Over-exposed faces during sunset

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by IvanS8, Oct 27, 2009.

  1. IvanS8

    IvanS8 TPF Noob!

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    Ok, here is the story:

    It was a great sunny autumn day on Sunday so I decided to go out with my flatmates and shoot some portraits and landscapes using my brand new Canon EOS 500D + 18-55 IS.

    It was about 16:00, so the sun was just about to go behind the hills and it looked like a perfect opportunity to catch the "golden hours" and capture the yellow leafs on the trees in the park.

    Being relatively a newbie into DSLR photography, I decided to "play it safe" and for most of the shots I kept to the auto modes on the dial (mostly P, AV and Auto) expecting that the camera will do a good job in deciding for the exposure values.

    Everything looked good on the LCD, but when I checked the pictures out on my PC I noticed that most of my photos were overexposed. This was especially the case with people's faces and also the sky when I was shooting landscapes.

    So my question is: is this an expected behavior?
    Was i supposed to use the M mode and set all the exposure values myself?
    If yes, then why so? Was this a special case because of the time of the day?

    Also most of the colors were extra warm, having kinda like orange-ish tone, but i figure out this was because I did not set a custom white balance. This can be easily corrected with post-processing, but not the case with the over-exposed ones, which are impossible to fix.

    What was I doing wrong?


    Thanks a lot,
    Ivan
     
  2. ErectedGryphon

    ErectedGryphon TPF Noob!

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    :addpics:

    It's possible they just need adjustment in post, or you metered for dark scenes instead of the lighter subjects. There are lots of possibilities.

    Q:
    A:
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    Welcome to the forum.

    It's not too surprising, especially for "a newbie into DSLR photography".

    Not necessarily.

    Partially, yes.


    The first thing you need to realize, is that camera's don't necessarily photography a scene the way that our human eyes see it. While our eyes adjust to different tones very quickly, the camera has a limited range that it can capture in a single exposure. So when your scene has some dark foreground but a brights sky...it's likely that the difference between the two, is more than the camera can handle.
    So then you have to think about how the camera is determining it's exposure. This is where the different metering modes come in. The default mode is matrix, which basically looks at the whole scene and takes an average. The camera doesn't know what it's looking at...only that some if it is bright and some is dark. This probably why you get 'hit & miss' results.
    You could use a different metering mode (centre or spot for example). Then you can use the centre of the viewfinder and point it at the part of the scene that you want exposed properly (someone face for example). Lock in that exposure, then you can recompose and take the shot, keeping the exposure that was set from the face.
    An even better method would be to use a grey card to set & lock your exposure.

    Also, a huge benefit of shooting with digital, is the instant review. You can take a shot, review it, make adjustments and then shoot again. Don't just look at the picture on the LCD, look at the histogram. Understanding Histograms

    As for what mode to shoot it, manual or the auto modes. It doesn't really matter. The imporatant thing to know, is that you can adjust the exposure in any mode. In manual, you can adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. You can still use the camera's meter...just watch for where the 'needle' is on the scale -2....-1....0....1....2.
    In the auto modes, you can use EC (exposure compensation) to adjust the needle away from ...0...
     
  4. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hi, Ivan... and welcome.

    I've read too (mostly here) about the "golden hour." I've think this is a bit of a misnomer or, at the very least, misleading.

    Yes... the color temperature of the light will be warmer due to the angle of the sunlight and the additional atmosphere though which it must pass. I don't find this to be good portrait lighting in and of itself since, barring any low-lying cloud bank, the light is so directional it creates deep shadows with hard edges. Once the sun clears the horizon, you'll find the light much more useful for portraits, using the sky as a source rather than the sun. The ratio of light in the highlights compared to the light in the shadows will be lower... more like 4:1. In the direct sunlight, the ratio is much higher, closer to 8:1. This is very "contrasty" light. One the sun goes behind the horizon, the light is diffuse, eliminating hard edge shadow.

    So, as for a "golden hour," I think it better that this refers to a golden opportunity to make portraits. But it's much less than an hour. The window or useful light is more like 15–20 minutes.

    I hope this makes sense.

    -Pete
     
  5. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    First mistake don't use the screen to evaluate exposure
     
  6. IvanS8

    IvanS8 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone for the replies!

    Here is some more info about my shots. I was using the central AF point for metering, not the automatic selection (maybe this was my mistake?). Most of the times locking the focus on my subject first, and then recomposing. Flash was never used in any of the photos.

    Here are some examples along with the meta data. Notice the faces on the portrait photos, and the too-bright white sky on the landscapes.

    Picasa Web Albums - stojmir - Too sunny Autumn

    Is it ok to use a white piece of paper instead of a gray card for setting a custom white balance?

    Next time I will pay more attention to the histograms.


    Thanks again to everyone!
     

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