Hello and welcome once again to my blog. I hope you've been enjoying taking lots on photos of the autumn colours.
Today I'm writing about how to take a good image where the light is varied, with very bright and dark patches. I'm going to use images of a church interior, St. Nicholas's Church of Ireland, in Adare, to illustrate some of the points I'm making. As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section or email me directly on [email protected]
There are two settings you can use to help overcome varied light and low light conditions. In the image to the left, I used both.
The first is the ISO rating, which I've written about before and the second is the exposure compensation button, usually marked with a +/- symbol.
The image was taken in a dark church building and I didn't have a tripod with me. I hadn't planned going into the church. In fact I stopped to take some images of the main street and carried on from there. The tripod was in my van, two kilometers away.
So, the shot was going to be handheld, in low light conditions. I've explained how to pick a shutter speed before, so I'll only do it briefly here. I was using a focal length of 36 mm and needed a minimum speed of 1/36th second. Both my camera and lens are heavy and I was shooting in portrait position, so one of my elbows was in the air. To be certain of avoiding camera shake, I needed to go for a much higher speed and opted for 1/160th second.
To get this I needed to increase my ISO rating to 1600.
So, now I had avoided camera shake but there is the problem of capturing the light and shadow areas. The camera computer will attempt to balance the bright and dark areas of the photo, never doing a good job of it, in these conditions. There are times that your camera will do a good job but with a large bright area, surrounded by dark areas, it won't.
I needed my dark areas to remain dark, while preventing the bright areas being overexposed. This is where the exposure compensation button comes in. I selected to underexpose by -0.3. This was enough to prevent washed out shadows and whited out window details.
The next image couldn't be taken correctly without using exposure compensation. As you can see, there's a huge range of brightness, from the wall above the window to the glass on the window itself.
The camera would have tried to brighten up the wall area, if left to it's own devices. This would have blown out all detail in the glass. There would also have been a ghosting effect on the frame of the window, diminishing details there also.
I decided to use a very high shutter speed because I was hand holding the camera, in portrait mode. That one elbow being away from your body increases the likelihood of camera shake, so make extra allowances for it.
I set my camera to ISO 3200 and F7.1. To ensure I saved the detail in the glass, I underexposed by -2.0. This then gave me a shutter speed of 1/500th second, more than fast enough.
When you start doing this first, you'll have to experiment. Even when you've gotten experience at it, you'll still need to experiment, to an extent. At the start you may decide to underexpose by -0.7 first but discover it's not enough, increasing the underexposure by 1/3 stop at the time. Eventually you'll take the shot at -2.0. With experience you'll maybe go for -2.3 or -1.67 before settling on -2.0. Later again, you'll go straight for -2.0. It just takes practice.
The final example of underexposure that I'm going to give you comes from the lakes of Killarney.
This shows the detail that can be recorded by underexposing the image dramatically.
Here I went for -3.0. Any less and the sun would have been a patch of white in the sky, instead of a ball. The reflection in the water would have been larger, pure white, with no detail and the edges of the trees would have been lost to the brightness of the sun.
The final image shows an example of where I over exposed. In this case, the sun was to the side of the building and slightly behind it, leaving the facade in shadow. I would have lost details in the left side, especially in the stone building.
I have done no editing at all to this image, apart from converting it from RAW to JPG. As you can see there is plenty of detail in the shadows, while retaining a little detail in the bright sky. Had I edited the image, I would have been able to recover full detail in the sky, using Adobe Camera Raw, while loosing no detail in the building itself.
Had I used the exposure suggested by the camera, the stone building on the left would have come out very dark and detail would have been lost. There is also some detail on the gable which may have been lost.
So, in summary, when light levels are low, increase your ISO rating and make sure you get a usable shutter speed. Go as high as needed. Also, where the light levels vary significantly in the image or there's strong shadow, where you want detail, use the exposure compensation button and either under or over expose to suit. This is also true where the area you want detail in is very bright, compared to it's surroundings.
Remember, your camera can't read your mind and doesn't know that you want to record the variation in light or detail in bright or dark areas. You have to tell it. Override the automatic settings by using the exposure compensation button. Use ISO to achieve shutter speeds that will help you avoid camera shake or blur.
Until next time, take good care of yourselves and the ones you love. Enjoy your photography. Feel free to comment or ask questions. If there's any subject you'd particularly like covered, let me know.