Exposure for Scene with Spotlights

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by guitarmy, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. guitarmy

    guitarmy TPF Noob!

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    Question:

    Say I want to shoot something at night that is basically lit up by huge, super bright spotlights. For example, an outdoor hockey rink. I want to shoot the overall scene, which includes the lights themselves. So how do I expose the whole scene properly without having burnt-out lights? Spot meter the lights with a slower shutter to let in ambient light?

    I'm confused.
     
  2. PetersCreek

    PetersCreek TPF Noob!

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    If you meter on the lights, everything else is going to be way, way dark. Expose the shot for the subjects you want to be properly exposed. In this case, that means the spotlights are probably going to be pretty badly blown. If the scene lends itself to such, you could try using a neutral density graduated filter (ND grad). It'll tone the spotlights down a bit but they're still going to be blown...and to be honest, I wouldn't worry about it very much. Spotlights are supposed to be bright.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Digital cameras and film all have their range of tones that they can capture in one exposure. It's called exposure latitude. You can't get shadow detail, while not blowing out bright lights in one exposure...the range is just too wide. This is why you, the photographer, have to choose what is more important...and expose for that...or make some sort of compromise.

    In the digital era...it's getting pretty easy to overcome this. Get a tripod, or something to keep the camera still...and take two more more shots...changing only the shutter speed each time. Then you can take two shots into photoshop (or whatever) and layer them, on onto another. Then mask off the parts that you want to show from the image under it. The result is that you can get a wide range on tones in one image.

    If you have Photoshop CS2, you can take several shots and use the HDR (high dynamic range)...and the software will do it for you. sort of.
     
  4. guitarmy

    guitarmy TPF Noob!

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    Ah yes. That makes sense. However, HDR isn't an option if there are people on the rink (moving about and such), right?
     
  5. PetersCreek

    PetersCreek TPF Noob!

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    Ditto what Big Mike said...things I failed to mention for fear of giving too much answer.

    Another technique I've used is to open the RAW image two or more times, adjust the exposure in ACR, and combine them as masked layers to get an improved range. It's not as good as having serveral in-camera exposures to combine but it helps, IMO.

    I've only dabbled with HDR but I don't think it would yield good results with a changing scene. Truth be told, I'm not that impressed with HDR...but maybe that's just me.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good point.


    Ya, I don't know what HRD would do with that...I'm kind of with Peterscreek on HDR...it's neat...but kind of gimmicky. To get people to show up...the two (or three) exposure method should work. Just find an exposure & shutter speed that works for the people...and layer & mask that in with your exposures for shadow and highlight. It may take a lot of work...but it should look good when it's done.
     
  7. guitarmy

    guitarmy TPF Noob!

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    So, just to clarify - open the RAW image as two or 3 separate files in Photoshop, adjust the exposure so as to get the most dynamic range, and combine as masked layers?

    Also.... what's ACR?
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yup, that's it. When converting the RAW file...you have a better latitude for exposure adjustment than just trying to fix it afterward.

    ACR is Adobe Camera RAW...it's the program that Photoshop uses to convert RAW files into an image that it can read.
     
  9. guitarmy

    guitarmy TPF Noob!

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    Ah, I see. Thanks man.
     

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