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07-16-2010, 10:49 AM   #1
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K7 dynamic range question

I was at the lake (beach) in the sierras last week and took lots of pictures of my kids.
When I came back and examined the pics, I have noticed that if a kids face is half lit, the other side of the face is very dark.
After examining all the photos, I think spot metering did a slightly better job than either center or multi. I also tried to do some PP, altering contrast, but all that did is showed the dark areas with lots of grain - ugly.

Scenery and close-ups were good though, I assume because of more evenly distributed light.

Using mostly DA 70.

How do you guys/gals handle such situations? i.e. bright background and half lit subjects?

p.s. I know it can be done technically, I looked at photos I took last year at the same location, same time using p/s Canon 410is, and while the bright background looked a little washed out, the faces of kids had a very good (IMO) light distribution (same composure, half lit faces)

I did not use the auto (green) mode, perhaps I should have?

Thanks!

07-16-2010, 10:51 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by SergioFromSF Quote
How do you guys/gals handle such situations? i.e. bright background and half lit subjects?
Flash and ND filter.
07-16-2010, 11:30 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by SergioFromSF Quote

How do you guys/gals handle such situations? i.e. bright background and half lit subjects?
Fill-in flash is your friend in such conditions.

QuoteQuote:
I did not use the auto (green) mode, perhaps I should have?
No, your results probably would have been worse. Your brain is much more sophisticated than the camera's lightmeter.
07-16-2010, 11:35 AM   #4
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I guess my question is, why is a lowly canon 410is (point/shoot) does a better job in these situations in auto mode and without fill-flash and filters, than an expensive dslr? They must be using some settings that I can use, I just don't know which ones :-)

BTW, not sure if walking around with a flash on the beach is cool. Some of these photos are more than 20 feet away and built-in flash won't reach.

07-16-2010, 12:33 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by SergioFromSF Quote
I looked at photos I took last year at the same location, same time using p/s Canon 410is, and while the bright background looked a little washed out, the faces of kids had a very good (IMO) light distribution (same composure, half lit faces)

....

I guess my question is, why is a lowly canon 410is (point/shoot) does a better job in these situations in auto mode and without fill-flash and filters, than an expensive dslr?
It's meaningless to compare a photo taken last year and one this year. The lighting can be different. Our eyes and brains are amazing in terms of adapting to different lighting conditions, particularly dynamic ranges. Digital sensors and films don't have that capability.

The limit of current digital sensors is about 5 stops. When you have a scene with wider dynamic range, you will lose either the "bright" or the "dark" or both. Flashes and ND filters are to reduce the dynamic range of the scene, not to increase the capability of the sensor.

Another technique that can help is to take the photo in RAW. You can "cheat" a bit in post processing (merging one image for highlight, one image for shadow).
07-16-2010, 12:36 PM   #6
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If the canon did not show the shadow side of the face as *much* darker in those cases, then it was lying. Better cameras don't lie. if you want to lie in your pictures, that's usually what PP is for, although many modern DSLR do have built in features to allow you to "lie" in camer a little (eg, D-range, highlight compensation, shadow compensation, hdr, etc).

BTW, I also wouldn't assume the intensity of the sunligh was exactly the same between the two different days. Nor would I assume the P&S didn't fire its flash - it was a year ago; I doubt you really remember for sure that it didn't. And if it blew out the highlights more than your K-7 did, then of course you could forced the K7 to blow highlights too and obtained lighter shadows that way.

But to answer the original question - aside from fill flash or filters, the other way pros handle that kindof lighting situation is with reflectors (large white pieces of carboard or other material) to bound sunlight into the shadow areas. Also don't know what PP program you are using, but chances are there are ways of lightening those shadows that would have produced better results than simply playing with contrast.
07-16-2010, 01:47 PM   #7
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I assume you are shooting JPEGs

In JPEG the contrast setting is very important,

While SOldBear said the dynamic range of the sensor is 5 stops this is incorrect. You need to look at a histogram in detail in a photo editor.

With contrast set to normal, there are 4 1/2 stops between greyscale value of 25 and 230 linearly spaced (i.e. at about 45 greyscale per stop, each end of the scale bends off and compresses the top and bottom 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 stops within the next 25 greyscale, with the first stop being another 17 and the second another 7. (all this is approxiate from my measurements on my *istD)

if you set contrast to minimum you add additional dynamic range compressing about another stop between 25 and 230 greyscale, and at maximum you take away about a stop between 25 and 230 greyscale.

On the K7 there is another feature, shadow detail protect, which adds an additional full stop between the median greyscale value of 125 and the bottom 25, Highlight protect does the same above 125, so if you set contrast to minimum and add shadow and highlight protect you can get 71/2-8 stops of dynamic range in the range between 25 and 230 greyscale .

These features on the K7 should help significantly.
07-16-2010, 02:15 PM   #8
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Thank you all for suggestions.

Lowell, thanks for your suggestions. I will try them this weekend if it's sunny by the beach (ocean this time) and play with other settings as well.
I did have shadow correction thing on and was shooting at 200iso, but that didn't seem to make a difference.

As for other suggestions, while they are good and I appreciate them, they are not practical for casual photo shots.

I use the photo editor that came with K7 - Pentax DCU4.

Mark, not to argue with you, but Hollywood lies all the time in their cinema and most people seem to like it and accept it. If my camera lies to me but shows great pics, hey I don't mind.

It's true that I shoot jpeg, not raw and most of the time I am very satisfied with the results, it's just a few situations where I need an advice from more experienced photographers.

I was hoping that this "bright beach and faces in shadows" situation is experienced often enough by people who shoot jpeg and there are some canned settings for K7.

07-16-2010, 02:39 PM   #9
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It sounds to me like you want the camera to do all the work for you, in which case you are better off using a p&s. (And there's nothing wrong with that).
07-16-2010, 03:04 PM   #10
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Prince, some ways you are correct
I want the ease of use of p&s and versatility of dslr together in one package!

There are situations where I want to control the shot manually, and I love the slr aspect which provides VF and quick repetition of shots and there are times I would like to just press a magic button and turn it into a p&s on many occasions.

Just point/snap, point/snap and get an apsc quality photo. What's wrong with that?

Now if only someone would show me how to configure K7 to act as p&s

I understand that artistry requires a lot of pain and suffering to achieve an appreciable result, but then I would just paint the darn scene - that'l be as manual of a setting as it can get!
07-16-2010, 03:15 PM   #11
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Also make sure the highlight protect is on and perhaps try manual exposure and meter off the sand with +2 ev compensation
07-17-2010, 08:49 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by SergioFromSF Quote
Mark, not to argue with you, but Hollywood lies all the time in their cinema and most people seem to like it and accept it.
Well, of course. But do you really imagine they have cameras that lie *automatically*? No, the cinematographers, lighting people, makeup artists, and so forth are in full control of the process.

On a much small scale, almost all digital photographers engage in this too - but we choose for ourselves when and how we want to do this. As I said, some cameras *do* have features that in very crude P&S sort of way (crude compared to doing it in PP where you have a *ton* more control over the process). The K-7 has several of these see highlight correction, shadow correction, and some sort of "high dynamic range" function that can be used to get the effect you are talking about - an effect where shadow levels are artificially brightened so they aren't so much darker than the lights that you can't see detail (or conversely, highlights artificially darkened so they aren't blown out compared to the shadows). it's nothing you couldn't do in PP - nor is what your P&S camera is doing any different. And if you think you got noisy shadows by brightening shadows on your K-7, try pixel peeping shadow from a P&S camera taken in the same conditions sometime!

QuoteQuote:
I was hoping that this "bright beach and faces in shadows" situation is experienced often enough by people who shoot jpeg and there are some canned settings for K7.
See above. The aforementioned functions are designed to lie in the way you are looking for.
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