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Photography Question 
Jessica  Wright

Pictures on Bright Sunny Days

Hi. I went to a car show on a beautiful sunny day. I took some pictures and I didn't like the way most of them came out. They were either too bright and washed out, or too dark with had lots of shadows. I adjusted and fine-tuned the ISO, White Balance, exposure mode. It helped a little. I didn't have a Circular Polarizer or a hood. Would either have helped me? Thanks!

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10/21/2007 6:08:14 PM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2005
  A polarizer would have helped a bit in reducing the glare and would saturate your colors. What I believed happened with your photos is that since it was so bright outside, your camera was trying to compensate for it for making the image darker so it wouldn't be washed out (sky would be exposed properly) but the cars would be dark, and vice versa, the cars would be exposed perfect and the sky blown out. I would look for a graduated ND filter, in order to expose for the cars (assuming they are in shadow), with the sky being knocked down a few stops. Hope that helps!

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10/21/2007 6:49:30 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Jessica,
I don't want to rain on your parade, but photographing automobiles in bright sunlight presents a very real challenge ... specular reflections not being the least of the difficulties. Automobiles run the gambit in exposure latitude, from black tires to VERY bright chrome. Few cameras can handle such an extreme unless you want to do a LOT of work.
All the best,

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10/21/2007 9:36:34 PM

Jessica  Wright   Thank you so much for your help.

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10/22/2007 1:52:19 PM

Jerry Frazier   In situations such as this, I'll expose for the brightest area, or better known as highlights. Take that image and make a perfect redition for the highlights. Then, make a layer in photoshop, and make the underexposed image, exposed for the dark areas. Add that as a layer. Now what you have to do is subtract out the areas that are too bright by using the eraser tool. It's alot of work, but this is a good way to deal with it.

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10/23/2007 3:42:32 AM

Jessica  Wright   Thank you, Ill try that.

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10/23/2007 7:03:30 AM

Ken Henry   Not using manual exposure you have no control of the exposure. The very first basic rule of photography in sunlight is at ISO 100 your exposure should be f16 and 1/125 second, or f11 and 1/250 sec, orrr f8 and 1/500 sec, etc.

As a photographer you should be in control, not your camera.

All cameras cannot expose as correctly as your eyes. You would expose for what is important to you. Light f16 at ex: 1/500sec, midrange f16 at 1/125sec, or dark areas f16 at 1/30sec. Or shoot all three exposures and PS them. ORRR but a contrast reducer filter from Tiffen Filters.

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10/23/2007 7:14:59 PM

Tripod, RAW, bracketing, and blending.

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10/24/2007 5:45:13 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Metering for the what the light is and shooting at that never went at of style.

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10/24/2007 7:28:49 PM

Ken Henry   The palm of your hand is a better meter than the camera. It is with you all the time and it didn't $cost you anything.

Set your camera to manual. Then set Apeture to f16, Now hold out your palm in sunlight then zoom in on your palm. Adjust exposure dial to where the needle in your viewfinder goes to center. Your reading will be approximately 1/250sec, depends on how bright it is. Now reset your exposure to half at 1/125sec. And if you need 1/1000sec(for action etc)which equals f5.6, your hand will read f8. So whatever your hand reads you cut your exposure or apeture in half.

The palm of your hand is one stop brighter than a grey card.

Now you are in control of your camera and exposure.

There are 10 stops between white to black. White is 0,1,2,3,4, mid-grey is at 5,6,7,8,9, and black is at 10.

The metering from your hand will always set you at midway.

Your eyes can see detail in white as well as in black. Photography cannot see Detail in Black and White when the exposure is set at midway 5.

so if I want to see the white hair detail on dog or mountain I will set my exposure faster to 1/250sec, Black Dog decrease my exposure to 1/60sec.

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10/24/2007 9:46:53 PM

Ken Henry   More on Contrast settings in your camera. Here's were you need to get your manual and do some custom settings.

It sounds like you are using the Auto Mode, Which is no different than using a Point & Shoot camera. A DSLR is not about changing lenses. Program Mode gives you some minor control but not exposure.

Digital cameras are more contrastier than film.

I reprogramed my camera the following modes. Changed sRGB to RGB. Jpeg to RAW.
decreased Contrast setting to zero. Decreased Saturation by -1 or -2. And I use Gamma 1.8 on my monitor and printer. Now my photos look like Post Cards instead of blown out consumer pictures from hell.

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10/24/2007 10:05:27 PM

Dana Gambill   Hey Jessica,

I agree with what everyone else has said. A LENS SHADE may have helped. You can see what it would do if you have the sun shining at you from the side and hold your hand up to your face to block the sun from your eyes. Remove you hand, then put it back up to your face, paying attention to color saturation.

A POLARIZER would have further helped reduce the glare on the shiny surface of the cars and it would have darkened the sky. The range between light and dark would have been reduced by a stop or two which definitely helps when shooting digitally, since the tonal range is shorter when shooting digitally versus shooting negative film. Negative film is more forgiving. Just know that when shooting digitally, you need to keep to range between blacks and whites (darks & lights) to maybe 5 or 6 stops. Of course, you can tweak things in Photoshop too, as someone above mentioned. And... shooting RAW seems to provide a greater tonal range than if you were shooting JPEG.

If you want to shoot any kind of SHINY OBJECT, such as a car or soda, for example, the best kind of light is called "magic light"... it's the 15-30 minutes before the sun rises and after the sun sets. The sky acts as a giant softbox.

The best way to see what effect all of these have on your image would be to shoot like you did, then with a lens shade, then add a polarizer, remove polarizer and add gradated ND filter, add both polarizer & ND filter. You can "see" the effects of these at different times of day too.

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10/24/2007 11:00:38 PM

Lynda Frappier   remember what singer Gino Vanelli said in the early 80's--or was it late 70s--
"black cars look better in the shade"
He wasn't joking!

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10/25/2007 2:41:38 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Manually meter the brightest part that's important to the composition and set your aperture/shutter speed combination to over-expose that portion of the scene by 1 stop, then bracket over and under from there.(..or just meter something neutral in the same light.

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10/25/2007 4:07:21 PM

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