Exposure balance?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by MBX, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. MBX macrumors 68000

    Sep 14, 2006

    I often encounter the issue where i have a nice exposure on my scene but then there's a bright light that's overexposed. However if i turn down exposure because of that light it also makes my scene too dark.

    Is there a way to be more specific in balancing out exposure for certain parts of the scene?

    Imagine you're in a room and there's a light on the table. It appears much brighter in the camera but the surrounding space looks ok. Now you try to turn down exposure (iso) because of the lamp but then the rest gets too dark.

    I'm using a 5d m-ii with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    The human eye is way more sophisticated than any camera, adapting instantly to changes in lighting. So something that 'looks' OK to us may present problems to a camera: specifically, the ability to record very dark/light areas simultaneously. There are many 'work-arounds': grad filters, HDR, exposure bracketing, some PP tweaking, etc. But a very bright light is going to be a 'blown highlight' in many situations; it's a problem we can't always solve.

    When shooting night shots outdoors, I try to shoot while there is still some light in the sky, which helps, incidentally, to 'even out' the lighting, so the camera will record more-or-less what we see (much better, IMO, than with a black sky).
  3. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    My suggestion would be to learn how to use you camera from a book specifically written for it, instead of the manual.

    I bought one for my Canon 40D written by David D. Bush, and it helped me quite a lot. I still use this book every now and then to dig something or a setting I have forgotten. There also are numerous training DVD's for your camera, but I personally prefer reading text on paper than viewing on a TV.

    While you wait for the book (or DVD), you can dig around here:
  4. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I think Doylem summed it up here pretty well. I certainly don't want to discourage reading up on a camera to get the most out of it, but there is only so much any camera can do with a very high-contrast scene. Your best bet (really, in all cases) is to time things right at the moment of capture so that you have the most favorable light possible. With night shots, that time is usually the first 10-20 minutes after sunset, while there is still some hint of blue in the sky. Once the sky goes black, you're dealing with a very high-contrast scene that will be difficult to capture and will make for a less interesting photo.
  5. anubis macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2003
    Answer: your eye has an instantaneous dynamic range of over 13 stops. Guess the instantaneous dynamic range of your camera? ;)
  6. zachsilvey macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    Battle Ground
    The highest end professional DSLRs and digital medium format cameras only have a exposure latitude of 5 stops and the human eye has about 11 to 22 .

    If you have a very contrasty scene there are a few things you can do to get an even exposure

    1)Use fill flash to fill in the shadows

    2)Shoot 3-7 exposures +-1-3 stops and create and HDR by combining them in post (generally Photomatix).

    3)Choose the important part of the scene and expose for that part.
  7. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Fill flash

    Experiment with gelling your flash to get away from the "flash" look; you can really get some fantastic results like this.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you have a high contrast scen and can't convert it is a lower contrast scen by adding fill light (with a flash or reflector) then the best exposure is the one that does not blow the highlights. The only bright areas yu should allow to go whilte are self luminous objects such as light bulbs.

    Yes the scene will be to dark but you fix that in Photoshop later. You can fix "dark" but blown hillights are not correctable

    You can make your photoshop work easier if you shoot in RAW format

    What you've run into the the main problem with digital cameras, very limited dynamic range. Film handles this better but still took effort to get it right.

    "HDR" is a method where you take multiple shoots of the scen using different exposures then merg them together. It works only for static scenes that don't move between the shoots.. Even leaves blowing in the wind, ripples on water and clouds and miss up an HDR shoot.
  9. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    You are correct, and so the two posters before you. That's why I consider it so important learning how to use the camera instead of reading the owner's manual. For example, he needs to learn about the metering mode of the 5D II.
  10. zachsilvey macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    Battle Ground
    This is a hotly debated topic on many photo forums but the general consensus is that most of today's dslrs are at least equivalent to 35mm print film in exposure latitude and that most certainly includes the 5D Mark II.
  11. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA

    Can you provide a reference that backs up the assertion that film has better dynamic range? Personally, I don't believe it's been true for at least 5 years, and every test I've read in the last several years has had digital holding better DR over a scene, for instance:


    (Last updated July 2005)


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