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Thread: How not to clip highlights?

  1. #1
    Member Parka's Avatar
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    Default How not to clip highlights?

    My highlights are sometimes clipped whenever the backlight is too strong. Is there a certain technique to taking this kind of photos? A manual approach to Nikon's D-lighting feature?

    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.

    I've tried putting the focus point on the darker areas. It helps but not very much sometimes.

    E.g. In the photo below, the buildings in the background were lost in the highlight.

  2. #2

    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Parka View Post
    My highlights are sometimes clipped whenever the backlight is too strong. Is there a certain technique to taking this kind of photos? A manual approach to Nikon's D-lighting feature?

    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.

    I've tried putting the focus point on the darker areas. It helps but not very much sometimes.

    E.g. In the photo below, the buildings in the background were lost in the highlight.
    For these type of scenes. Most digital cameras (and even film) will not have the dynamic range. It's simply too wide.

    But it is possible to use a technique called HDR (there are some fine examples in this forum, please do a search) if you have a tripod. Expose 2 or 3 shots, one for the shadow and one for the highlight and merge them.

    The Zohan

  3. #3

    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Parka View Post
    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.
    that is the problem.

    it is because certain areas need more exposure, certain areas need less exposure due to differing lighting conditions in those areas. so if you expose for the darker areas, the brighter areas will be blown. exposing for the brighter areas would mean that the darker areas will be underexposed. either way you lose detail.

    there are two solutions, one is called Graduated Neutral Density filter, which works better for seascapes where the horizon is clearly the divider between dark and bright areas - think sky horizon sea land shots (from top to bottom in that area). it can work here in your given example because the bright areas are obviously in the upper half. you might get unnatural overdarkening of the buildings at the top part but it's an ok sacrifice in my view.

    another solution is HDR technique. this needs a lot of understanding and caution to not overexploit the technique to produce unnatural, graphic-looking, radioactive (massive haloing) photos. this might be more appropriate here.

    if you need more information on these techniques, google "luminous landscape _____" (insert "gnd" or "hdr" in the ____). the site should give you rather good writeups on these two photographic tools. cheers!

  4. #4

    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Parka View Post
    My highlights are sometimes clipped whenever the backlight is too strong. Is there a certain technique to taking this kind of photos? A manual approach to Nikon's D-lighting feature?

    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.

    I've tried putting the focus point on the darker areas. It helps but not very much sometimes.

    E.g. In the photo below, the buildings in the background were lost in the highlight.
    Just an observation - if your metering is fixed to the active focus point, it will expose for the dark area based on what you said above.

    1 alternative is - switch to partial metering & note shutter speed when meter against brightest part. Next note shutter speed when meter against darkest part. In M mode, set a shutter speed value midway between the 2 extreme values. Better still, take in Raw mode. Then output 1 at measured reading, 1 in favour of brightest area & 1 in favour of darkest area. Finally, merge into 1 pic.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Parka View Post
    My highlights are sometimes clipped whenever the backlight is too strong. Is there a certain technique to taking this kind of photos? A manual approach to Nikon's D-lighting feature?
    1) Meter for the highlights. (Partial metering on the brightest area, and add about +1 2/3 EV)
    2) Adjust the contrast using curves.

    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.
    Good enough for this type of scene. But you can't expect the automatic standard in-camera processing that is optimized for "average" scenes to perform well in situations like this. For best results, start with raw images.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Parka View Post
    My highlights are sometimes clipped whenever the backlight is too strong. Is there a certain technique to taking this kind of photos? A manual approach to Nikon's D-lighting feature?

    I'm using Canon 400D. I'm beginning to wonder if it's because the dynamic range isn't wide enough.

    I've tried putting the focus point on the darker areas. It helps but not very much sometimes.

    E.g. In the photo below, the buildings in the background were lost in the highlight.
    With these kind of scenes, I tend to underexpose a little to retain the details in the highlights. Then I'll use highlights/shadows function to adjust in PS. That aside, an aesthetically pleasing photo does not have to be correctly exposed every inch sometimes.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Hmmm, if you're using Photoshop and shooting with raw, does it help if you create multiple smart objects with one normal picture and the other underexpose to bring out the clip areas, apply layer masks and paint over the areas?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    Quote Originally Posted by zan82 View Post
    Hmmm, if you're using Photoshop and shooting with raw, does it help if you create multiple smart objects with one normal picture and the other underexpose to bring out the clip areas, apply layer masks and paint over the areas?
    When your doorknob is loose, does it help if you CNC-machine a left-handed 7.23mm screw with 48.25 degree threads and 23.218 tpi, and you machine and harden a suitable tap, and you make a custom tool for attaching the screw tp fix it?

    You could also just get a 5 cent standard screw from your friendly neighborhood hardware shop and a 50 cent screwdriver or hex key.

  9. #9

    Default Re: How not to clip highlights?

    The foreground is well exposed. In fact it can do with a little underexposure, to help keep the distant sunlit buildings from clipping, without looking very dark.

    The dynamic range here isn't too insane yet, compared to those with lotsa of sky and clouds, or even the sun.

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