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Frogfish

Backlighting

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Hey guys,

 

I have a question for ya. What's the trick to taking backlit shots like this one?

0120_ToddReed_Fishermans-Dream.jpg

 

or this:

039_GreatBlue.jpg

 

I come semi-close but, to me, it doesnt cut it. What do you guys do?

 

Thanks

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The trick is mainly related to recogizing what you want properly exposed.

 

Cameras have meters that are designed to look at everything in the frame, sense how much light is there, and then provide settings that will not over/under expose the image.

 

In cases like these, it is often necessary to go against the camera's "recommendation." There is no hard and fast rule, but to use the first photo as an example: This image was taken so that the orange portion of the water would be properly exposed. Doing so grossly underexposed the fisherman and riverbanks, creating the silhouette.

 

Most cameras have center-weighted or spot metering functions. Instead of telling the camera to meter off the whole frame, you are basically saying "I want this small section of the image exposed properly."

 

Spot metering the orange water would be a good starting point. Sometimes you have to take a test shot and make small adjustments afterwards. You will rarely get a strong silhouette from the camera's recommended settings though, because the meter is designed to avoid underexposure.

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The exposure meter or “light meter” is calibrated to properly expose the medium tonal values in the scene being photographed. The standard used for “medium” tone is 18% gray. Put another way, this means that the meter tells you what settings to use to make the area metered have a tonal value of 18% gray.

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So it's as easy as setting it to spot metering and tinkering with the other adjustments??? Wow...I feel stupid

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Yes, take your meter reading on an area you want to be a mid -tone, maybe under expose one more stop, set those parameters in manual mode and fire away.

mums.jpg

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I don't know what kind of camera you have, but your playback mode probably has a histogram and/or some kind of warning to tell you if you're clipping highlights. Learning to use your histogram is essential unless you want to spend a lot of time being disappointed. If you're dealing with very high-contrast situations, as many back-lit subjects are, your sensor probably doesn't have the latitude to capture detail in both the shadows and the highlights, so you'll have to make some sacrifices with one or the other. Once you blow out a highlight, there's no way to repair it - the information just isn't there. There are ways around it, but they're very involved, and they're useless when your scene keeps changing. I use a lot of deep blacks in my own work, (like in the samples you provided) so it's an easy choice to make for me. If you're going for a picture like the fish jumping, take a test shot and get your exposure ready while you're waiting for something to happen. Once the action starts, there's no time to be fooling around figuring out exposures, etc.

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Ok thanks guys. I also have one more noob question. What filters do you guys use when taking extended exposure pictures (like 1-10 seconds) in daylight without it getting blown out?

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Yeah neutral density filters can be useful. You may want to read up on them a bit before you spend any serious money on them - down the road, you'll probably want more than one and there a lot of different ND filters to choose from. What they do is darken the image - either all of it or part of it, depending on the type of filter and they all slow down your exposure to some extent. I use a Singh-Ray variable, which means I can adjust the strength without having to change filters. It's a great piece of equipment, but it's expensive as hell - my advice would be to do a little research and if you decide an ND is something you'd like to try, pick up a moderately priced filter and experiment with it a bit. If it turns out to be useful, then you can think about adding some more to your collection or looking at a variable model.

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