10 camera techniques to master in 2014: ways to cope with high-contrast lighting
As our Shoot Like a Pro series on mastering some of the fundamental camera techniques continues we show you how to deal with high-contrast lighting and capture the maximum range of tones.
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Using your DSLR’s Exposure Compensation to adjust the overall exposure is fine for many subjects, but there are also times when the brightness range of the subject is too large for your camera to capture detail in both the shadows and highlights.
This range is known as the camera’s dynamic range, and while it does vary between different models, it’s pretty common to find scenes where the contrast is greater than even the best cameras can cope with.
SEE MORE: Dynamic range – what you need to know about capturing all the tones in a scene
With practice, you’ll often be able to recognise these conditions before you start shooting, but the easiest way to spot the situation is by reviewing your shot and checking the histogram and highlight warnings.
Start by taking a shot and checking that the shadows reach the left of the graph. You can now activate the highlight warning display.
If the display blinks to indicate that there are highlights without any detail, then your camera can’t record the whole brightness range.
When you are faced with this situation, there are a number of ways to deal with the problem.
If you are shooting in JPEG mode, many cameras offer built-in systems to capture more highlight and/or shadow detail than normal images.
The Nikon system is called Active D-lighting, while the Canon version is Auto Lighting Optimiser.
Shooting in raw format will allow you to capture more highlight and shadow detail than in JPEG mode. But even in raw it’s easier to recover more detail from the shadows than the highlights.
SEE MORE: Raw format vs JPEG – how much can you REALLY recover in raw?
For this reason, when shooting high-contrast subjects set the exposure so that you capture as much highlight detail as possible.
The traditional solution for dealing with high-contrast lighting is to use an ND grad lens filter. These filters are half dark and half clear, so you position the dark area of the filter to reduce the brightness of the lightest area of the scene.
SEE MORE: ND Grad Filters – what every photographer needs to know
This is fine where a large area of the scene is brighter than the rest, such as the sky in an open landscape.
However they are less useful for subjects containing smaller bright areas, such as windows or sunlight through trees, because the filter will darken the areas around these highlights too.
SEE MORE: Camera filters: the only cheat sheet you’ll ever need to get beautifully balanced exposures
High Dynamic Range
High Dynamic Range (HDR) has become a popular technique for capturing images that would otherwise have burnt-out highlights, no shadow detail, or both.
SEE MORE: HDR Photography – set up, shoot and process your first high dynamic range image
To achieve true HDR images you need to take at least three shots, one under-exposed, one correctly exposed and one over-exposed.
These images are then combined using either the Merge to HDR tool in Photoshop or software such as HDR Efex Pro 2 or Photomatix.
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on Monday, February 10th, 2014 at 12:01 am under Photography for Beginners.
Tags: beginner tips, camera tips, Shoot Like A Pro