are blown out skies acceptable sometimes?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by danzel_c, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. i was under the tent about 50 feet from the wedding party as they were being announed at the reception. i took two shots: 1) took one with my 70-200 before they reached under the tent. this was so i could capture natural expressions because at that point because i was "out of site out of mind to them", and 2) i took one with my 17-55 w/fill flash after they reached under the tent which is when they noticed me and the expressions were not as exciting because they would usually stop and pose. so i pretty much ended up with one action shot and one posed shot for each. when i took my shot with the 70-200 they were far away from me and i didn't use flash which ended up blowing out the sky. my question is this: is a blown out sky acceptable sometimes? maybe the flash would have been effective, but i didn't even try it because i was so far back, plus i was under a tent and they were outside the tent.
  2. here's an example
  3. Acceptable to you, other photographers or the client? I'd say that under the circumstances and based on priority (expression is king), the blown sky in this shot is acceptable.
  4. i meant "canopy" not tent...oops.
    i guess by "acceptable" i mean was there another way to get this shot and not have the highlights blown out. if i was noticeable (i.e closer to them) i don't think i would have got the priceless expressions.
  5. What was the ambient light exposure (say, on their faces), what were your settings and was the sky blue?
  6. the sun was behind them, exposure was f2.8, 1/800th at iso 100. with these setting their faced appeared to be about a 1/2 stop under exposed.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    You can always fix the sky. This didn't take much time, it could use a little more work.
  8. I would say the faces in that images are 1/3 to 1/2 over-exposed, but that's me. As to whether the blown highlights are acceptable, as Nadine says, it's a judgement call. But over all, at some point (whatever that is) blown highlights are all but unavoidable. If your camera has a 7-stop dynamic range and the scene is more than 7-stops then you need to choose between crushing the blacks or blowing out the whites. In making this choice, you help define your "style". For me, I would have used fill flash in the above shot. However, since my sync speed is 1/250th, that is what I would have been using for a shutter, keeping the ISO low and then dialing in my aperture. If I wanted a wider aperture, I would use a ND filter. Be warned, the use of a ND filter (or any filter) can cause flaring especially in a backlit situation. Another useful filter would be the CPL, this can help with keeping the color in the sky- but in the above image the dynamic range seems pretty wide so I am not sure how much a CPL would have helped. For me, isolating the subject via a wide aperture takes a back seat to keeping my flash(es) within sync speed. In the above shot, I would have been at a shutter of 1/250th (or so) and f/5.0, hence a different style. At 1/200th, my fill flash will be working a bit better and I'm a fill flash kinda guy! I have also found that I am not a huge fan of the 70-200 variety of lenses. I think the above shot could have been captured with the 85mm (I believe your FL was 100mm) and I LOVE the 85mm: fast, easy to move around with (short barrel) and the list goes on! I find that I only bring my 105 out now for the macro shots. But that's me!
  9. I agree the flash wouldn't have been effective at your subject distance. So--you had no choice, actually, but to shoot it as is. You might have been able to avoid the flare (or not) on the boy's head, and possibly gotten some shading in the sky, if the flash was able to reach the subjects.
    If this was my image, all I'd do is put the contrast back in the boy's head. I don't think a flat valued blue sky does anything for the image. The expressions make the image--the sky is not so important.
  10. Add some clouds and stuff...
  11. I think its all personal preference. For me, I just always hope the client see's it the way we do, and that is capturing the moment was more important than perfect exposure. Like you said, the faces were posed and not as excited when they knew you were taking the photo.
    Especially in this photo, the sky doesn't seem to be a problem. :) IMO.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The half a man is more off putting to me than the blown sky. I would tighten that shot even more - making it a tight three quarter (which will lessen the amount of blown sky a fraction).
    I work with Blown Skies quite often. I find them acceptable - under certain conditions, even throwing more emphasis on to the subject and / or what the image conveys.
    If that is a full frame crop you were at about 20ft for the 100mm on the 40D and at f2.8, 1/800th at ISO100 there's very little chance any Flash made would fill and to pull that sky back in a scene where the EV looks to be described as a day of "no harsh shadows".
    SO the question is: What choices did you have?
    I would have pulled that shot: the Children's expression makes it worthwhile – let the sky burn..

    Then, having nailed the moment, one has the Post Production Options available (as expressed above).
    I guess the question then becomes: are the Post Production Options Acceptable Sometimes?
    And if, “Yes” - How much Post Production is Acceptable?
    I agree that you are mostly likely 1/2 to 2/3 stops underexposed on skin tone, and this is most likely as a result of the metering mode you were using, rather than the exposure compensation you dialled - or any other factor.

  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    [If I were] closer to them, i don't think i would have got the priceless expressions.

    I too am not fond of using a 70 to 200 on an APS-C for Wedding and general Social Events Coverage.

    If we could avoid debating "style", and this is NOT as a comment on this image or the Photographer who captured it: I postulate that believing that close proximity will of itself inhibit natural expression of the subject’s personality is one of the reasons why there is such a passion for the 70 to 200 to be extolled as the "ant's pants" for use on an APS-C body. I think this is a false premise.

    As an example to consider, I reckon that shot could have easily obtained with a 50mm on the 40D. Granted a different shooting technique would be required and one would have to be allowed to roam - (and quickly it seems) – but I do not think that closer shooting distance would have inhibited those Children, at all.

    Speaking generally - reducing the shooting distance leverages one's ability to Flash Fill Outdoors – and without much impact on the personalities of the subjects – especially outdoors.

    Using the Normal to Short Telephoto FL (on a 40D approx 30mm to 60mm) does usually mean more roaming – and I guess - potentially more work, but IMO the better leverage and control of the Flash when shooting Outdoor Functions, is more than often worth it.

  14. Where you are is an important factor... are there normally a lot of blue skies in your area? It sounds stupid, but you aren't always going to get blue skies ('if', that is), then the client isn't going to worry as much.
    A lot of photographers nowadays - in particularl; event, wedding and/or portraiture photographers, etc - like overexposing the photos... if you shot in raw, recover as much as you can. If not, lower the exposure, use a bit of burning... but really, it's fine. The 'essence' (not to sound cliche) is there, the expression great.
  15. At times they are ok with me.
    jack hudkins
  16. I don't have any examples I could post right now, but you can salvage amny images with blown out skies. The use of Photoshop or other editing software can provide you with some creative latitude. You can desaturate the images a bit with some soft white vignetting, etc...
  17. Are blown out skies acceptable? Rarely, but how good is good enough? Sometimes they are due to the limitations of the available lighting, other times due to limitations with equipment, but often they are due to a lack of concern or knowledge by the photographer during the exposure.
    Generally speaking, the only time blown highlights are acceptable in an image is when they are a direct light source or a strong reflective light source. In your example, I believe the image would be much better with a correctly exposed sky and I'd be willing to trade-off some lack of detail in the shadows if I had to, for a more natural looking sky.
  18. Are we kidding here? It's a Wedding! Clients don't hire us to shoot the sky!! They hire us to capture emotion, human emotion. And the shot above does that, beautifully.
  19. I prefer to keep the sky, but if I were faced with a situation I could not plan for and just grabbed my cam., I may well shoot P mode for a couple. Once I had the shot, I would dial in my needed settings.
    In this shot, I don't mind the sky being blown. I often find where I live, that skies are bland whiteish cloud as the snow clouds roll in. No choice in that situation than to show a dreary grey sky, or blow it out. In that case, I often go for the blown look and shoot wider aps.
  20. Wow, I`m not really the one to tell, but still:
    I really like the image. As one told me once, expression is what makes the image. Sometime I forget this looking to much for corect techniques (exposure and focus). And since this image has alot of expression, I like better the first one (the original one) and I believe the photoshoped ones are way to photoshoped. They loose the sincerity.
    Usually I underexpose. If your image is as shot, then I believe even 1 stop underexposed would have been ok. Maybe some sky (especially around the foliage) would have been captured.
    Any way, for me, blown sky are not anymore a disturbing factor. Faces are! There is the expression. Though I would be more then glad to learn a bit from David. David, please, lend us some of your knowleadge: how would you managed that situation? I believe Danzel exposed for the skin (though overexposed) and if the sky was very bright, capturing it would have severely underexposed the faces. So,how to manage the situation with no use of flash?
  21. The original image is perfect as is, given the distance. The one second this photographer had to get that moment would be more important to me as the client. As for the two 'fixes' above adding in blue sky... why?
  22. Here's two different weddings on boats off of Navy Pier here in Chicago. In the top image I had a relatively low sun that I was shooting in to. I luckily had access to a spot that provided some shade, used my lens hood and direct flash and then crossed my fingers....since I was shooting into a late afternoon low sun, I was very happy to get the results I did even though the sky was blown. However, while this image is acceptable for a wedding album it's not one that I would enter in a print competition. The bottom image was taken with a relatively low sun that was more behind me, if I had not paid attention to my histogram it would have been pretty easy to blow out the sky, which IMO would have significantly compromised the image.
    For fun, pull out an SI swimsuit spread and look for images which have a blown sky. You may see one or two but they're pretty rare. Granted given the subject matter, many people wouldn't even notice a blown sky, let alone care but I think a good photographer would care. In Danzel's image above, I'd prefer to have some color in the sky. Course YMMV.
  23. Yes, blown skies are acceptable at times IMO. They work well when expressions are the main feature of the photo, for example, Danzel's photo. Studio photogs spend a lot of time and effort getting white backgrounds for that high-key look. Why can't we use the sky to the same effect.
    In some instances, the emotion of the photo is derived from the couple in their surroundings. e.g. Dave Schilling's photo. The sky then is part of the surroundings and part of the drama. In this case the sky is much more important.
    Back to the blown sky example. I think the trick is to have the sky blown just a little bit, but not too much. Blow it out too much and you get too much wrap, flare, washed-out look. If this happens you can decrease exposure and increase fill flash.
  24. danzel - absolutely you can let a sky blow out! putting in an HD sky often looks pretty fake.
    for formals you can add a lot of flash, but that photo that you took is gorgeous. expression matters. whether the sky is blue or not - usually it doesn't matter if you can get photos like that.
    the skin is overexposed a bit, but i htink that it looks great.
  25. I have a couple of questions Danzel. First, was the sky blue at the time this image was taken? And, what time of day was this?
    Looking at the image again, and the specs, I am thinking it was late in the afternoon and the sun was low in the sky. When you have such conditions, it is even harder to get color in the sky. Seems to me your conditions were similar to David Schilling's first image. At f2.8, 1/800th, ISO 100, it would seem that you were about 2 1/3 stops overexposed from 'blue sky' exposure of f11, 1/250th or f2.8, 1/4000th. I've still gotten a faint blue color at 2 stops over, but only when the sun itself was not ahead of me and low in the sky. If the sun is high and behind or above me, I can still get the color, if faint.
    The flare on the boy's head also makes me conclude that the sun was low in the sky behind the kids and to their right. The flare is from light getting into your lens or because the sky itself was really more than 2 1/3 stops overexposed from your EV. It takes at least 4 stops and more overexposure to create veiling flare. I think the flare is the latter kind.
    If this is the case, there is really nothing you could have done (barring post production) short of blasting the kids with flash. They would have looked really 'flashy'. Anyway, at your subject distance, and under the circumstances, it wouldn't have worked anyway and you would have lost the expressions.
    I agree with David W., actually. I avoid blowing out the sky when I can, but if it comes down to blowing out the sky OR capturing great expressions, I'll choose the latter.
  26. Danzel,
    A question: Did you shoot RAW or JPEG? You might recover some sky if you shot RAW...
    Second, you could have had much less sky in the photo if you had stood up, (I'm assuming you are or "normal adult" height) instead of crouching down and shooting up into the sky.
    If you and your client like the shot, it's fine. It's only one out of hundreds I assume and a bright cloudy day is always going to give whitish skies anyway.
  27. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    My guess is that the children are making their way down a slight incline, hence the up angle of the lens: but because I like guessing games, I would like to know the answer.
  28. Danzel, sometimes a blown sky is part of life. A white haze sky is a lot brighter than most people think, and even when you try to balance it out with the foreground subject using fill flash they still go all or partially blank because it's ... well... bright white ... often way brighter than anything else in the scene.
    My suggestion for your image is to add just a very slight dull blue tone to the top portion of your shot. If you observe the sky, it usually goes from a deeper tone to almost white at the horizon. Just slightly mimick Mother nature so you have a light tone holding the top edge of the photo.
    Also, when shooting like this you often get a slight haze over the portions of the subject matter toward the top of the frame. To correct this just add some contrast to your image before adding in the slight sky tone so it looks a bit more natural to the eye.
    Here's quick adjustment to your little web jpg, but you'll get the idea I think.
  29. Dang all those times when all I had were gray skies and I kept trying to get blue skies on my images.
  30. i appreciate all the additional responses! and thanks for all the compliments on the photo! apologize for my late reply but i didn't get much computer time yesterday. there are a lot of interesting things here to think about. the sky wasn't that flattering at all from this angle. it wasn't that blue to begin with and had some scattered clouds. maybe just a slight blue gradient as mark added but i can't remember exactly. this was late afternoon (about 4 or 5pm) and the sun was low and to the right as nadine picked up on. john - i wanted a high shutter speed because they were moving fast. but i probably could have took a few test shots at the sync speed with flash just to see. and the FL was 100. this image is actually cropped a little from the original. i have the 85/1.8, but i'm loving the 70-200 right now. the need for fill flash and my distance is a thing to keep in mind though. but i picked my distance so i could get two shots from one spot, one outside the canpoy, and one under the canopy where the guest were seated. i did shoot raw so i wasn't too worried about not being able to salvage the sky a little. dave thanks for posting more examples. sometime there just is no blue sky and you have to live with it, or sometimes there's a trade off it sounds like. william - you are correct, they are walking down an incline so i had to get low to get faces.
  31. If the sky wasn't a pretty strong blue already, there isn't much you could do to make it blue--again, short of blasting with flash (impossible at your subject distance with shoemounts). If the sky was white-ish with clouds, you'd pretty much have to underexpose everything else a lot to get even a small amount of detail in the sky.
    Just for fun, check your other images from the ceremony, where you maybe had better luck balancing with flash?. That will tell you what the sky actually was like at the time.
  32. FWIW, I think this photo would look great in B&W or sepia.

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