there and it is becoming distracting. Even when out of focus.

    Would something like a square crop reduce the background, but without losing context of the location, and give more impact to the model.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    I would agree, her hair is picking up some of the purple from those posts, I like that, but I would try to remove everything from the tops of those post upwards. There is just a tint of that colour in her cheeks and her blouse. Worked for many years as a colour matcher so sometimes I see hints of colours in things that others might not. Oh did I say very nice capture and the youg lady is a real heartbreaker.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Two things strike me about your imageover and above the previous comments.

    1. I would have shot the scene with a longer lens to crop out more of the background and to throw it more out of focus. I tend to use my 70-200mm for most of my outdoor portraits.

    2. I think you are working in an impossible lighting situation here. I think there is likely just too much ambient light for you to get the effect you are after. I expect that at f/3.2 you are shooting pretty well wide open in order to throw the background out of focus and shooting at 1/250 as this is the highest sych speed on your camera and your ISO is set down as low as you can. You need to stop down some more in order to darken the background, but that would be counter to where you are trying to go with depth of field, as your background would start coming more into focus.

    I have done some shots using this technique, but usually late in the day when the sun is going down and the background is already fairly dark. I will set my camera on manual and get the background exposure where I want it, before hitting the subject with the strobes. That way, all I have to do is vary the strobe until I get the exposure I am looking for. I try to vary the shutter speed only, and leave my aperture set to where I want it. I pretty well rely on my histograms for this work.

    The only other thing you can do if you want to work in brighter light is to pick up some neutral density filters to knock the amount of light back a bit. You are probably going to need 2 or 3 more stops at least.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Hi Kenny,

    I think the exposures are fine, but (a) the composition doesn't work well (3 items competing for the viewers attention (lady, background, watermark)), and (b) the light on the model is too flat (with hair light especially being too bright).

    I often use a vignette to simulate targeted lighting (sometimes even an asymetric one) (duplicate the layer - apply the vignette so it darkens an area you want - erase where it doesn't need to apply - flatten the image)

    Underexposing the background
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 22nd April 2012 at 10:03 PM.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Kenny, I think the exposures look good. If you are like me, when you are trying something new, you tend to lose attention on other things though The overall composition doesn't work for me either. If the gazebo is an important part of the photo, I would try choosing a lower perspective so that you can get the woman and the gazebo more side by side than stacked on top of each other.

    Colin, asymmetric vignettes - do tell how to make them! I guess I google it or search it on youtube, but that's not as much fun.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Colin, asymmetric vignettes - do tell how to make them!
    I did (duplicate the layer - apply the vignette so it darkens an area you want - erase where it doesn't need to apply - flatten the image).

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Yes one can always do that. Why can't I just draw a shape and apply a gradient that extends from it???

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    Probably no reason at all, except this way you'd have more control of the vignette

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Kenny, sorry for derailing your tread.
    Colin, you must be better at erasing vignettes than I am. I always find something I don't like about ones that I adjust - uneven!?
    Thanks for your advice.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Kenny, sorry for derailing your tread.
    Colin, you must be better at erasing vignettes than I am. I always find something I don't like about ones that I adjust - uneven!?
    Thanks for your advice.
    Hi Brian,

    It's easy - all you need is the eraser tool and a soft brush. Click - erased.

    Something not adding up here - it's too easy for anyone not to be able to do it - so not sure what you're doing different to me?

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    It basically works for me, Kenny, but I just wonder if there is a little too much background there and it is becoming distracting. Even when out of focus.

    Would something like a square crop reduce the background, but without losing context of the location, and give more impact to the model.
    Thanks Geoff. I have a few others from this set with tighter crops, but I really liked the pagoda; the fact that I like it so much shows that it definitely is a distraction!!
    None of the others were square crops, but I like that idea.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    I would agree, her hair is picking up some of the purple from those posts, I like that, but I would try to remove everything from the tops of those post upwards. There is just a tint of that colour in her cheeks and her blouse. Worked for many years as a colour matcher so sometimes I see hints of colours in things that others might not. Oh did I say very nice capture and the youg lady is a real heartbreaker.

    Cheers:

    Allan

    Thanks Allan

    I didn't the color cast on her hair. But this was first time I've ever seen this color in Taiwan, so I didn't really notice what was supposed to be there and what was not (the model attempted to dye her hair gray for April's Fool day).

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Two things strike me about your imageover and above the previous comments.

    1. I would have shot the scene with a longer lens to crop out more of the background and to throw it more out of focus. I tend to use my 70-200mm for most of my outdoor portraits.

    2. I think you are working in an impossible lighting situation here. I think there is likely just too much ambient light for you to get the effect you are after. I expect that at f/3.2 you are shooting pretty well wide open in order to throw the background out of focus and shooting at 1/250 as this is the highest sych speed on your camera and your ISO is set down as low as you can. You need to stop down some more in order to darken the background, but that would be counter to where you are trying to go with depth of field, as your background would start coming more into focus.

    I have done some shots using this technique, but usually late in the day when the sun is going down and the background is already fairly dark. I will set my camera on manual and get the background exposure where I want it, before hitting the subject with the strobes. That way, all I have to do is vary the strobe until I get the exposure I am looking for. I try to vary the shutter speed only, and leave my aperture set to where I want it. I pretty well rely on my histograms for this work.

    The only other thing you can do if you want to work in brighter light is to pick up some neutral density filters to knock the amount of light back a bit. You are probably going to need 2 or 3 more stops at least.
    Thanks Manfred.

    This was with the 70-200 f2.8 (it hardly ever leaves my camera these days, regardless of how impractical it may be)

    You right about the lighting. I didn't really think about it at the time, I was just focusing on getting the flashes (which were at full power) close enough to bring the lighting back up to par.

    The shoot I did after this I was focusing on working the shutter speed only. It is really helpful!

    I still need to get some ND filters. Soon!

  15. #15
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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Kenny,

    I think the exposures are fine, but (a) the composition doesn't work well (3 items competing for the viewers attention (lady, background, watermark)), and (b) the light on the model is too flat (with hair light especially being too bright).

    I often use a vignette to simulate targeted lighting (sometimes even an asymetric one) (duplicate the layer - apply the vignette so it darkens an area you want - erase where it doesn't need to apply - flatten the image)

    Underexposing the background
    Thanks Colin.

    a) Yea. Like I mentioned in the other post, I think me liking the pagoda so much is a sure sign it is taking away from the subject.
    b) I assume that is due to the amount of ambient light. The key light was in a good position I think, but even at full power they weren't doing much. Although my logic seems flawed because the strobe was bright enough to bring the subject to correct exposure. Any thoughts?

    Thanks. Your edit looks great. I have a few similar crops, but they don't look as good.

  16. #16
    Equilibrium8's Avatar
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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Kenny, I think the exposures look good. If you are like me, when you are trying something new, you tend to lose attention on other things though The overall composition doesn't work for me either. If the gazebo is an important part of the photo, I would try choosing a lower perspective so that you can get the woman and the gazebo more side by side than stacked on top of each other.

    Colin, asymmetric vignettes - do tell how to make them! I guess I google it or search it on youtube, but that's not as much fun.
    Thanks Brian.

    I definitely lose focus on other details, but for the greater good I hope. After many set up, spray and pray shoots, I decided to start focusing on 2 to 3 elements or techniques to work on at every shoot. The secret I suppose is to try internalize the ones I tried at the previous shoots and not lose the practice!!

  17. #17
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    Re: Underexposing the background

    I don't want to start a new thread about photos from the same shoot, but from the comments about the composition here, I'd like to get your thoughts on these, please.

    In this one, do you find the edge of the lake adds or detracts from the composition?
    Underexposing the background

    And this shot I just think is better as it has no distractions . Same setup.
    Underexposing the background

  18. #18
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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Kenny, I like it a lot, and the background tells me where she is but doesn't really distract me. I would leave it as i is a beautiful scene and a great portrait, well done.

  19. #19
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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Quote Originally Posted by WJT View Post
    Kenny, I like it a lot, and the background tells me where she is but doesn't really distract me. I would leave it as i is a beautiful scene and a great portrait, well done.
    Thanks Wayne.

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    Re: Underexposing the background

    Hi,
    I've been looking at your first shot alot - and it's funny, the more I look at it the less I'm worried about the exposure.
    What bothers me is the composition - with the de-focused building being in the top third the eye is drawn there first and I find it a bit of an effort to draw my eye down to the bottom third to look at the girl - which is strange as I don't normally have a problem with that.
    Perhaps what was needed was a lower shooting angle which would have put the girl higher in the frame.
    All the same a nice pic.

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