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01-14-2021, 08:55 PM   #1
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I botched this photo. What did I do wrong/

Hi All:

While on vacation this fall, I took a picture of this somewhat famous sign. When I developed my photos, I was disappointed to see that the sign came out pretty dark in comparison to it's surroundings. Any suggestions as to what I did wrong? Would a yellow or orange filter have made things better? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.

Santa Monica Pier - Pentax User Photo Gallery

While I'm at it..... I messed this one up too. Any ideas about this second photo?

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Last edited by sconut1; 01-14-2021 at 09:05 PM.
01-14-2021, 09:04 PM   #2
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The light meter was tricked by the strong backlighting. This of course depends on the metering method of the camera used. In this case, if the sign face is what you want properly exposed then you will need a longer exposure by maybe 2 stops.


How to address these will depend on the meter used. If built-in camera meter, which camera?

Last edited by LesDMess; 01-14-2021 at 09:13 PM.
01-14-2021, 09:09 PM   #3
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The following assumes the exposure measurement was of the sign and sky, from the camera position.
If so, the meter would try to make the sky a midtone, and thus the sign would be underexposed, by 2-3 stops, but since the strongest light was likely coming from the far side of the sign, the near side was likely seeing less light, and that may be another stop or two. Worst case this means you underexposed by 5 stops.

Same deal with the second image. Suggest you read up about exposure measurement.

Also an incident light meter would solve this problem, or reading from a grey card facing the camera.
01-14-2021, 09:18 PM   #4
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Camera used was a Pentax k-1000. I used Tri-X film for these shots.

01-14-2021, 09:35 PM   #5
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For the second photo (the one shown within this thread) a lens hood might have helped, or using your hand to block out the strong sun from the top left while you were metering might have helped to get a more accurate value.
01-14-2021, 09:44 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by sconut1 Quote
Camera used was a Pentax k-1000. I used Tri-X film for these shots.
So in the case of the first shot that you want the sign face out of the shadows, if the shutter speed for that exposure was 1/125 you would choose a longer exposure of maybe two stops so you would set ti to 1/30. Or if the aperture was at f8, you can open it up two stops to f4.

Tri-X has very wide latitude you could even go 3 stops no problem.

If this were a darkroom print, you can burn the image more. If this were a scan, you can probably expose the scan longer.
01-14-2021, 09:44 PM   #7
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On the second image, again assuming you metered the scene that you meant to capture, there is more dark areas so closer to average, and indeed the sign that sees the direct sunlight (on right) is exposed fine. But the signs that are facing you do not get direct sunlight, so underexposed.

In both cases the lighting and range of tones means there is no “perfect” exposure. Depends what part of the scene you want to have well exposed. So would likely not be a good image/probably wait for better lighting.

I believe K1000 is center weighted metering so the sun at the extreme edge probably did not hugely influence exposure. Also since the sun is in the image a hood or hand to shade it will not help. Anyway IMO the sun /flare is not bad in the shot.

Last edited by dms; 01-14-2021 at 09:51 PM.
01-15-2021, 06:51 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by dms Quote
On the second image, again assuming you metered the scene that you meant to capture, there is more dark areas so closer to average, and indeed the sign that sees the direct sunlight (on right) is exposed fine. But the signs that are facing you do not get direct sunlight, so underexposed.

In both cases the lighting and range of tones means there is no “perfect” exposure. Depends what part of the scene you want to have well exposed. So would likely not be a good image/probably wait for better lighting.

I believe K1000 is center weighted metering so the sun at the extreme edge probably did not hugely influence exposure. Also since the sun is in the image a hood or hand to shade it will not help. Anyway IMO the sun /flare is not bad in the shot.
Thank you for responding. That's really good information. The light was a bit low and intense when I took the photo in the thread. I believe it was close to high noon when I took the photo of the Santa Monica sign. So it sounds like a bit of extra exposure would have helped. It also sounds like a lens hood would have helped. I need to wean myself off that 28-50 lens. I tried a good with it before, but had vignetting issues. I don't have those with the 50mm f 1.7 lens I have.

So... sorry...I'm full of questions... How to know how much extra exposure to add? I would have centered the meter when I took those photos. Is there a rule? A math equation? Past experience?

01-15-2021, 08:03 PM   #9
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Sorry.. good = lens hood

---------- Post added 01-15-21 at 08:22 PM ----------

Sorry.. just re-read the post...a lens hood would not have been helpful? That's interesting too. So it's all an exposure issue then.
01-15-2021, 10:03 PM   #10
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The additional exposure (or more generally the exposure adjustment) depends on the situation. Once you learn more about exposure you can estimate the amount, or measure the required exposure by another method.

To give a simple example, a uniform light falling frontally on a 2 dimensional (flat) scene, in which there are surfaces ranging from pure white to average to black.
— The white reflects 100% of the light
— the black reflects very little (maybe 2 percent) and
— average which is generally accepted to be 10% to 18% [not everyone agrees], and I will use 12.5%.
If you meter the white paper, you need to increase the exposure by 3 stops (the camera thinks the white paper is an average, but you say no, 12.5% to 25% is 1 stop, to 50% is 2 stops, and to 100% is 3 stops). Or meter an average surface and use the exposure you read.

But in real situations, like you have, the lighting is not purely frontal, and thus the is another exposure adjustment. You may read an average tone (the 12.5%) but there are other average tones but they are getting less light.

So there is no formula of how much exposure to add. But you can simply do one thing that usually helps a lot. I mentioned it before. Use an incident light meter, or carry a grey card and meter the card as it faces the camera. (Or carry/use something bright white, and meter it facing the camera, and add 3 stops exposure.)
01-16-2021, 03:03 AM   #11
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Until you get used to the corrections needed for scenes such as this, you could try bracketing exposures, keeping notes on the exposure used, then see which gives the results with which you are happiest. I know it may seem a waste of film to begin with, the purchase price and processing of which can be exorbitant, but sacrificing one roll of film to give you experience that will be invaluable for a long time (until Kodak cease manufacturing Tri-X, anyway :-). ) seems a small price to pay.

BTW, there is no such thing as a 'botched photograph' - all you have is an image which did not turn out as planned or anticipated. Most of us have loads of those !

Good luck
01-16-2021, 05:04 PM   #12
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Thank you all for your help and input. You guys did such a great job answering my questions..I might have to throw out a few more photos for critique!
01-17-2021, 04:10 AM   #13
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You mention a somewhat famous sign, but there are at least three prominent signs. Consider a composition that makes your subject stand out form everything else.
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