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07-21-2014, 05:10 PM   #1
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Help with exposure & uneven lighting

OK, when I introduced myself as a beginner with questions over in the "Introductions" forum, a couple people recommended I read Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure". I did, and it really taught me a lot. I finally see how aperture, ISO speed, and shutter speed interact to get a good exposure. Thanks to those who recommended it.

But, I'm still having some problems taking a photo of a subject when there's a bright light source nearby. I've uploaded a couple of samples to see if I could get some pointers in dealing with situations like this.

Here are the photos: Sample1, Sample2. (These are the "best" - I have a few that are much worse)

What is the proper way to deal with a situation like this? There's a sliding glass door in our family room that lets in a lot of light, and it seems like our new granddaughter or someone is always in front of it when I want to take a picture of them, so I come across this situation a lot. Even if they aren't directly in front of it, it seems like the shot I want is always in the general direction of that door.

I also tried to do some post-processing of these in Pentax Camera Utility, RawTherapee and Microsoft Live Photo Gallery, but had no luck making them any better. But I have no idea what I'm doing there, either. There's so much to learn!

Thanks in advance for helping this newbie. I really want to learn to take decent photos with my old K10D.

Dave

07-21-2014, 06:30 PM   #2
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Cannot view the picture for some reason but the problem is you have bright light behind your subject correct?
If the subject is still and you have a tripod you can do HDR. Not likely to work with granddaughters. If you do not mind the background being blown out you can spot meter on the subject to expose it correctly.
Or, you can get a flash and balance ambient light with flash light to get a correct exposure.
07-21-2014, 06:34 PM   #3
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Can't see it either...

QuoteQuote:
Invalid Album specified. If you have just posted a new thread in the Marketplace and are a new user, it will be made visible shortly. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator.
07-21-2014, 07:06 PM   #4
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Get this book. It is the best one I have gotten so far. It tells how to use all different kinds of lighting in all different kinds of situations to create all different kinds of results.

Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography: Michael Freeman: 9780415843331: Amazon.com: Books

07-21-2014, 08:04 PM   #5
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Trying to post pictures again

Thanks alamo5000, I'll look into the Capturing Light book.

Here's another try at showing you the photos.
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PENTAX K10D  Photo 
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PENTAX K10D  Photo 
07-21-2014, 08:20 PM   #6
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Here's another good one.


A couple of things:

Expose for the highlights.

Second thing, unless you expressly want that kind of huge contrast, you need to select or create better lighting conditions.

Also I have found that you have to be more careful with shiny things
07-21-2014, 08:25 PM   #7
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a common challenge in photography. a few ways to solve it

1) bracket and manual blending
2) bracket and HDR
3) physical graduated ND filter applied to right side
4) digital ND filter(if highlights are not blown)
5) add light to the left side (reflector, flash, continuous lighting, etc) and use a faster shutter
6) reduce light coming through the window (screen, shutters, translucent reflector, different time of day, wait for a solar eclipse, etc)

that is a perfect setup in which to practice several techniques and decide what works best for you. good luck and have fun!

Last edited by mikeSF; 07-22-2014 at 05:14 PM.
07-21-2014, 09:14 PM   #8
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You can expose for the foliage with spot metering and let the window blow out ... presumably there's not much interest out there anyway.

07-21-2014, 09:27 PM   #9
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Besides ways to change the scene--to modify/reduce the DR (e.g., combining multiple exposures of the same scene)--you also can decide what part of the DR/scene (the slice so to speak) you want to capture, and accept the fact that one end or both ends of the DR will be lost. The first picture you show (to my taste/coming from decades of slide/color work) is a reasonably realistic picture, and works quite well (of course the scene is not terribly interesting--but it illustrates the problem--and I think is a satisfactory solution). I have the similar scene in mind--except the glare is sunlight glancing off ice/snow on the North Face of Matterhorn Mountain--and that is just how to show it. In either case the sunlight is overpowering.

Clackers just said it w/ more economy of words!
07-21-2014, 09:32 PM   #10
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You could join the left side of one with the right side of the other with Gimp. It would go better with a tripod. This would be mikeSF's #1 method.

Last edited by clicksworth; 07-21-2014 at 09:38 PM.
07-22-2014, 01:54 AM   #11
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Learn to control/modify the light.

In this instance try pulling the table a few feet away from the window or maybe modify the light by stretching a white sheet over the lower half of the window to get more even light.

In this instance modifying or changing the light falling on the plant are your only options to achieve even lighting.
07-22-2014, 06:41 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
Here's another good one.

In Camera Artistry: Using Any Light Source - YouTube

A couple of things:

Expose for the highlights.

Second thing, unless you expressly want that kind of huge contrast, you need to select or create better lighting conditions.

Also I have found that you have to be more careful with shiny things
I'm at work now, but will check out that video this evening. I've learn some things from other B&H videos.
Exposing for the highlight makes the left side of the picture very dark/underexposed. Can that be recovered with post-processing?

QuoteOriginally posted by mikeSF Quote
a common challenge in photography. a few ways to solve it

1) bracket and manual blending
2) bracket and HDR
3) physical graduated ND filter applied to right side
4) digital ND filter(if highlights are not blown)
5) add light to the left side (reflector, flash, continuous lighting, etc) and use a faster shutter
6) reduct light coming through the window (screen, shutters, translucent reflector, different time of day, wait for a solar eclipse, etc)

that is a perfect setup in which to practice several techniques and decide what works best for you. good luck and have fun!
It is a great setup for testing out things. That's why I thought it would be a good shot to ask about, since I seem to run into that issue a lot when I'm trying to get pictures of family without "posing" them. Pretend the plant is a family member or two who is visiting and I want to get a candid shot of them. For that situation, #6 is not practical. I need to learn about numbers 1,2, and 4. #3 sounds like it would be fairly quick to do, I just need to pick up a graduated ND filter. The first thing for me to try is probably #5, but would it take a separate flash, or is the pop-up one good enough to do it? I plan on doing a lot more experimenting with that shot.

QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
You can expose for the foliage with spot metering and let the window blow out ... presumably there's not much interest out there anyway.
You're right, there is nothing of interest there. Letting it blow out doesn't bother me too much, but it takes part of the plant with it.

QuoteOriginally posted by dms Quote
Besides ways to change the scene--to modify/reduce the DR (e.g., combining multiple exposures of the same scene)--you also can decide what part of the DR/scene (the slice so to speak) you want to capture, and accept the fact that one end or both ends of the DR will be lost. The first picture you show (to my taste/coming from decades of slide/color work) is a reasonably realistic picture, and works quite well (of course the scene is not terribly interesting--but it illustrates the problem--and I think is a satisfactory solution). I have the similar scene in mind--except the glare is sunlight glancing off ice/snow on the North Face of Matterhorn Mountain--and that is just how to show it. In either case the sunlight is overpowering.

Clackers just said it w/ more economy of words!
I agree the scene is not too interesting. It was mainly just to experiment with getting a decent photo when the light situation is that bad. These are the best that I could come up with, with my extremely limited knowledge. what you are saying about needing to pick a "slice" and accept that it won't all be "perfect" makes sense. HDR/blending seems to be a common theme, too. I've got to look into that more.

QuoteOriginally posted by clicksworth Quote
You could join the left side of one with the right side of the other with Gimp. It would go better with a tripod. This would be mikeSF's #1 method.
That's great, clicksworth! I wish my Gimp skills were better.

QuoteOriginally posted by geru2000 Quote
Learn to control/modify the light.

In this instance try pulling the table a few feet away from the window or maybe modify the light by stretching a white sheet over the lower half of the window to get more even light.

In this instance modifying or changing the light falling on the plant are your only options to achieve even lighting.
That's a good idea in some situations. I'm learning that sometimes a couple of steps one way or the other can make a big difference.

Thanks for all the replies, everyone. Lots of great advice and ideas. I seem to learn best by trying things, but at times like this I didn't even know what to try. You've all given me some ideas.

I have more experimenting to do...
07-22-2014, 09:47 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by DaveNC Quote
...Exposing for the highlight makes the left side of the picture very dark/underexposed. Can that be recovered with post-processing?
Software usually has some ability to brighten the dark parts. That might work well with the latest sensors which have a lot of shadow detail. With your K10D shots, it will emphasize the digital noise, so you'll see blotches of weird color. In areas that are out of focus, you can use heavy noise reduction to get rid of the noise without losing detail. But if it was a subject's face, half in the dark and half in the bright sunlight, the noise or noise reduction is tough to balance.

QuoteQuote:
For that situation, #6 is not practical. I need to learn about numbers 1,2, and 4. #3 sounds like it would be fairly quick to do, I just need to pick up a graduated ND filter. The first thing for me to try is probably #5, but would it take a separate flash, or is the pop-up one good enough to do it? I plan on doing a lot more experimenting with that shot.
I liked "wait for a solar eclipse" but it does limit photo opportunities.

The camera has a spot meter which could help you decide on a solution. The spot meter only measures light where the brackets are in the viewfinder. So you could set the camera up on a tripod, change the metering to spot, and Av mode to make the numbers easier. Set the aperture to f8, ISO at 100 and fixed. Now aim the camera so the brightest part of the window is within the spot meter's brackets. With the meter active, you might see a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. Move the camera again to point at the darkest part of the scene, like the shadow under the couch pillow. You might see a shutter speed of 0.5 sec. Those numbers represent exposures to take perfectly exposed shots of those two spots. Now you can use the difference between the spots to figure out the dynamic range of the whole scene, in stops. Each time you double the amount of light, that's one stop. Slowing down the shutter speed increases the light available to the sensor, so:
1/1000 = 1 stop
1/500 = 2 stops
1/250 = 3 stops
1/125 = 4 stops
1/60 = 5 stops
1/30 = 6 stops
1/15 = 7 stops
1/8 = 8 stops
1/4 = 9 stops
1/2 = 10 stops

[Math purists, please ignore the traditional photographer's simplification of fractional shutter speeds.]

Once all this math is done, you know valuable data about the dynamic range of your scene. If it really is ten stops, old reviews say the K10D can only capture about eight stops. Newer cameras are better but still need processing to get that range into print or display. Graduated filters are rated in stops, so you know something about buying one and how it will alter the scene. You know how many stops a fill-flash would have to add to the subject to even out the light. If you have a test victim/model, you can use the spot meter to measure the light on their face for even more data.

After experimenting with the spot meter, you can decide whether to use it in everyday situations or not. I think it's more work, and if I observe the scene carefully, I can now "see" what the spot meter would have shown. (Or be wrong.) The spot meter is designed to only meter the spot and ignore the whole scene, so it's like reverse gear on a car - don't complain about the direction it was designed to go.
07-22-2014, 11:40 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Software usually has some ability to brighten the dark parts.
I have yet to get very far into any kind of post-processing, but is most software able to lighten or darken specific (masked?) areas, or is it more of all highlights/all shadows adjustment. How about free options like Gimp or RawTherapee or Darktable?

QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
The camera has a spot meter which could help you decide on a solution.
Thanks for that great explanation of using the camera's spot meter, and how to interpret the results. I think I actually understood that and am going to do some more experimenting with the camera. If I may ask a couple of follow up questions - (1) How do I know how many stops a fill-flash will add to the subject; (2) if the camera can capture 8 stops, then in your example, setting the shutter speed to the center (1/60) should result in a fairly balanced image, with the just the darkest and lightest areas too dark or light? Or am I missing something else?

Hopefully I can get a chance to do some more experimenting this evening.

Thanks again,

-Dave
07-22-2014, 03:09 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DaveNC Quote
Exposing for the highlight makes the left side of the picture very dark/underexposed. Can that be recovered with post-processing?
You just discovered your first photographic delimma. Up to you how you solve it

Shadows can be used to your advantage, or if you don't want heavy deep shadows then you need to move or fix something.

As far as "post processing" is concerned, in some cases it can be recovered, but I would say to learn and try to get it as close to 'right' as possible to start with.

You're already in the right ball park as to what you want to be concerned with in relation to photography...problem is it takes a lot of effort and creativity to sort out how to make it 'right'.

I recall a conversation with a fairly well known photographer... we were oohing and ahhing over a shot he did... and me... I asked him about the lighting...

His response was interesting... "Paper plates" came the response.

He literally used paper plates to bounce around and reflect the right amount of light to where he wanted it to get from point A to point B.

In your case for what you are saying you want... either A) add more light to the dark sides and lower the overall exposure or B ) decrease the light on the one side... in either case you will wind up with more even lighting. At least that's how I would define what you're telling me you want...
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