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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> how to avoid blown-out highlights?
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03/22/2006 12:16:19 AM · #1
I know I've asked about DR and then on polarizers in the forums.
I'm still very upset with the DR of my pictures, especially the blown-out highlights. Shadows isn't a problem for me - yet.

Just take a look at my SquareCrop, Tribute and Education entries and you will see that I'm having a very hard time dealing with blown-outs!

Am I really cursed with this camera? Is there ANYTHING I can do to avoid blown-outs? Any personal tips and advise would be appreciate, thanks.

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Special thanks to Escelar, for explaining to me the advantages of larger photosites.

03/22/2006 12:24:40 AM · #2
Thanks MK for moving this outta the Rants :)
That was fast!
03/22/2006 12:27:23 AM · #3
The best way to avoid blown highlights is to look over the scene you are photographing and locate the brightest part of it. This is the part you want to meter. The meter will tell you the exposure settings to place that tone at neutral grey, so you will have to bump the exposure up a a stop or two to place it at the brightness you want it at. Bumping the exposure up can be done by either manually adjusting the aperture or shutter speed, or by setting the exposure compensation up.

/edit: one more thing. The brightest part of the scene should not be a light source -- light sources will likely always be blown out, consider them to be infinitely bright and meter the brightest object that is reflecting (not emitting) light.

David

Message edited by author 2006-03-22 00:29:22.
03/22/2006 12:29:31 AM · #4
Dial in -1 EV on the camera.

cheers,
bazz.

03/22/2006 12:41:22 AM · #5
Originally posted by David.C:

and meter the brightest object that is reflecting (not emitting) light.


David, my camera does not allow "customizable" spot-metering, so how can I go about doing that? I can only do centre, or area. But then it also clashes with my centre AF, so if I point the metering towards the brightest spot on the composition, my AF will also lock there... hmm I'm a little n00b, sorry

Originally posted by sir_bazz:

Dial in -1 EV on the camera.


I've used that for my Education entry and also the SquareCrop (best example) but sometimes it gets too dark to get shadow details (like the haunted house).

Anyone knows roughly how many stops do my tiny, micro, minute sensor has for DR? It's crazy! How can I test it myself? thanks
03/22/2006 12:48:34 AM · #6
Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by David.C:

and meter the brightest object that is reflecting (not emitting) light.


David, my camera does not allow "customizable" spot-metering, so how can I go about doing that? I can only do centre, or area. But then it also clashes with my centre AF, so if I point the metering towards the brightest spot on the composition, my AF will also lock there... hmm I'm a little n00b, sorry

Originally posted by sir_bazz:

Dial in -1 EV on the camera.


I've used that for my Education entry and also the SquareCrop (best example) but sometimes it gets too dark to get shadow details (like the haunted house).

Anyone knows roughly how many stops do my tiny, micro, minute sensor has for DR? It's crazy! How can I test it myself? thanks


Try zooming in on the area you want to meter so that the centre circle covers that entire area and you'll be able to spot meter it. Lock the exposure and then zoom back out.

Message edited by author 2006-03-22 00:49:05.
03/22/2006 12:51:39 AM · #7
Originally posted by yanko:

Try zooming in on the area you want to meter so that the centre circle covers that entire area and you'll be able to spot meter it. Lock the exposure and then zoom back out.


I've never tried that, would it really work?
What will happen to the autofocus?

For instance, if I point it at the sky/clouds, the metering would work, but what about the focus for the "real" subject that I want to shoot? My camera is the Finepix S5600. Thanks
03/22/2006 01:25:55 AM · #8
Does the camera have a histogram function? And even better, does it have a blinky thing that flashes if the highlights are overexposed? This is really your best friend (if you have it) becasue it will tell you if you have overexposed the highlights or underexposed the shadows. If you are over/underexposing, based on the shot you took, then you can just dial exposure compensation up or down.

-Ben
03/22/2006 01:32:13 AM · #9
Originally posted by bfox2:

Does the camera have a histogram function? And even better, does it have a blinky thing that flashes if the highlights are overexposed?


Oh yes, the camera has both :)
The issue is really about trying to get the metering done on the brightest area, while keeping the focus on another area. Hmm... I'll try the "zoom" metering method that Yanko suggested. I hope that works.
03/22/2006 01:41:17 AM · #10
Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by yanko:

Try zooming in on the area you want to meter so that the centre circle covers that entire area and you'll be able to spot meter it. Lock the exposure and then zoom back out.


I've never tried that, would it really work?
What will happen to the autofocus?

For instance, if I point it at the sky/clouds, the metering would work, but what about the focus for the "real" subject that I want to shoot? My camera is the Finepix S5600. Thanks

Some cameras have an Exposure Lock function (often a separate button) which will lock the exposure but not the focus. On your camera, you can also use the manual focus capability.

You can also set the exposure compensation to -1/2 to 1 stop if you're metering the brightest spot and still getting blown-out HLs.

Message edited by author 2006-03-22 01:42:29.
03/22/2006 01:42:35 AM · #11
the first question is, do blown highlights really matter?

if you walk through an airport and look at the oversized poster ads, or if you look at the photos on billboards, or posters in a subway, or just about anywhere, over half the images have blown highlights somewhere. they are a part of life, a part of the reality of photography.

who cares about blown highlights? for the most part, voters/commentors on dpc.

while you've gotten some excellent tips here on how to minimize the issue, don't assume that you have to completely eliminate them in order to have a great shot.

Message edited by author 2006-03-22 01:42:52.
03/22/2006 01:56:45 AM · #12
Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by yanko:

Try zooming in on the area you want to meter so that the centre circle covers that entire area and you'll be able to spot meter it. Lock the exposure and then zoom back out.


I've never tried that, would it really work?
What will happen to the autofocus?

For instance, if I point it at the sky/clouds, the metering would work, but what about the focus for the "real" subject that I want to shoot? My camera is the Finepix S5600. Thanks


Your camera should be able to do that and the autofocus shouldn't be a problem. If the goal is to not blow out the highlights and the sky is the brightest thing then what I suggested will work for you. It will make everything else underexposed but if you have neatimage then brightening those areas won't be a problem since you can fix the noise issues associated with that. If it's too underexposed then you might try including some of the foreground in the metering to get a better balance or buy/create a gray card and meter that instead or use stronger graduated ND filters if you are not already using them.

Message edited by author 2006-03-22 01:58:59.
03/22/2006 02:01:36 AM · #13
Originally posted by skiprow:

the first question is, do blown highlights really matter?


Occasionally yes, Skip.
But thanks for making it easier to accept the annoyance :)
03/22/2006 02:04:13 AM · #14
I'll check out ND filters next. Are they expensive? Doesn't polarizers help with skies?

Anyway, is it better to lower the ISO (longer exposure) or increase the ISO (shorter exposure)? Will the results be similar? Will blownout highlights improve using either one?
03/22/2006 02:13:45 AM · #15
You have a full manual shooting mode on that camera. You can set the shutter speed and the aperture independent of each other. When it's in manual mode, you see a light-meter bar that shows under-over exposure in the viewfinder. Set your shutter speed or your aperture at the setting you want, then meter the bright areas so they are plus-1 or plus-2 on the meter bar. You can do this zoomed in on your narrow metering mode.

Then your settings are locked in, just compose and shoot like normal. Pay no attention to what the meter-bar says when you are recomposed, you've already set the desired exposure.

This sounds cumbersome, but of course it's the way we all used to work before automatic metering came along. Once you get used to it, it's like second nature. I use my 20D in full manual mode probably 75% of the time for this very reason; I shott "upsun" a lot with all my dawns and sunsets and reflective water shots, and automatic metering is not trustworthy IMO in those situations. And it's a HELL of a lot better on the 20D than it is on your Fuji.

I still have a Fuji 4900Z, a precursor of your model, and that's the way I use it. It's not so good for fast-changing lighting conditions and quick shots, but on the other hand it makes you stop and think, so if there's no action in what you're pursuing that's a good thing.

Robt.
03/22/2006 02:17:47 AM · #16
Originally posted by crayon:

I'll check out ND filters next. Are they expensive? Doesn't polarizers help with skies?

Anyway, is it better to lower the ISO (longer exposure) or increase the ISO (shorter exposure)? Will the results be similar? Will blownout highlights improve using either one?


I've never used a graduated ND filter on a digital camera, and have almost never wished I had one. I think they'll just add a layer of confusion for you, frankly.

A poilarizer, on the other hand, is a very good thing to have. It won't necessarily solve your blown-out-sky problem (it depends on the angle of the sun in relationship to the direction you're shooting, but sometimes it will help. And it will aslo control specular reflections, annoying hot spots off reflective surfaces. Works well on water and glass, not so well on metal, pretty well on reflective plastic.

Robt.
03/22/2006 02:26:23 AM · #17
Thanks Robt. I've already got a polarizer after consulting you guys earlier on another thread :) Works great for glares! Thinking of leaving it on the lens all the time now, lol.

Your method of full manual metering sounds good. I think it should work (but after this, I might be asking about getting details out of shadows, lol)

Thank you all for your patience with this newbie (me!)
You guys are great.
03/22/2006 02:31:36 AM · #18
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by crayon:

I'll check out ND filters next. Are they expensive? Doesn't polarizers help with skies?

Anyway, is it better to lower the ISO (longer exposure) or increase the ISO (shorter exposure)? Will the results be similar? Will blownout highlights improve using either one?


I've never used a graduated ND filter on a digital camera, and have almost never wished I had one. I think they'll just add a layer of confusion for you, frankly.

Here the question was just about a straight ND filter, for non-electronic exposure-compensation.

Now I do wish I had a graduated ND filter, but then I'd also need a camera I could mount one on ...
03/22/2006 09:37:47 PM · #19
Originally posted by GeneralE:

Now I do wish I had a graduated ND filter, but then I'd also need a camera I could mount one on ...


worst scenario, you can hold it in front of the lens?
03/22/2006 09:59:06 PM · #20
Yeah, you can hold filters in front of the lens, that's all the thread mechanism is doing. Just be careful of getting fingers or the edges of your filter in the shot. Some guys buy large filters, big enough for their biggest lens and use them on all their smaller lenses too, both with step-down rings and their hands.

Using a polarizer full-time is going to be somewhat akin to setting your EV to -1 or -1/2 because it's going to cut around 1+- stop of light, depending on the light sources.

Getting to know your AE lock button is VERY useful. I often use AE lock when I don't feel like going into Manual (or perhaps there's another reason, like I want to use the auto flash exposure which isn't available in Manual mode, but works quite well in P mode).

The act of metering is done by placing a part of your scene on your focal point and half-pressing. It's often best to do this in Av mode because if you do it in P, your aperture will bounce around and you will be juggling information. True, this can become second nature after a while, but it's better to start with a stable platform.

I am also something of a beginner and I often use Av mode, just for this reason.

While blow-outs can be present in a lot of pro shots and a lot of advertising does contain them, this is not really a quantitative statement about the ability to remove them. Large scenes often contain areas of blown highlights either by choice or by necessity. Film is less forgiving in this area sometimes. It's not always possible to control every point of light in a scene.

On the other hand, when shooting smaller scenes and things that have much more controllable light, it's worthwhile to work really hard on keeping that light in the framework for your camera.

ND filters and alternative lighting to bring the balance up... Studios don't use ND filters, but use alternative lighting to bring up the balance in ways that cannot generally be done in many other settings (getting balanced light on a person is one thing, doing so on a car or building is another). Regardless of the method or the locale, balancing the light is the key and the challenge.
03/22/2006 10:29:00 PM · #21
Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by GeneralE:

Now I do wish I had a graduated ND filter, but then I'd also need a camera I could mount one on ...


worst scenario, you can hold it in front of the lens?

The lens on my only current camera is only about 1/2 inch in diameter -- not really enough room for a GND filter to have much effect. I have used a polarizer (and polarized sunglasses) by holding it in front of the lens.
03/22/2006 11:01:54 PM · #22
Originally posted by GeneralE:

Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Originally posted by crayon:

I'll check out ND filters next. Are they expensive? Doesn't polarizers help with skies?

Anyway, is it better to lower the ISO (longer exposure) or increase the ISO (shorter exposure)? Will the results be similar? Will blownout highlights improve using either one?


I've never used a graduated ND filter on a digital camera, and have almost never wished I had one. I think they'll just add a layer of confusion for you, frankly.

Here the question was just about a straight ND filter, for non-electronic exposure-compensation.

Now I do wish I had a graduated ND filter, but then I'd also need a camera I could mount one on ...


Cokin Digi-Holder (bottom of web page). All you need is a tripod hole.
03/22/2006 11:59:28 PM · #23
It's not a problem holding the filter, but rather that the lens is too small, and it wouldn't cover enough of the filter area to do much good.
03/23/2006 12:26:01 AM · #24
Back on the blown highlights subject, sometimes it just can't be avoided. The dynamic range of your eyes is much greater than that of the camera, so many scenes with both bright and dark areas simply cannot be captured the way your eye sees them. You will have to either blow the highlights or black out the shadows, or a little of both.

For scenes that aren't moving, I've seen people take three different exposures and use Photoshop to blend the light parts from one, dark from another, and midtones from another. Of course that's not allowed on DPC.

For example, it looks like your Amityville Horror shot has some very dark shadows as well as a very bright sky. If you had reduced the exposure to where the sky wasn't blown out, the house would have been way too dark. You probably made the right choice there.
03/23/2006 12:47:17 AM · #25
Originally posted by viajero:

For example, it looks like your Amityville Horror shot has some very dark shadows as well as a very bright sky. If you had reduced the exposure to where the sky wasn't blown out, the house would have been way too dark. You probably made the right choice there.


I'm actually not veyr proud of that photo, but had to use the shot anyway due to time constraints. I would have wanted to do the shooting on a cloudy day, but I only had a couple of hours on that location and it was sunny... so... ah, bad timing :( Might return there someday for a re-shoot. The house could have been more convincing, I'm sure
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