How not to blow out skies?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Dulouz, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. Dulouz

    Dulouz TPF Noob!

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    I'm wondering how to keep skies from coming out super bright white, especially on overcast days. I've heard that stopping down helps, but what about when you want to shoot wide open? Can you just use a faster SS? Would a polarizing filter help?

    Any tips or suggestions would be very helpful.

    Thanks!
     
  2. MX962

    MX962 TPF Noob!

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    You may try a Gradient N-D filter
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    The problem is that cameras have a limited range of tones that they can capture in one photo. If you are photographing something that is significantly darker than the sky, and your exposure is set for that, then the sky will be overexposed and be 'blown out'. If you adjust your exposure for the bright sky, then the darker parts of your photo will be underexposed and become shadows.

    It's not a matter of just 'stopping down' or adjusting your shutter speed. You need to be aware of how bright and dark your scene is, and you need to be aware of what you are exposing for (what are you using to set your exposure).
     
  4. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Agreeing with Big Mike, I've found the getting as close to averaging your dark areas and light areas will give you the best exposure in this situation. Mess around with your camera and see how far you can overexpose your skies without blowing them out, and that'll probably be the best you can do. If you shoot in raw, you can sometimes get enough detail in the shadows to save the image. If it's simply got too much contrast than your only other real option is a graduated neutral density filter. Some cameras are apparently better at saving highlight detail than others such as the fuji S3 pro or the Nikon d300, but I haven't used either so I can't verify that.
     
  5. Dulouz

    Dulouz TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for all of your help. I understand about dynamic range, apparently my camera's isn't all that great.

    Is the ND filter the one that looks dark up top and fades to clear?
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    Finding a mid point or average is one way to do it. Personally, I prefer to choose one and expose for that, and let the other fall where it may. For example, if my subject is more important than the skies...then I'll expose for the subject and let the sky be blow out.

    If it's a landscape type shot without a subject in the foreground, then you could bracket your shots and combine them later.

    Another way to do it, if you are shooting a person, for example, would be to underexpose from the meter reading (to bring out color or detail in the sky) then use flash (or reflector etc) to light up the person.
     
  7. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Easiest approach is with a polarizing filter or a graduated ND filter (which is the one with dark on top). Both filters will reduce the brightness coming from the sky to better match the exposure of the foreground.

    skieur
     
  8. Dulouz

    Dulouz TPF Noob!

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    Would you use spot metering to do this?

    The problem I'm having is with outside portrait work. The subject looks decent (I think I may have been overexposing in general), but the sky is solid white.
     
  9. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Take a look at this following link
    http://images.photoworkshop.com/rebelxtlessons/interface.html

    Choose Chapter 3 at the bottom and then select page 9

    It talks about the same situation.

    Quoted from the site:

    "The moral here: sometimes the image is simply not there: the light is not right (the contrast range is too great) for a good exposure. In those situations, we have to wait for the light to change, use a graduated filter, or add light with a flash or reflector.

    Another option would be to use some digital darkroom magic, taking two exposures (one for the highlights and one for the shadows) and sandwiching them."
     
  10. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I would not necessarily use spot metering, but I would meter against what I want the MAIN subject to be.

    - If it is the clouds, meter against the clouds and recompose as needed.

    - If it is the sunset, meter against the area left or right of the sun and recompose as needed.

    - If it is a person, meter against their body and recompose as needed.

    The only time I spot meter is if it is REALLY bright outside and I am shooting backlit subjects that I want to expose properly. Of course this blows out all the background... but I do not care, the background is not the subject I am shooting.
     
  11. Big Mike

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

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    Sure, you could use spot metering to meter for the subject. You could get up close to them and take a reading. Or you could shoot and check your exposure, adjust and shoot again.

    When shooting people outdoors, especially when it's bright & sunny...I almost always try to use flash. Mostly to fill in the shadow that a high sun can cast on people's faces...but it can also allow you to even out the exposure by brightening up the person, so that they are closer to the tone of the sky.

    When it's totally overcast, there may not be any detail in the sky anyway. In this case, I try not to have much of the sky in the scene. Overcast clouds are like a big softbox, so the light can be really soft, which can be great for portraits....just try to shoot so that the sky isn't a large portion of your image (or not in at all).
     
  12. Dulouz

    Dulouz TPF Noob!

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    These are just the kind of tips I was looking for. Thank you all very much. You have been very helpful.
     

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