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Thread: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

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    GreenTea's Avatar
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    Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    How do you photograph a scene where there's such a stark contrast between light and shadow that fill flash isn't enough, nor is spot metering because it either leaves the light too overexposed or the subject in the shadow too dark? I've tried using Exposure Compensation but it also considerably blows the sky or leaves the subject in the dark...

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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenTea View Post
    How do you photograph a scene where there's such a stark contrast between light and shadow that fill flash isn't enough, nor is spot metering because it either leaves the light too overexposed or the subject in the shadow too dark? I've tried using Exposure Compensation but it also considerably blows the sky or leaves the subject in the dark...
    What your describing is a situation where the dynamic range of the scene is too great for the camera's sensor to handle. It's not a metering issue, so "spot metering" or "Exposure Compensation" won't help.

    Some of the ways around it that we use are ...

    - Shoot RAW, and then use a RAW converter to push and pull the light and dark bits until they look the way we want them to. Photoshop CS3 and above have a control called "Fill Light" that's particularly good at revealing shadow detail.

    - Shoot a number of bracketed shots (eg at 2 EV intervals) and combine these into a high dynamic range composite (HDR)

    - Shoot a couple of shots (one correctly exposing the highlights and one correctly exposing the shadows) stack them as layers in Photoshop - and create a layer mask to transition between the two.

    - Use a GND (Graduated Neutral Density) Filter to "hold back" some of the light in the brighter areas.

    Hope this helps

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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Thank you Colin, I didn't know that it couldn't be done with the camera!

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    GreenTea's Avatar
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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Here's an example. Unfortunately, I didn't keep the original, but you get an idea of what I mean.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenTea View Post
    Here's an example. Unfortunately, I didn't keep the original, but you get an idea of what I mean.
    The best solution for this kind of shot is to simply shoot RAW and use the fill light control in Adobe Camera RAW (CS3, CS4 etc) to reveal the shadow detail.

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    John C's Avatar
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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    A common solution for this type of problem would be to expose the photo for one area to the detriment of other areas. Typically, you would set the exposure for the subject. In the case of the window example, expose for the window - get it near the middle of the histogram, the white wall should be more toward the white end. This will likely cause the patch of blue sky to become a washed out pure white. By keeping the washed out part to a small area of the photo and exposing the window (subject) correctly, the viewer will hardly notice the sky. The example photo of the window seems to have the sky exposed toward the middle and the wall and window too dark. Of course, this is all subjective and a matter of taste, but there are some basic norms or expectations for how bright things are in photos. Using RAW as suggested above may allow you to keep the sky from washing out.

    Michael Freeman has a new book out called Perfect Exposure, Focal Press, where he addresses the problem of limited dynamic range.

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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Thank you, John. I just asked because I thought there might be a way not to blow the little triangle of sky. If I were to shoot the photo again, I'd just not include any sky in the photo if possible...

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    JK6065's Avatar
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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    - Shoot a couple of shots (one correctly exposing the highlights and one correctly exposing the shadows) stack them as layers in Photoshop - and create a layer mask to transition between the two.

    Hope this helps
    Do you have a tutorial or just some quick information for me how to do this, I'm also strugeling with the problem GreenTea points out here

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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    Quote Originally Posted by JK6065 View Post
    Do you have a tutorial or just some quick information for me how to do this, I'm also strugeling with the problem GreenTea points out here
    There's quite a few variations on the technique - and quite a few articles - and it's mentioned in quite a few books. WIll depend on what software your using too ... so you might like to just do a bit of "googling" to find something that suits your particular setup.

    A "quick and dirty" approach is to simply take two shots (one exposed for foreground, one background) and then ...

    - open both in Photoshop

    - Use the move tool to drag one on top of the other (which will stack a copy of one as a layer on top of the other) (you can then close the other image)

    - Use a soft eraser to erase the 1/2 of whatever image is under/over-exposed (revealing the other image below)

    By the way, what software are you using, and are you shooting RAW?
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 11th July 2009 at 09:16 PM.

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    JK6065's Avatar
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    Re: Light/shadow - How to bridge the gap?

    I'm shooting in JPEG and pp it with photoshop CS2 (version 9.0.2).
    I've done things like this several times with photoshop but I'm always struggeling with eges of buildings or something. It's always clearly visual that I've edit phot's like that in photoshop.
    Last edited by McQ; 14th February 2010 at 08:02 AM. Reason: removed broken links

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