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What Am I Doing Wrong?

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Old 10-06-2008, 09:53 PM
siiLent siiLent is offline
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Posts: 23
What Am I Doing Wrong?

I went down to the beach today to practice using my DSLR. But all my pictures came out either dark or too bright. This is one of the best ones, but still couldn't get the clouds to be exposed correctly.
Sun was coming from behind subject in the picture.
Picture information

Shutter Speed: 1/13 sec
Lens Aperature F/5.6
Focal Lenght 18mm
ISO 100
Metering Mode: Pattern
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Beach.jpg (65.0 KB, 82 views)

Last edited by siiLent; 10-06-2008 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 10-06-2008, 10:25 PM
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Sweetlight Sweetlight is offline
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Posts: 563
Re: What Am I Doing Wrong?


First of all let me tell you that her skin tones are impeccable so it's not an exposure problem. I'll give you my normal disclaimer just a bit shorter than the norm, mostly because I got scolded last time by someone after I tried to help him along with everyone else and even after my disclaimer his insecurities lead to him scolding me and calling me "father like". I just wanna help, so if I talk down to you it's only because I don't know you, your abilities or your educational and/or shooting background so I talk at a basic level to start with and will gladly answer follow-up questions or any other questions you may have. In my mind that is why I am here - to share my experiences my abilities and to honor those who taught me so well. In no way do I mean to patronize anyone or speak to anyone as if they are children, I JUST WANNA HELP DAMIT.

Okay, as far as your blown out sky but nearly perfect skin tone, this is just a fact of life. She is sitting in a shadow and the sun is blasting through the atmosphere and between that shadow and that incredibly bright sky are a multitude of other tonalities and exposure levels. In the days of film we called the films ability to capture a range of exposure from dark to light as "latitude". In the day film had latitude of about 5 stops and stretching it past that was nearly impossible. The same thing goes with these little sensors that they place in our digital cameras. They only have a certain amount of latitude as well and that is just pure and simple science that can't be changed with the camera very much but we have other tools to help us with that.

Let's say for example that you actually metered for the sky's exposure and let's take a guess and say that it was about ummmm, F22 at 1000th of a second. (Just a guess) Now, your shadow is let's guess F5.6 at about 60th. The trick is to pull suck those very different amounts towards the middle, i.e.' drag the exposure for the sky down a bit and for the shadows up a bit. One way is with a big reflector, catching the sunlight and bouncing it into her and all over her. This still will not get you that close to the brightness of the sky but CLOSER at least, a white foam core reflector just a bit closer, a gold Mylar reflector probably a stop more than the white and a silver one maybe a stop and a half more if you are lucky. Your sky will still be blown out but maybe it will hold a bit more detail. The next way to do it and the best way really is strobes. Today's camera strobes can produce far more light than they used to be able to so setting one on camera and one off camera but pointing at her say from her right a bit and slaving it should bump your up 3 stops or so therefore closing that huge latitude gap from before and maybe now being expectable. I don't know your abilities when it comes to lighting but I would set up a huge soft box just off camera with one of my Broncolor heads in it and I can get a good 3 or 4 stops if I get close enough. Maybe bouncing another head off of a wall to our right to even more open up the shadows.
I am not really trying to teach you to light as much as I am trying to teach you about latitude and what the film and/or sensor has the capability of seeing. A good way to understand this better is to get and old 1st semester black and white book, preferably one that contains some zone system info as well as other ideas about exposure so that you understand what I am getting at here. The trick to all of this is getting our shadows to match our brights within 5 stops of each other but honestly in that mid day sky you quite possibly may never push enough light out of your strobe to close that gap. Maybe the reverse of all of this will help you grasp it. Are you familiar with dragging the shutter? If not, imagine that you are shooting a portrait after the sunset but you still have that nice glow in the sky that you want to capture. Take a spot reading of the sky and let's say we get 1/4 of a second at F2.8 but the reading on the subject is a stop or two darker and we have to be careful because they are people and they are a bit fidgety so se set our exposure for the sky and set our strobe to expose on the subject at a stop less. This will retain that nice cobalt glow in the sky that you want to capture and you will have a nice soft light on your subject, just a bit darker and it will pop. The strobe tends to freeze the subject if any slight swaying or jerks happen to take place and you will get a nice warm image, warm skin tones and a beautiful sky.
I hope I have not totally spoke about something you were not interested in and that I somewhat made sense even though I am in a jetlag coma after a flight from a job in Vancouver. If I did not make any sense please feel free to email me with any questions whatsoever and when I am a bit more coherent I will try to explain better. Always feel free to email me with questions if you need to. Have a great night.
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Old 10-06-2008, 11:16 PM
siiLent siiLent is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 23
Re: What Am I Doing Wrong?

Thank you very much for the response. Was definately worth the read, and was spot on. My photography skills are now at a beginner stage, and any advice, no matter which form I appreciate. Once again thank you very much.
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:28 AM
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Janet Petty Janet Petty is offline
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Re: What Am I Doing Wrong?

WOW Sweetlight. You have done a wonderful job explaining the difficult subject of lighting. This is something I have never mastered (that and posing people!!). No perhaps about it, these two things are the reasons why I stick with natural light and nature shots.

Perhaps you might by able to explain in a more clear manner than I'm able as to why digital sensors seem to create more contrast (have less latitude) than film used to. It seems as if they have gotten better over the years. But...

Again, thank you for the wonderful response.

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