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06-14-2009, 10:52 PM   #1
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lighted background black foreground

Hello, I am new to the forums and have just perchased the pentax k20d with Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II lens. I have read alot but could not the solution to a problem I am having.
When I take a photo it seems the background is well lit while the foreground is almost black. Is there anything I can do to fix this? I am shooting mostly in green mode. I tried to change the iso settings and a few other settings but it doesnt fix the problem. I uploaded an example. One is the black picture, the other is a photo that came out normal, but I was in a different location with more sunlight. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

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06-15-2009, 12:55 AM   #2
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the first picture *is* normal for situations where the foreground is in shadow and the background in sunlight. We tend to not realize just how bright sunlight is compared to shadowbecause our eyes normally adjust (pupilas dilating depending on what part of the scene we are looking at), but that first picture is pretty accurate, if not especially pleasing.

To get the foreground lighter, you can either add exposure compensation (hold +/- button and turn dial to the right), or you can make sure you set exposure for the foreground by pointing directly into the shadow - so no sunlight is visible in the viewfinder - and then hitting AE-L to lock the exposure, then reframing and taking the shot. Or, you can simply lighten the shaddow area in post-processing - the dwtails will depend on the software you have.

You can also try the "D-range" setting on the K20D, which basically does the shadow-lightening for you in the camera.
06-15-2009, 12:59 AM   #3
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Ok thanks alot for the info, I have alot to try out my next time out.
06-15-2009, 02:16 AM   #4
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is has been said, its natural, you have a lot of contrast in the shot, ie some sky which is very bright and some trees which are in shade, so either the trees will be black, or the sky will be totally white (blown out) you have some options around it>
- compose to ignore sky or ignore trees, in your second shot you dont have the sky in the shot so you dont have this problem, you can notice if you test> take a shot of only sky, then of only ground, like only the base of a tree trunk, and then one with both, and you will see there can be problems when you want both
- use a flash to light the shadows, that can be difficult for landscapes because the area is too big to light
- use hdr / d range / digital blending techniques in post processing, ie taking 2 or more shots and combining them
- use a graduated neutral density filter that will darken the sky without darkening the ground, to make their level of brightness closer together so they both fit within the dynamic range of 1 shot.


the ev compensation buttons is a very good tool. the camera will calculate the exposure and the ev button is your option to change what the camera calculated. if the shot came out too dark then you can use + compensation to tell the camera you want the shot to be brighter, similarly for -.

06-15-2009, 06:26 AM   #5
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Read up on HDR imaging. It's a good tool in this sort of lighting situation.
06-15-2009, 07:25 AM   #6
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Or try using this technique

Digital Blending
06-15-2009, 08:58 AM   #7
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Since you're shooting mostly in green mode, I'll tell you that the simplest tools that can help are exposure compensation and the AE-L button.

The D-range feature on K20D would help slightly. This is a classic photography issue--fitting a wide contrast range into the limited range that the camera/film can handle. As others have noted, there's a huge difference in brightness of the shadows (trees) and the distant frontlit background. Negative film had a somewhat wider range than digital or slides but still would have struggled with this.

The good news is that your digital toolkit has some ways to help deal with this. Of highest priority is getting the exposure as good as you can in-camera. There are lots of ways to do this, including careful spotmetering, or faster might be to use AE-L when pointing at the trees without including the bright background in the frame. You can also review the image on the LCD and use exposure comp to adjust as necessary. You probably want to make it as bright as possible without blowing out all detail in the frontlit background. Shooting RAW might help a bit as it allows best highlight recovery and exposure correction during post-processing with the least loss. When post-processing, adjust contrast and use "fill light" to bring up the shadows.
06-15-2009, 09:49 AM   #8
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Or, flash to fill light the foreground. For nature scenes this would likely involve quite a setup: two or three pots with reflectors. For a nighttime close-up I got away with a single off-camera (remote triggered) flash for the following shot.

Japanese maple at night 2



Whereas here I took three exposures and blended them, in order to get good depth of field and detail in a high contrast scene. Tripod essential.

silvermines forest in black & white



Click through to Flickr for larger versions.

06-15-2009, 10:58 AM   #9
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I'm not the most experienced shooter, but I'd either do 2 shots, one metered off the dark and one off the light area, and combine them in post, or use my AE-Lock, metered off a tone halfway between the 2 extremes. Fill flash also seems like a good option.
06-15-2009, 12:03 PM   #10
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The most important lesson to learn is to recognize this situation in the future so you'll be ready to fix it if needed. My camera metering and probably all the other Pentax DSLRs would suggest a setting to preserve the extremely bright sky. If you know that, and know the foreground is more important to you, you might have already told the camera to overexpose a little.

You may also see this when you're taking a photo inside in the daytime, and there's a window in the shot. The camera's meter will suggest a setting that will properly expose the view through the window, not your indoor subject. It may seem like the meter is annoyingly dumb, but it just has no idea what your subject is, and too much contrast to work with. Reflections from the flash can make similar extremely bright highlights, harder to see in advance but still fooling the meter.
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