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07-24-2011, 08:28 PM   #1
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How, how, how do I do this right?

I'm on vacation, and visiting a lot of outdoor places - parks, mountains, beautiful scenes. Normally I like to shoot in manual because I need the practice. But I'm finding that when you are with a tour group (or with a wife who doesn't like to stop long enough), you often don't have enough time to stop and set everything (shutter speed, aperture value, EV compensation values) for a properly composed photograph. So, I have been playing around with Av mode. I really like the fact that you can change the aperture quickly and the camera will automatically choose a reasonable shutter speed. I also just found out (through trial and error) that with a higher aperture value - WOW you get really great color depth and contrast with landscape scenes. Here's my problem:

When I want to include a person in the scene (ie. my wife), and if it's a really bright day (intense sunshine, etc) - how do I get everything in proper focus and exposure? I want the mountain and the lake, river, etc. in the background to look clear and sharp with great color tones, but also want my subject to look sharp and properly exposed. I have played and played around with different things (and I don't like using the flash because you can always see skin tones burned out), and either I get my person nicely exposed and the sky or whatever is in the background is too bright and burned out, OR the opposite - background looks beautiful and subject is too dark. Is there a way to do this right on the camera with very little post processing required?

I have attached two photos as reference points for discussion:

In the first photo (with the river in background), to me the subject looks reasonably well exposed, but the river just looks like a bright white sheet in the background. In this photo, had the aperture been stopped down, or even EV compensation taken down, then almost certainly the subject's skin would be exposed too dark.

In the second photo, I just want suggestions. What could I do with a photo like this to have the subject's skin tones properly exposed, and still maintain a clear background (the lake, grassland, and trees far off in the distance) with proper color, contrast, and exposures? Almost always, a background like this will come out looking TOO white if I make adjustments on the camera to ensure proper exposure of the subject.


Last edited by slr_neophyte; 12-14-2012 at 08:54 PM.
07-24-2011, 08:47 PM   #2
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for focus, switch to center focus point, set small aperture, focus on subject, hold focus by holding the shutter at half press, then recompose

for proper exposure, set the camera to the background, lock the exposure using the rear af button set to ae-l mode in the menus, pop up your flash and set flash exposure compensation to a negative value (so it acts as a fill flash rather than washing out tones)

in post processing, some programs let you make a selection area to apply an effect to. If you properly expose the background, but end up with a dark subject, make a selection on the subject and boost the exposure. For example, in lightroom, you would select the brush tool, brush over your subject, then set the filter to increased exposure/brightness
07-24-2011, 09:38 PM   #3
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If I may... Kind of a sloppy job on my part but some pulling curves around and some layer masking. Either that, or use a fill flash.
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07-24-2011, 09:57 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
If I may... Kind of a sloppy job on my part but some pulling curves around and some layer masking. Either that, or use a fill flash.
So, by "pulling curves" are you referring to the exposure, compensation, and saturation values? I can manipulate each of these with a slider (and there's a corresponding graph representing each) in iPhoto.

07-24-2011, 10:16 PM   #5
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a little fill light in PP goes a long way
modifications in lightroom are:
white balance temp +3
recovery +100
fill light + 78
blacks +33
saturation -10
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07-24-2011, 10:22 PM   #6
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and a little bit more work with brushes in lightroom yields the following:
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07-24-2011, 10:24 PM   #7
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You've entered an area of photography that takes a lot of practice. Learning how to blend flash with ambient light effectively and transparently is not something you will get good at in a day or two. Rather, like exposure and composition, it is something you will continue to learn and build upon for as long as you shoot.

This is the best site I've come across for learning flash techniques. I've attended one of Neil's seminars too. He's great.
planet neil

Buy a system flash with tilt and swivel and as much output strength as you can afford. People spend a lot of money on lenses (myself included), but the differences between good glass and great glass are subtle, and we photographers are the only ones who notice it. The difference between a properly exposed image, and one that isn't is drastic. Many people will notice that.

The pop-up flash is decent in a pinch, but will struggle when you need a lot of output. You are trying to balance against sunlight reflecting off a lake. That is very bright, and your pop-up flash will be easily overcome by that.
07-24-2011, 10:35 PM - 1 Like   #8
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By curves, I'm referring to a processing tool available in Photoshop (of all types) and some other programs. The key to it is, to be able to mask out where you don't want the action to take place.

Photo 1 below shows the basic starting point.
Photo 2 shows that I've drug the curve way down in order to try and recover some of the sky from blowout land.
Photo 3 I've created a mask to block out all of the areas of the photo I don't want my curves action to affect.
Photo 4 is the finished product (after some other plugin treatments not really related to this discussion).

If I really cared about this photo I would have been more careful in creating the mask but this is done quickly for demonstration only.

This was done with Photoshop CS5 but you don't need such a program to do it. There are many other ways of doing this it's just a matter of learning to use the software you have. There are probably thousands of tutorials on YouTube on how to do things like this. The other simple way such as in your second photo of your lady on the dock, use a fill flash and set your main exposure for the background. That way, it won't be blown out and she won't be a shadow.



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