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Sky and land both properly exposed?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ppc_michael, Jun 24, 2007.

  1. Guest


    I occasionally see pictures posted here that have a beautiful blue sky as well as a properly exposed subject (person, building, etc). Is this always with the use of a gradient filter or HDR? Or is there some common "in-camera" trick for doing that?
  2. macrumors 65816


    There are no camera tricks. About the only way you can do this is with the use of gradient filters or HDR. IF you have a really nice camera, there is a possibility that it's dynamic range will allow you to expose for the sky, and "retrieve" the information from the underexposed parts of an image, but this too is more or less hit and miss.
  3. Guest


    Oh pooh. In that case, can someone recommend a good brand to buy for a gradient ND filter? I usually use Tiffen for motion film, but all I ever read are bad reviews for their photographic stuff. Hoya maybe?
  4. sjl
    macrumors 6502


    Cokin P series is the de-facto standard for this sort of thing, and has the major advantage over screw-in circular filters that you can move the edge between the two sections according to the composition, rather than having it pass through the centre.

    There are plenty of other manufacturers that make higher-quality ND gradient filters to fit the P series holder; I seem to remember that Singh Ray (or something like that) is one. I use Cokin ND grads, and I've been pretty happy with the results, but I have heard (second, third, fourth hand, take with appropriate sized salt chunks) that they can give the image a colour cast - that they aren't truly neutral.
  5. macrumors 6502

    It may be cheaper if you already have Photoshop to just do HDR. Depending on your subject HDR may be the better option, plus once you learn it, it's an incredible asset. I myself have decided the HDR route instead of investing in an ND filter set just because it suits the subjects I shoot, but still I may invest in a ND Filter set b/c of, as you have said, portraits that are backlit (and the blurring of water in sunset/landscape shots).

    BTW, I'm going with cokin P holder and hi-tech filters, they're cheap and I've read that they are alright.
  6. macrumors 6502a

    Another easy option

    Tripod. Expose one frame for land/person/whatever. Expose second frame for sky. 2 layers in Photoshop with layer mask. Sorted.
  7. macrumors 68040


    It's always been a problem with film photography: if you expose the foreground 'correctly', the sky will probably be too light. If the sky's OK, the foreground will be too dark. The human eye is far better than any camera at coping with this range of lighting conditions.

    Digital photographer may have revolutionised image-making... but it still hasn't solved this problem. There's no simple solution, just compromises and 'work-arounds'. A grey (or HD) grad is usually the best idea. Just make sure the filter's effect isn't too strong. The idea is to punch a little more colour and tone into the sky, but without making the pic look 'doctored'.

    Grey or ND filters accentuate the colours already in a sky (ie a sunset will be fierier), but don't add new colour. If you try coloured grad filters, your pix will look like a bomb's gone off! The grey grad is a rather 'blunt instrument''; you can slide the graduated part up and down, but that's all you can do to match the grad to the scene. The change from clear to grey is still a straight line. With better quality filters, you get a more gradual transition from clear to grey, which will look more natural.

    HDR is an interesting technique. I've been playing around with Photomatix software, trying to find which scenes benefit from the treatment... and which don't. The problem is that the effects can be very dramatic indeed. That's OK if you want every pic to be unreal or other-worldly, and you want people to say "Wow!". But the 'wow-factor' soon wears off if every pic is given the same treatment. I try to use HDR to punch a little detail into the shadows, while keeping colour in the sky... like pic here.

    The third option is to learn more about light and weather conditions. I like shooting when sunlight is coming through heavy cloud cover (ie. not big, blue skies). It's always a challenge to get good pix, but this is half the fun of landscape photography.

    Attached Files:

  8. macrumors 6502a


    The problem with HDR, as others have said before, is that it gets pretty gimmicky pretty fast. An ND filter would give a much more natural look to a photo and would make it more like the human eye might see, whereas HDR (as cool as it can be) looks plain funky. With HDR's increased exposure the technique is cheapened somewhat, similar to what's bound to happen with the Dragan technique, if it hasn't happened already.
  9. macrumors 601


    Lee filters are generally held to not cast the image, Cokin to give a grey cast. Besides Lee, there's Singh Ray, Hoya, B+W, and Tiffen are good options. Singh Ray are expensive, as should be B+W- I'd probably go with Lee unless I got a serious case of "want the best" where I'd probably lean towards B+W because I'm illogically partial to Schnieder-Kreuznach glass.


    This comparison is interesting, as it's shots of the actual filters:


    The discussion is good too, note the following comments:

    (note the last poster's scan's lack of cast is due to setting the black point AFAICT (doh!))
  10. macrumors 6502

    Hmm, very true when I think about the HDRs I've seen, first thought I usually have is "man that's amazing, how can that be?" and then in my head pops in "oh HDR". There are some HDRs that have been done that are pretty stunning and look surprisingly natural, but those are few and far between these days (and I am completely unable to produce these yet). As for Dragan, a lot of new DSLR students at my university have basically draganized all their portraits, sadly they take this as their own style :confused:

    The ND filter does give the natural look, and since OP is looking at them now it seems like the logical choice. I wonder if people use HDR with reason so that it looks more natural like an ND, but then again, what's the point just buy the ND and save some precious time.
  11. macrumors 6502a


    Like you said, some HDR's I've seen have looked stunning, but those photographers seem to be the ones who take an HDR, tone-map it, and then edit it in Photoshop as they would with anything else, which does make a better image - not so "default" HDR.

    As for Dragan, I've tried it a couple of times, but I'm painfully aware that it's not my style so I'm hesitant to really try it very much.
  12. macrumors 6502

    There's no reason an HDR image can't look natural. That's the whole point behind it. HDR images that look over the top are poorly done IMO. I don't think that HDR is the choice to use for getting properly exposed sky and foreground. I think the best solution for this is the digital graduated neutral density filter. Basically two shots using layers to blend the exposures.
  13. macrumors 6502a


    I've seen far too many HDR images look unreal (as in crap) it almost looks as if someone took the shadow/highlight tool and cranked it up. I dont mind HDR images as long as they look natural (meaning darken the ground a tiny bit, get some shadows in there) or use a ND.

    Dragan stuff can be pretty eye catching if done properly like over at Joey Laurence Photography (his homeless stuff is amazing)
  14. macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Pro photographers shoot this kind of shot with various styles of gradient neutral density filters; and most all of them seem to prefer the Singh-Ray filters. You get what you pay for; but Singh-Ray is more expensive than others.

    Most people still seem to stick with Cokin P sized filters, although some prefer Lee's larger size (in that case they often hand-hold the filter rather than use a holder). Cokin P holders are pretty cheap - you can get the adapter ring and the holder for 20 or 25 bucks US.

    You might find it useful to read Thom Hogan's "Filters 101" article. There's also some information over at Earthbound Light regarding ND filters.

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