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Thread: Don't know how to expose my pictures

  1. #1

    Default Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Hi guys, need some advice on exposure settings. I'm using a point and shoot Canon S45, was in Amsterdam last week and took some pictures. It was winter and rather dark and gloomy. I used spot metering mode, and noticed that if I metered for a building, the sky would be all washed out and white. (see pic below). If I metered the sky, I would get lovely clouds but the building would be too dark (see pic below). So which one should I meter for?



  2. #2
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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Just use evaluative metering and compensate accordingly. Also you can't really do much when the lighting of the scene is bad to begin with.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by thoa_rs
    Just use evaluative metering and compensate accordingly. Also you can't really do much when the lighting of the scene is bad to begin with.
    What is evaluative metering? My camera has two modes - spot metering and auto. I guess its the auto mode? If I use that the sky will be very washed out.

    So is this a limitation of my camera's lens, ISO (only until 400), or sensor? I'm tempted to upgrade as the low-light performance of the camera is really lousy. Even when I set to ISO 400 (highest setting), and as fast a shutter speed as possible, still picture will be blur and noisy. I don't carry tripod with me when I travel, and I believe my hands are quite steady already.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    One of the issues you're dealing with here is the limited dynamic range that occurs in both film and in digital shooting. This means that in some instances, the contrast in the scene is too high, and you risk losing detail in shadows (darker areas/ shade etc) or in the highlights (brighter regions) depending on where you meter from.

    This is not the fault of you or your equipment. Metering or exposing for the subject, which is the building in this case, is perhaps the best way to go. This will inadvertently blow out the sky. To handle this issue, try one of these options:

    1. Take photos of the building in better lighting. Get hold of a compass, or otherwise observe where the sun sets and rises, and determine when you'll get very nice lighting on the building. When you get a photo of a structure that's bathed in golden glow, the very sight of it will probably overwhelm an otherwise dull sky. If you can get your building well lit against a stormy sky, this will also work very well.

    It's unfortunate that you don't take a tripod with you, but you can still use other objects such as railings, lamp posts and dustbins as support. Together with a bean bag or a rolled up piece of clothing, you can attempt a long exposure of the building either soon after the sun has set, or soon before it rises. The idea here is to photograph the structure lit by manmade lights against a blue/ purple sky. Consider getting a small tripod, because even the smallest ones can be useful.

    2. Merge two photographs together. Again, this may require a stable support because precise framing is necessary. In one photo, expose for the building, and in the other, expose for the sky. Merge both photos together in Photoshop or other image editing software. Alternatively, use another plain sky photograph as a backdrop. But this must be tastefully done. I've never managed this without creating unnatural looking effects.

    3. Try a shot of the building from a different angle. Aim to eliminate as much of the sky from the frame as possible if you're dealing with a dull sky. Fill the frame with the building itself, or go low, including elements in the foreground to lead the eye to the building.

    The S45 is a very good camera and I would have bought this three years ago if my budget allowed me too. Unfortunately it was beyond me and I went for the A40, which was great too. Basically, the S45, like most other compact cameras with a manual mode, can handle night scene modes very well if you're going for long exposure at a low ISO. However, if you bump the ISO above even 100, then the images will be plagued with noise.

    Shooting handheld is very fun, however shooting from a tripod gives you the advantage of being able to use very long exposures which will render a certain charm to your images. I've done both, and believe that they both have a place in low-light photography. Consider getting a cheap tripod or beanbag for your low-light shots, and use your camera's self-timer mode to trigger the shutter release button.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    There is nothing wrong with your camera or its metering. The dynamic range of this scene is quite large, or rather the sky is very bright and the building is quite dark. The camera sensor don't have enough range to be able to capture both bright scene and dark scen at the same time. Our eyes has a very large dynamic range so it looks normal and ok to us.

    depending on what you want, you can either:
    1. Meter the sky and use the building as a silhouette to show its outline
    or
    2. Meter the building and get the building nicely exposed and forget about the sky(after all you are more interested in the building??)
    or
    3. Mount it on a tripod and take 2 picture, 1 with the sky nicely exposed but building very dark and another 1 with the sky overexposed but building nicely exposed. Then combine these 2 photo in photoshop to get an overall nicely exposed picture.

    Finally nothing can beat mounting the camera on a tripod when taking night or low light photography. And since you are using a small camera, I'm sure you can bring along a small and light tripod with you on your tour. I have the S40 and there are still many things I can do with it.
    Canon 80D|Panasonic LX3/LX5
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Thanks for the advice. I guess I was also tempted by falling prices of DSLRs and looking for an excuse to upgrade.

    Seriously though, what advantages would a DSLR offer compared to the S45?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    With a DSLR, you'll have much more control and can get to play around with all kinds of lenses. Also the noise control of a DSLR is usually much better.

    But be prepare for a steep learning curve and a very big hole in your pockets and of course more commitment from you. Don't expect to upgrade to a DSLR and see immediate improvement to your photos.
    Canon 80D|Panasonic LX3/LX5
    35f2 IS|50f1.8|85f1.8|12-24f4|18-135f4-5.6 IS|28-75f2.8

  8. #8

    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    I have played with a DSLR for a few months (a Fuji S1 Pro) before returning it to my sister. Even on Auto mode with the DSLR, compared with the auto mode on the S45, the pictures are a LOT nicer. Maybe its due to the larger sensor size?

    After returning it I've been aching for a DSLR, but can't really afford one yet. I just want nicer pictures, but don't intend to invest in a range of lenses and accessories. Was looking at prosumer cameras, but the reviews seem to suggest that the pictures are not as crisp and colors not as good as dedicated DSLRs?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Not true bro. I shall say it depends on who is behind pressing on the shutter release. I have seen people who worked with prosumer cams shooting a lot better than me. It is like what the pros always says, understand your eqpt, subject, environment and yourself to be good in photography. I still newbie though

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    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by red_ryder
    Hi guys, need some advice on exposure settings. I'm using a point and shoot Canon S45, was in Amsterdam last week and took some pictures. It was winter and rather dark and gloomy. I used spot metering mode, and noticed that if I metered for a building, the sky would be all washed out and white. (see pic below). If I metered the sky, I would get lovely clouds but the building would be too dark (see pic below). So which one should I meter for?


    Go for the shorter exposure - the second picture has all the information in it (i.e., the limitation is not the camera). The building looks dark because the computer screen or print you're using isn't bright enough (the limitation is on the "output" side). To work around this, you can reduce the contrast on the computer and easily arrive at a quite decent result.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Don't know how to expose my pictures

    the other way is to use photoshop to improve the exposure of the building.

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