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DPChallenge Forums >> Individual Photograph Discussion >> Photography lesson #45 -- know what you have
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05/09/2013 02:12:34 PM · #1
Know what you have, and don't believe what you see when reviewing your files.

And shoot RAW!!

This is the RAW file from my freestudy shot:

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The thing of it is -- I shoot a lot of white birds on white skies. Normally I know enough to quickly adjust from somewhere between +1.5-+3EV, and I usually do it while shooting. But I wasn't shooting birds in the air that day -- I was shooting mostly birds in trees, and I didn't have time to dial in the adjustments. However, I know from experience that when shooting RAW, that usually I can recover that and adjust it in the RAW editor after the fact. It doesn't work nearly as well with dark birds on a light sky (it works, just not as well. It's better to get it right to begin with on those!)

The biggest problem with the photo is that it's severely underexposed. Because of shooting RAW, that can be fixed.

The only thing I've done is changed the RAW file adjusting the exposure to +3EV

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Here's another option -- again only using the RAW converter using some contrast, highlights, etc, no other photoshopping though (other than crop).

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For the final image, I did use photoshop, color efex, silver efex, etc. And actually, looking at it now, there are things I'd do a bit differently. (which is good, because the computer crashed, and I just realized that I don't have a copy of the final photoshopped version.)

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But the point is -- look at the original file from the camera, and realize that it wasn't major photoshopping that brought it to something usable -- it was minor tweaking. Experience has taught me to overexpose shooting white on white birds. If I can't do it while shooting, I've learned I can do it after the fact. Dark on dark doesn't work for me -- all I get is awful grain when I try to recover it. Knowing what you can and can't get away with -- even though the camera shows you something completely different, can save you some beautiful shots.

By the way -- the wings are pink in this case, because it's reflecting some light from a sunset.

________________________________________________________________

Edited to add:

I think the point is getting lost a little here.

Maybe I can phrase it better.

Here is an example where there was no time to get it right in the camera. It was either take it as it was -- or miss the shot completely. I wanted to show people with a little knowledge of what can be done in RAW with the type of subject you're shooting (white on white), a shot that you may think it trash, may very well have all the information you need without having to do a huge amount of photoshopping to "save it".

This is not how I shoot. If I'm shooting birds in flight -- I adjust for the conditions, and get it as right in camera as I can. This day, I was shooting for birds in trees. Completely different conditions, different settings. When this one flew over, there was no time to adjust for the shot.

The whole purpose for this thread was simply a teaching moment for those who aren't as familiar with RAW, white on light, and underexposed shots, and what information the camera stores. I simply wanted to share the information. This is not how I recommend shooting birds in flight. I would much rather get it right. But if I don't have time to adjust -- I'd much rather get the shot than to miss it, simply because I don't have time to get it right in camera.

I almost didn't start this thread, because I find the initial shot quite embarrassing. I usually work hard to get shots right in camera. But I am passionate about my nature shots -- and I would much rather get a shot, than get it perfect to start. Remember -- people would push process film in the old days. Don't you think there was a reason for that? Not everything was perfect in camera. Sometimes we need to adjust accordingly to get what we need.

Just wanted to show people that sometimes you CAN adjust accordingly. :)

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 18:11:55.
05/09/2013 02:37:26 PM · #2
I have adjusted exposure on a RAW image but never that far. I would not have thought you pul the quality of your entry from that dark original. Thanks for the lesson, Wendy.
05/09/2013 02:49:44 PM · #3
It's amazing what you can pull with white on white -- those overcast days where the sky is the light grey that turns white when you expose for the birds. We get them all the time in virginia. These shots were in Florida.

Here's another example:

Again -- wasn't shooting flying birds. Alligators this time and shore birds. Didn't have time to dial in the overexposure that I usually do when primarily shooting birds in flight -- just had time to point and shoot.

Original:

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RAW only adjustments - no other photoshop other than cropping

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Doesn't work for me with blue skies, only light grey skies.

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 14:49:51.
05/09/2013 03:20:05 PM · #4
Wendy, thank you for sharing and showing. even the computer crash. if I had more time I would come to your school.
05/09/2013 03:30:28 PM · #5
you should be spending more time getting it right in camera.
05/09/2013 03:40:51 PM · #6
Originally posted by Mike:

you should be spending more time getting it right in camera.


Is that sarcasm?

In this case it's better not to get it right in camera. You want to blow out the sky highlights and not the bird. That is a fine line that's hard to hit, especially looking at a sky that has constant exposure gradient depending on how far from the sun you are shooting. If you blow the highlights on the bird it's over, you can't get them back. Best to under expose at a level where you know you can pull the detail if you need to.

Get info Wendy, I always enjoy reading your editing details.

05/09/2013 03:50:23 PM · #7
Originally posted by bhuge:

Originally posted by Mike:

you should be spending more time getting it right in camera.


Is that sarcasm?

In this case it's better not to get it right in camera. You want to blow out the sky highlights and not the bird. That is a fine line that's hard to hit, especially looking at a sky that has constant exposure gradient depending on how far from the sun you are shooting. If you blow the highlights on the bird it's over, you can't get them back. Best to under expose at a level where you know you can pull the detail if you need to.

Get info Wendy, I always enjoy reading your editing details.


Don't know whether it's sarcasm or not, but it may or may not be a valid point.

When I have time -- I get it right in camera. When shooting overcast skies, I don't like to underexpose that badly -- I do pump up the EV, take test shots, but still leave it a bit underexposed, because it's harder to get back the overexposed bits. So if I need to overexpose +2EV, I usually just shoot +1.5EV. I'd much rather get it right to avoid extra grain, get it sharper, etc.

In this case, there was absolutely no time to get it right in camera. So I had two choices -- shoot and hope I can recover what I knew would be underexposed, but I also knew from experience I could recover some, or don't bother shooting at all. Experience told me it was worth taking the chance.

I wanted to share with you that it definitely was worth taking the shot, even though there wasn't time to "do it right".

That was the point of this thread. Sometimes you know you aren't doing it right. But knowing what is possible and what's worthwhile can be very helpful. I'm not saying this was the best way of doing it. I'm just saying that knowing what you can and can't do, and what can and can't be done is worthwhile. Just sharing my experiences -- Many beginning photographers would have thought that it was a throw away shot or that your would have had to photoshop it to death to save it.

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 15:55:10.
05/09/2013 04:00:34 PM · #8
Nice explanation, Wendy. Its not always easy taking nature shots, since conditions and opportunities change on a dime.

05/09/2013 04:00:36 PM · #9
Wendy, first of all, thanks for sharing and showing the original. Not many here have the courage to do that. But I partially agree with Mike, I'm just missing a sky with this wonderful bird.
05/09/2013 04:01:01 PM · #10
Can I send you my Free Study for re-editing?
05/09/2013 04:03:51 PM · #11
Originally posted by Melethia:

Can I send you my Free Study for re-editing?

I actually have a retainer on Wendy to SHOOT my next Free Study for me.
05/09/2013 04:05:51 PM · #12
Originally posted by hajeka:

Wendy, first of all, thanks for sharing and showing the original. Not many here have the courage to do that. But I partially agree with Mike, I'm just missing a sky with this wonderful bird.

Im actually the opposite. I love the white blown-out sky. I find the white on white to be very appealing to me.
05/09/2013 05:14:27 PM · #13
Originally posted by Garry:

Originally posted by hajeka:

Wendy, first of all, thanks for sharing and showing the original. Not many here have the courage to do that. But I partially agree with Mike, I'm just missing a sky with this wonderful bird.

Im actually the opposite. I love the white blown-out sky. I find the white on white to be very appealing to me.


I've gone back and forth on this quite a bit. When you get things right in the camera and expose for the bird, you lose the sky. If you want the sky, you must do HDR to get it back. I find that when I do the HDR to bring the slight greys back, it doesn't look natural to me, and I really don't like the shot.

Here's another shot that I had to expose for the bird, and the sky got blown:

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One of my favorite shots of all time. I like the true from the camera type of feel. However, I've been dinged many times for the white sky. It's definitely a personal preference, and one that I've developed over time.

Also, I'm used to the white skies around here. We didn't get many light, overcast days in MN. In Virginia, we get a lot of them, so I'm probably getting more used to the very blown skies because they happen so frequently when shooting. So when I try to bring back some sky, there's not much to bring back. :)

But I really do understand that it's definitely a taste that some people don't care for. (of course they're all neanderthals, but I do understand. ;)

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 17:18:09.
05/09/2013 05:31:09 PM · #14
Originally posted by Melethia:

Can I send you my Free Study for re-editing?


haha... I'm in my contrasty b&w phase. You should see what I'm doing to my street shot! Jeff thinks I'm way too over the top on my b&ws. :)
05/09/2013 05:40:29 PM · #15
The birds are lovely, but the blown sky makes it look like it was studio even though it clearly wasn't. I'm on the fence about seeing the overcast sky vs blowing it out this way. I'm not sure that underexposing that much and pulling it back isn't degrading the image of bird as well.

I always try to get it right in the camera and mess with it later, but if this works for you, great.
05/09/2013 05:54:08 PM · #16
Originally posted by Spork99:

The birds are lovely, but the blown sky makes it look like it was studio even though it clearly wasn't. I'm on the fence about seeing the overcast sky vs blowing it out this way. I'm not sure that underexposing that much and pulling it back isn't degrading the image of bird as well.

I always try to get it right in the camera and mess with it later, but if this works for you, great.


I think the point is getting lost a little here.

Maybe I can phrase it better.

Here is an example where there was no time to get it right in the camera. It was either take it as it was -- or miss the shot completely. I wanted to show people with a little knowledge of what can be done in RAW with the type of subject you're shooting (white on white), a shot that you may think it trash, may very well have all the information you need without having to do a huge amount of photoshopping to "save it".

This is not how I shoot. If I'm shooting birds in flight -- I adjust for the conditions, and get it as right in camera as I can. This day, I was shooting for birds in trees. Completely different conditions, different settings.

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When this one flew over, there was no time to adjust for the shot -- and the lighting and the surroundings were so incredibly different -- white bird -- luminous backlit sky.

The whole purpose for this thread was simply a teaching moment for those who aren't as familiar with RAW, white on light, and underexposed shots, and what information the camera stores. I simply wanted to share the information. This is not how I recommend shooting birds in flight. I would much rather get it right. But if I don't have time to adjust -- I'd much rather get the shot than to miss it, simply because I don't have time to get it right in camera.

(I almost didn't start this thread -- because I'm actually embarrassed about the quality of the initial shot. I'm not proud of the fact that I didn't have time to adjust. I am proud of the timing and the fact that I certainly know how to shoot this right in camera to begin with. I'm hoping that the people who have been around long enough realize that I have some knowledge of nature photography and that it's not a fluke. All I was trying to do was to try to help people understand what's possible. )

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 18:08:33.
05/09/2013 06:10:11 PM · #17
Thanks for the information. I agree you often don't have nice blue skies and then when you try to bring back the sky, at least for me it doesn't look right. Great tip I am definitely going to try it
05/09/2013 06:52:15 PM · #18
Hey Wendy, any chance we can see the what the histogram looked like for that shot?
05/09/2013 06:54:34 PM · #19
Originally posted by vawendy:

. . .
I think the point is getting lost a little here.

Maybe I can phrase it better.. . .


I don't think you CAN phrase it better for some.
05/09/2013 07:26:38 PM · #20
It';s good of you to share this Wendy, and I love the white sky. Unfortunately my problem is bigger. I usually can't hit the flying birds at all.
05/09/2013 07:30:09 PM · #21
Great info Wendy. Thank you.
05/09/2013 08:04:00 PM · #22
Golly Wendy, you phrased it just fine. Some peeps don't read. or think. or play photography.
05/09/2013 08:26:44 PM · #23
Originally posted by Garry:

Originally posted by hajeka:

Wendy, first of all, thanks for sharing and showing the original. Not many here have the courage to do that. But I partially agree with Mike, I'm just missing a sky with this wonderful bird.

Im actually the opposite. I love the white blown-out sky. I find the white on white to be very appealing to me.


Almost like a Chinese ink painting.

It's futile to debate a matter of taste. The point is clear: shot raw and you can recover sometimes the inimagibable.

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 20:31:45.
05/09/2013 08:31:28 PM · #24
Originally posted by rcollier:

Hey Wendy, any chance we can see the what the histogram looked like for that shot?


Here's the histogram:

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05/09/2013 09:07:56 PM · #25
(Double post for hitting wrong buttons - can't get use the this iPad). :)

Message edited by author 2013-05-09 21:10:47.
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