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Thread: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

  1. #1
    Captured's Avatar
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    Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    I took this picture of my daughter Jan. 27, 2011 as the sun was making it's way down

    I like how she looks like she is glowing- but I do not like how her face looks gray. Wish it was more crisp as well.
    Camera: Canon
    Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
    ISO: 400
    Exposure: 1/500 sec
    Aperture: 3.5
    Focal Length: 60mm

    Was it the angle I was shooting at that made her dark, or was it the way I had my camera settings... or both.. is this fixable through an editing software?
    any advice, comments to help me out would be greatly appreciated
    TY!
    Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Captured View Post
    I took this picture of my daughter Jan. 27, 2011 as the sun was making it's way down

    I like how she looks like she is glowing- but I do not like how her face looks gray. Wish it was more crisp as well.
    Camera: Canon
    Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
    ISO: 400
    Exposure: 1/500 sec
    Aperture: 3.5
    Focal Length: 60mm

    Was it the angle I was shooting at that made her dark, or was it the way I had my camera settings... or both.. is this fixable through an editing software?
    any advice, comments to help me out would be greatly appreciated
    TY!
    Trying to get it right! (exposure?)
    A couple of questions and a couple of responses.

    1. Most photos can be fixed, what type of software do you have (photoshop, elements, etc.)?
    2. Yes the angle did contribute, you could have used flash to even out the light. But this type of side lighting can be used effectively for portraits, not sure if it is the best for children.

    Questions:
    1. Why did you choose such a high ISO? I tend to use ISO 100 even when the lighting is too intense. However, most use higher ISO for night photography, astrophotography, etc.
    2. Why did you use an aperture of 3.5? It works in this photograph to give you DOF but have you tried other apertures to see which one gives you the best sharpness? The background in this photo is too close to the color of your daughter's shirt and you sort of lose the effect of isolating the background.
    3. Your shutterspeed is fast enough so that if you are hand holding you don't have to worry about camera shake, yet the sharpness of the image still suffers, partially from the high ISO. Decreasing the shutter speed would help with the blown highlights but this could also be toned down with an adjusted ISO.

    There is an excellent tutorial on the site for portraits that can help you with most of your issues. Also, see the comments to your question about light metering.

  3. #3
    Captured's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Well, because I really have no clue what I am doing

    I usually use the editing that comes w/ picasa or whatever 30 day free trial photoshop offers- I currently have Lightroom 3 dwnloaded (about 26 days left to use)

    1) So, I should always use 100, or 200 ISO for daytime photos?
    2) She was wearing that shirt all day- was not a 'planned' shot
    3) re: Shutterspeed- I didn't set that on my own (that I know of) I usually just go off the light meter indicator (try to turn the dial until it stops in the middle or one or two stops to the left.: thinking that's what makes it a correct exposure.( not too bright, not too dark)

    I am very new at this, and still trying to figure it ALL out. I appreciate your response. I will read more tutorials: sometimes though, I still don't get it and wish I had someone right there- "hands on" experience- or tell me step by step in a way what I should do, at least till I can get the hang of it.

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    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Hi Krisztina and welcome to CiC.

    The best way to learn about photography is to take it in small bits and learn how each thing works and build up from there. If you try and learn everything at once you will go crazy.

    You have chosen exposure at this time so have a read through the tutorials but I would suggest keeping your camera on Shutter Priority (or Tv = Time Value on Canon cameras) to allow access to all the variables but the first thing you need to do is maintain a sufficiently fast shutter speed to stop camera shake. I always use Aperture Priority myself but there is time to move over there in due course.

    So, the first thing you need to do is choose a shutter speed. There is a really good tutorial about to be released on using the Shutter and I urge you to read it. The generally accepted norm is to choose shutter speed that is faster than the focal length of your lens. I think I read somewhere that you have one lens – a 60m macro lens, so you need to maintain a shutter speed of around 125th of a second. If your lens was a 300m lens then a 500th of a second would be required.

    So now you can stop camera shake for hand held shots.

    Next try not shooting into the sun to start with. This is a rite of passage for all new photographers but once tried put it away for another time when you understand exposure better. The light from behind is too strong and washes out the colours. Having said that I think this is a beautiful shot of your daughter and I can see why you are so excited about her.

    Try photographing your daughter in a more neutral light where you do not have such strong bright light and with the light coming onto her about 45 degrees to her side and forward of her.

    Now we have the light bit sorted out the next thing is adjusting the exposure if it is still wrong. There is a little button (diagonal black and white) on your camera (and it will be in a very prominent position) with a + and – sign. This allows you to fine tune your exposures.

    Your camera’s light meter does not know what it is reading so it tried to make everything fit a mid tone range. If your scene is lighter than mid tone the camera’s light meter will say ‘gee this is really bright out here’ and will deduct light to bring it back to a mid tone value it understand. As the camera deducts light your image will be underexposed so you need to add light back using the Exposure Compensation (or fine tune) button.

    Similarly if the scene is darker than mid tone then the camera will add light to make it a mid tone and hence you will need to say ‘no, I know what I want’ and adjust the fine tune button by deducting the light back to get what you want.

    Until you understand more try adjusting the Exposure Compensation (also known as EV override) by say + or – 1 and see what happens.

    You can do this automatically by looking in the manual at Exposure Bracketing. This will allow you to take, say, 3 shots with one exposed as the camera chooses, one with 1 stop under exposed and another with 1 stop over exposed.

    When you review them you can follow the logic here and see what the camera did and what you need to do. Practice will allow you to see the light in the scene in front of you and make the adjustments beforehand.

    As far as post production just play with Picasa at the moment. You have enough another stuff to learn about the camera yet.

    Good luck and keep posting. This is the best way to learn.

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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    I changed the levels a bit to tame the lens flare a bit. This was done using Gimp and adjusting the levels.

    Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    With that light I would shoot at ISO 100. I would also try a polarizing filter to limit the lens flare and a flash lighten the from of the subject. Try a few different techniques to find what works for you.
    Last edited by DTruex; 3rd February 2011 at 02:34 AM.

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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)


    Thank You Peter!! Will my shutter speed always be about the same bc of my focal lenght?... will I still be able to play around (later, in due time with more knowledge and understanding) with creative shutter speeds, or not so much bc I'm so limited w/ the lens that I have?
    Back to more reading, and practicing. Will post more in the near future. Thanks So much for your response!!!

    And nice work,Doug.

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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    You can change the shutter anytime you want and the faster it is (500th , 1000th, etc) the more you will freeze the action. The slower it is the more chance of camera shake but you then practice panning (or moving ) with the action to create blur. The suggested shutter speed was a minimum at this stage to stop camera shake while you work on other aspects of exposure, as this was the original question.

    You are not limited by your lens so get that out of you head now. If your lens is a 60mm macro then you have more than ample opportunity to do some very creative stuff so hang on tight and practice.

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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Captured View Post
    Well, because I really have no clue what I am doing

    I usually use the editing that comes w/ picasa or whatever 30 day free trial photoshop offers- I currently have Lightroom 3 dwnloaded (about 26 days left to use)

    1) So, I should always use 100, or 200 ISO for daytime photos? [Yes, ISO 100-200 is most effective for everyday photographs, night time photos may require higher ISO.]
    2) She was wearing that shirt all day- was not a 'planned' shot. [Best tip for this situation and many others, look around you (for a contrasting color) something is always just appealing over your shoulder.]
    3) re: Shutterspeed- I didn't set that on my own (that I know of) I usually just go off the light meter indicator (try to turn the dial until it stops in the middle or one or two stops to the left.: thinking that's what makes it a correct exposure.( not too bright, not too dark). [Future fail safe here is a tripod or monopod, for now use a fast enough shutterspeed to prevent camera shake but not underexpose the image. Your light meter will give you guidelines.]

    I am very new at this, and still trying to figure it ALL out. I appreciate your response. I will read more tutorials: sometimes though, I still don't get it and wish I had someone right there- "hands on" experience- or tell me step by step in a way what I should do, at least till I can get the hang of it.
    This is why we are here, you can always grab the camera while you are online, setup a particular shot, and ask questions as you experience the outcome. I am sure you can get immediate help if needed. The camera manual, your first assistant to get you through the functions of the camera, CiC tutorials, for beginner, intermediate and advanced help. The CiC crew, for all of the listed assistance.

  9. #9
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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Nice pic Krisztina,
    Beautiful little girl. You have a lot to digest from the above responses.
    I'll just say that to use on camera flash in this instance will most likely make an improvement in lighting the face but make your photo suffer artistically. You could try a simple and cheap reflector (photographic reflector, white t-shirt, piece of white card etc) to reflect some light back into the face from the source behind the child (and there looks to be some kind of reflected light hitting her face from somewhere). This will reduce the overall difference between the lightest tones and the darkest tones represented by your subject (dynamic range). You will always get blown highlights with such strong light and this type of shot, that's just par for the course, but remember you are exposing for your subject in a shot like this, not everything else (Which is why I might add +1/3 - +1 stop exposure relative to what my camera is suggesting - and that is all the light meter in your camera is doing, making a suggestion that you must interpret relative to your specific scene). However, regarding blown highlights, I like to shoot from an elevated position relative to the subject to screen as much sky out as possible to avoid a wash of white (blown areas of sky). Also, these shots almost always benefit from some extra contrast done in post processing (just basic level stuff with levels will do the trick).
    Well done, and keep practicing you are doing a fantastic job

    PS: If you don't understand anything someone says, just keep asking clarifying questions and reading the tutorials etc until you get it. We are all here to learn so by asking questions you are helping everyone who stalks these forums
    Last edited by Hans; 3rd February 2011 at 10:24 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Very good suggestion on using a reflector, Hans. Let's hope she can find an assistant to hold it for her and her daughter is a sport to hold still while she takes the shot. All suggestions are very good, Krisztina. If I may add, try to 'expose' for the highlights. Since we use a digital sensor and not film, if the highlights are over-exposed (or what we call blown-out), there's no way that we can recover any detail back on those areas. If you can learn how to use the spot-metering mode on your camera (if there is one) take a reading of the brightest part of the scene where you still want to show some detail (texture) and take note of the exposure reading (shutter speed and aperture). Add +2 exposure values to it. You can achieve this if you are using either Av or Tv on your Rebel XT and apply +2 EV Exposure compensation. It won't work in Manual Mode so you have to be either in Av or Tv. This will help you control the exposure on the highlight areas.

    Now, if the situation when you're taking the shots is really tricky (like shooting playful kids) and it's really hard to make a decent exposure reading on the subject, you can do a simple cheat trick.

    1. Stretch your non-shooting hand in front of you, open palm facing the camera.
    2. Zoom in on the palm area and almost fill the entire frame with it. Set your metering mode to spot or center-weighed and record the reading. If you have AE lock, press it right now.
    3. Keep the exposure reading (either you set your camera to manual mode or keep pressing the AE lock button) and then recompose the shot. This will help you expose her face better (because of the backlighting situation). The idea here is that the palm area of your hand has the same reflectivity as the face. Normally it works. You may be off by about 1/3 exposure value but it works.

    On a personal level, I like your shot. Yes, the highlights are a bit over-exposed and the face is a bit under, but considering your situation at the time you took the shot, I still find it acceptable. Your shot is actually better than the one I first tried when I was practicing backlighting. LOL! Continue to practice. I suggest you prepare a small notebook and record all you observations about your shots so you can remember why some did work and why some did not. I do have a small notebook of mine, that is where I keep my notes on exposure and where I draw some sketch of how I want to take the shots.

    You're doing fine. Keep using your camera, shoot, shoot, shoot. Analyze, analyze, and then learn. Best of all, post your work here so the CiC family can help you and that we can also learn from you.

  11. #11
    Hans's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to get it right! (exposure?)

    Very good suggestion on using a reflector, Hans. Let's hope she can find an assistant to hold it for her and her daughter is a sport to hold still while she takes the shot.
    LOL! Know what you mean. You have to be so quick with little kids and they just don't seem to appreciate what you are trying to achieve for posterity! A lot of people comment on child candid shots who have never really experienced the sometimes impossible challenges that it represents (your own kids are even harder to direct)

    It is difficult to hold a reflector and shoot. You could try looping the loop (if it has one) through the little finger of your left hand, kneel down so that it is touching the ground which will make it marginally easier to angle, or throw it on the ground in front of the subject...or wear a white shirt... or shoot on a white sheet, it all helps.

    Just a quick note RE the shutter speed focal length rule as Pete has correctly pointed out. This rule assumes you have a stationary and still subject and is only concerned with the shaking of the camera in your hands as you shoot. With little kids like this, they are NEVER still, so you have to think also about the blurring from 'subject motion' not just the blurring from 'camera shake.' So you might like to keep the shutter speed above at least 1/250 sec (or more if possible) to increase your chances of a sharp shot (I have never had much success with kids + tripod shooting unless I can put them on a stool that is too tall for them to get off...trapping them in one spot is helpful )

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