Blue Skies- your tricks?

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by hahnphoto, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    I'm having trouble getting nice, blue skies in my photos. I don't shoot in direct sunlight (unless there is NO other option... aaaghh... the shadows) and I don't shoot towards the sun. I've tried circular polarizers (hoya) and they don't work for me. Take too long to screw on and off and fumble with to get "just right"- and still I'm not impressed with the results. I use a Nikon D200 and usually set the white balance on auto (in the past I put it on custom, but in the rush and fast pace of things would forget to re-measure, so auto works better for me.) I adjust my ISO between 100 (very sunny) to 400 (darker). My skies are coming out basically white. I like keeping my f# low to get the blurred backgrounds, but it seems if I raise it higher outdoors it will blast out the photo. This doesn't make sense to me- I thought it would be the opposite.
     
  2. jfrancis

    jfrancis

    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    An example image would be helpful, but it sounds like you are overexposing the sky. You can try dialing in some negative exposure compensation, which will increase the blue in the sky, but at the expense of darkening any foreground. If you are shooting landscapes, the easiest way to handle the problem is with a graduated neutral density filter. For portraits you can try underexposing by a stop or so and adding light to the subject with fill flash or a reflector.

    Bottom line is that the digital camera has difficulty coping with wide dynamic range
     
  3. Keis

    Keis

    307
    Jan 13, 2006
    Fort Collin, CO
    First I tend to avoid sky in my framing. Its an old Ansel Adams admonition. Only shoot sky if its really interesting. Also check what your exposure mode is. You are definitly overexposing your sky but if its white then you are overexposing buy about two f stops. That's really bad. You might be on spot. Make sure you are one matrix exposure and don't use auto WB. Use sun WB.

    One thing you should try is take a picture of the sky..only the sky and see if that is also overexposed. You should get blue regardless of the exposure mode...if not you have a hardware problem. Exposure compensation is 0 or -.5ev?.. Not any nasty positive value?
     
  4. photoshooter

    photoshooter Guest

    Hi Heather,

    I just looked at some of your photos, nice work. It does seem that you are slightly overexposed. Can you tell us if you use any fill flash, or are you shooting direct light ? What lens do you use for your weddings, what are your camera settings for the typical shot?
    I would use some fill flash, set the camera to manual, the flash in ttl-fp,
    camera at 100 iso, 1/250, f5.6 , f6.3 gives good blue skys, even at high noon.
     
  5. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    It makes sense that I am typically overexposed, because in post-production I usually bring the exposure down. If I can fix the "source" of the problem I shouldn't have to keep doing this either!

    Some info on how I shoot: I shoot on aperture priority, not manual. I shoot weddings and portraits, mostly weddings. It is very fast-paced and my idea of manual is that the settings will have to be changed when you move from location-to-location (indoors/outdoors, in/out of shade, orientation to the sun, etc.). My job doesn't allow enough time for this (there would be a LOT of changing because I'm CONSTANTLY on the move!).

    If I set my manual settings to camera at 100 iso, 1/250, f5.6 , f6.3 as photoshooter suggested, I would have to change this when I changed locations (such as indoors for ceremony) correct? I know 100 iso wouldn't cut it, I normally go up to 200 or 400 depending on time of day and how dark the interior is (white walls vs wood paneling, for ex).

    I don't shoot landscapes, unless they have people in them :) 
     
  6. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    No fill flash when I'm outside, I do use flash indoors.
    All my lenses are f2.8 or less
     
  7. It's dynamic range. Either use flash to bring up the foreground or a grad filter to bring down the sky. Also you use A priority, be sure to watch your exposures and use exposure comp when needed. Setting it to show "blinkies" for blown highlights is perfect when you are in a hurry and need a quick reference. If your blinking, then it's time to adjust the exposure. I tend to leave mine at -.3 and adjust from there.

    For full control Manual is the way to go. Set your aperture and then just shift shutter speed with the main dial as you go. It's actually easier (fast too) than dialing exposure comp, once you get the hang of it.

    I switch back and forth, I am using A mode more now since I discovered a custom setting in my d2x that allows exposure comp to be dialed in with the main wheel WITHOUT having to press the exposure comp button at the same time. In essence it now works the same way I shot in Manual. I set aperture and control exposure with the main wheel.
     
  8. photoshooter

    photoshooter Guest

    Heather, if you want blue sky, try slightly underexposing, 1/3-1/2 stop.
    Easier to add some ev, in pp. Than try to recapture blown highlights.

    I am a professional sports, pj photographer, I understand the need to work fast. It isn't that tdifficult to change a setting, it will also make you a better photographer. If you want your images to live up to your requirements, then try to compromise a bit. Use the manual settings, set your Aperture and just change the shutter speed and ISO, I think you will be happy with the results.
     
  9. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    Heres an example photo- you can barely see the line between where the water stope and the sky starts. This is the image without adjustments.

    http://s192.photobucket.com/albums/z320/hahnphoto/

    Please dont give advice on how to post process or salvadge- I can do that just fine. I need advice on how to change how I take the image in my camera so it doesn't happen again and I don't HAVE to do so much editing pp.
     
  10. The chemist

    The chemist

    Jul 22, 2005
    nashville
    I agree with matt. Not to sound brash but you may want to look into a good exposure book. I think brian petterson has one if I recall. The image example you gave us is too dynamic. Meaning that the range from light to dark is too great. There are ways to fix this by using filters/flashes and merging HDR etc. I think using fill flash outside will greatly help you. keep in mind you will want to expose for the people and not the landscape or surroundings. So you probably want to underexpose and not worry about the background. Flash will help in this area and your "people" will look great.

    In your example shot there is way to much detail in the green folage around them. While it may be nice at times to have everything exposed correctly the most important piece is your subject..ie the people.
     
  11. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    OK, how do you get the detail down in the foliage if not bringing down the F#? That is the way I was taught (the lower the f#, the more blurred the background gets). It seems like a catch 22 because bringing down the f# will also let in more light, correct? Which will make it more overexposed?
     
  12. The chemist

    The chemist

    Jul 22, 2005
    nashville
    Keep in mind there are several basic factors you can adjust that effects exposure. Aperature(fstop), shutter speed and ISO.

    Yes the f 2.8 will let in more light than f 4. The good thing though is that you generally want this. Shooting at a F 2.8 or F4 will isolate your subject much better than say f 11. Also if you have a lot of light don't forget to bring your ISO down as low as 100 or 200. The lower the less noise. You need ALOT of light for your camera to have a shutter greater than 1/8000's of a second with an ISO of 100 or 200. Just in case however there are a few things you can do.

    Firstly, I would change the scene. You are the photographer after all and do you really want a shot that is to bright for your camera at ISO 200 and F2.8 at 1/8000's of second? In the shot you posted you could have the subject closer to the foliage and shoot more at the bushes then the sky. You can use fill flash to fill in the faces where the foliage might have left shadows. This also removes that harsh white sky.

    Also you can get graduated filters that will remove 2,3,4 or more stops of light. Basically its like putting sunglasses on your eyes. Honestly though if you need to do this I would seriously rethink the shot.
     
  13. hahnphoto

    hahnphoto

    111
    May 21, 2007
    Maryland
    I get your point about moving the subject to make a better picture- the only reason that particular photo shows so much sky is I chose a photo that demonstrated the problem well. I didn't like that photo and didn't even give it to the client. The better ones in that set were, as you said, closer to the bushes with less sky. I just wanted to show the issue.

    Here is the info on my two examples:
    http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z320/hahnphoto/DSC_3723.jpg
    1/125 sec exposure
    f 3.5
    iso 100
    85mm lens

    http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z320/hahnphoto/DSC_3705.jpg
    1/160 sec exposure
    f 3.5
    iso 100
    85mm lens
     
  14. jfrancis

    jfrancis

    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    OK - those examples are pretty nasty with respect to a blown out background. Opening up your aperture certainly lets more light in, but in AP mode will be compensated for by a faster shutter speed, so that the overall exposure will remain the same. But the main problem, as several posters have commented, is that the dynamic range of the scene is too great for your camera. The use of filters and HDR techniques in PP will clearly not work for your style of shooting so you have only a few options.

    (1) Still in AP mode, underexpose the scene by setting at least -1.0 EV exposure compensation and using fill flash to bring up the subjects;

    (2) Shoot manual mode, metering to underexpose the background by 1-2 stops (to allow the subjects to 'pop'), and light the subjects with fill flash;

    (3) Move the subjects to a much less contrasty location;

    (4) Consider using a Fuji S3 or S5 for better DR handling.
     
  15. photoshooter

    photoshooter Guest

    Heather, are you shooting in aperture priority?
    Your shutter speed is to low. With the shutter wideopen, your shutter speed should be higher. Please, what exposure mode do you use? aperture,shutter, manual.
    It is not DR, it's your exposure settings, they are apparently set incorrectly.
    Do you ever use EV, -ev, will bring the exposure down.

    You are overexposing.
     
  16. jfrancis

    jfrancis

    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    I don't follow this logic. Heather said she was shooting in AP, therefore the shutter speed was set by the camera according to the metered scene. The subjects were more or less exposed correctly - only the background was blown out. It IS a DR issue.
     
  17. A lot of wedding shooters favour the Fuji cameras S3Pro or the new S5Pro for just this reason. I get full details in my whites with no blown highlights and full details in the shadows. I'd suggest you look into these if you shoot weddings. The dynamic range is incredible on these cameras.
     
  18. The chemist

    The chemist

    Jul 22, 2005
    nashville
    I think these are some great points John! Nicely summed up. Also while not to knock getting a Fuji as several users have suggested..its a great camera but its not a camera issue.
     
  19. jfrancis

    jfrancis

    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Well, in a sense it IS a camera issue as the digital sensor is typically not capable of handling particulary high dynamic range. The Fuji sensor is a bit better than most at this, which is why it is more popular among wedding and portrait photographers. There is currently a thread on DPReview about this:

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1020&message=23499132
     
  20. ja6ke

    ja6ke

    300
    Dec 28, 2006
    U.S. D.C. area
    I was having similar issues this past weekend which started me thinking, almost always a bad think.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/halpejo/June2

    Could I get deep blue skies by connecting the sb800 with a sc17 (using d70s) ala strobist to get at really fast shutter speeds with fill flash? Is the sc17 the right cord to allow me to sync above 1/500? Since I am usually pretty close to the bride/groom/party am I going to be able to get enough power out of the flash if I use very high shutter speeds? Am I going to turn the subjects into pale ghosts? All questions I might be able to figure out if I get the chance to play around some but not something I want to mess with while the bride is melting in the sun. I thought maybe someone here already has done this.
     
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