Even better!! Question about photographer's background effects.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by missy_kay, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. I found a photographer even better than from my post last week...
    WOW!!!!!!! Is all I can say!
    Ok so what am I missing here? How do a lot of high-end photographers get white as a background. Are they doing spot metering? Overexposing the background? I'm curious because in this photo the sky is blue-
    Then in this photo in the SAME location it's white and invisible-
  2. It is exposure. Expose for direct sun, which is what is on the subjects with the blue sky, and you get a blue sky. Expose for the shady side of subjects backlit by sun, which is what the other photo is, and you get white, blown out sky.
    There is no need to spot meter for direct sun exposure. It is pretty consistently ISO 100, f11, 1/250th if the sun is strong, direct, and it is not sun rise or sunset. How the other photo was metered is anyone's guess.
  3. for the photo ....0007.jpg (white sky)
    Camera Make: Canon
    Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
    Image Date: 2009:02:17 08:19:23
    Flash Used: No
    Focal Length: 50.0mm
    CCD Width: 5.45mm
    Exposure Time: 0.0016 s (1/640)
    Aperture: f/2.5
    ISO equiv: 200
    White Balance: Auto
    Metering Mode: Matrix
    Exposure: Manual
    Exposure Mode: Manual
    for the photo .....0005.jpg (blue sky)
    Camera Make: Canon
    Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
    Image Date: 2009:02:17 08:15:01
    Flash Used: No
    Focal Length: 50.0mm
    CCD Width: 5.45mm
    Exposure Time: 0.0003 s (1/3200)
    Aperture: f/2.5
    ISO equiv: 160
    White Balance: Auto
    Metering Mode: Matrix
    Exposure: Manual
    Exposure Mode: Manual
    As you can tell from the data: the camera was in Matrix metering mode so it's evaluating the entire area and the Exposure was done manually. No tricks here unless the photographer added the blue sky later which is a possibility. 50mm lens and both shots at f2.5 and the ISO were about the same. The only relevant difference is the shutter speed. This photographer has already created a base line exposure and is merely making small tweaks in shutter speed to get the exposure correct for the subjects.
    ~Not the same location by looking at the backgrounds but even if they are the same location if you stand in one location and take 12 photographs at each hour on a clock (if you were standing in the center of the clock) then you could have a wide range of exposures ... sometimes the sun directly into the camera lens and sometimes from the side and sometimes the sun at the back or creating nice shade: all these from one location depending on where photographer stands and where subject stands.
    ~The photo with the blue sky also has more shadow area on the guys body as well as a great deal of the background filled with buildings and the photographer is Not shooting directly into Direct and Strong sunlight. Side note: I really am not fond of the top of the building coming out of the guys head on this shot either.
  4. She used a faster shutter speed in the first one, which captures more of the bright sky detail. She used a slower shutter speed in the second one which blows out the highlights in favor of rendering detail in the foreground subjects. I can also say with almost certainty that this photographer is not working in manual mode and managing exposures for consistency, but rather is shooting in wide aperture to defocus the background, and probably Aperture priority mode, letting the camera decide the shutter speed depending on exposure compensation. You get some inconsistent results that way.
    Now, let me say that there are some times when you want to blow out the sky, and sometimes when you don't. Adjusting the shutter speed up or down will help you accomplish this.
    However, I find other issues with each of these photos. The first one is a nice photo, but the off-center composition would have worked better if the photographer had utilized the background better by eliminating the distracting yellow bollard posts, traffic cabinet, and crosswalk button, and getting a more impressive building off in the distance. Also distracting is the shadow across the male subject. If she had used some fill flash with high speed shutter, or moved them somewhat, she could have eliminated the shadow.
    The second one is so blown out with the sun, and it didn't have to be. Using a higher shutter speed with HSS, she could have used the wide aperture with fill flash and faster shutter to retain the sky details. And if she had moved them away from the distracting traffic lights, she would not have a traffic pole growing out of the girl's head, or a traffic signal sitting in front of her face. To me, the off-center composition simply does not work, and looks like a haphazard "artsy" shot, and certainly nothing I would print as an enlargement. I also hope she was not staring into the viewfinder too long into the sun!
    I guess I'm wondering what it is about this girl's work that impresses you so much, Kay? Sure, she has a few nice shots with this cute couple, but some of them are just chopped up and haphazard looking. And in my personal opinion, if she were using an off-camera strobe, either handheld or held by an assistant, her photography could be taken to a whole new level, and beyond that of the "artsy" art major with a Canon. I also question why she would go to a street photo shoot in heels, but I guess some prefer style to comfort.
  5. Well, WW read the Exif, so we do know she was in manual mode. My statement to the contrary above was only a guess based on the inconsistency I saw from shot to shot, where I assumed she was letting the camera do the thinking, which can lead to inconsistent results. However, if you don't manage Manual mode properly, the same thing can happen.
  6. In the first photo the sun is in front of me and behind me in the second.
  7. In the first photo the sun is in front of me and behind me in the second. Looks like a similar situation.
  8. So now that William has peeked at the exif, we see that the blue sky photo is 1 1/3 stop overexposed from sunny 16/bright sun exposure--still going to give a blue sky (particularly with PS help). The white sky photo is 3 2/3 stop overexposed from sunny 16/bright sun exposure--going to give the blown out, white sky. Don't take my word for it. Do the test yourself.
    Just because the exif says the camera was set to manual camera mode doesn't mean the settings used were what the camera metered, whatever the metering mode is set to, or that the photographer even metered with the camera at all. If you want to know how and if she metered, ask her.
  9. Please understand, Kay, that I'm not trying to be too harsh or mean in my comments about Jasmine's photos (or your appreciation of them), I just feel that they could have been so much better with better technique and composition. She obviously has a good eye for many shots, and is obviously doing work people like, but for me, it's nothing earthshaking.
    As for Eliza Beth's examples, the look is not only the position of the sun, but in how you shot these images. If you used fill flash on the top one, you must not have used enough, and you used too slow of a shutter speed in an effort to get some details in the subjects. The image is still too blown out for most folk's taste (at least mine). You could have used a higher shutter speed with proper fill flash, and had a stand-out shot that would have been much better. Again, my opinion, but it all comes down to technique. As for the bottom image, the sun is clearly not behind them, but less than 90 degrees to your right.
  10. Steve--notice Eliza Beth uses herself as the reference for the sun position, not the subject. So on the bottom photo, the sun is behind the photographer (the 'me' in her description), if oblique.
    And, as in the other thread like this, the question is about a technique used, not whether we, the responders, think highly of the image or not. Eliza Beth offers her images as examples of blue sky/white sky, not for critique. Just saying...
  11. I understand, Nadine, but in looking at the shadows, it really doesn't look like it's behind her, but more to the right. Not to belabor the point, or anything, I'm just saying that's how it looks to me.
    And I think I addressed the way the shots were done in my prior post, but I felt that Kay is looking at these shots like they're examples of how they should be done, and I would differ with that, based on my observations. I just want her to have a better understanding of what she's looking at, and ways they could be even better (even though this is all very subjective), before she settles on a style to emulate. I don't feel stating my opinion on these things is out of line, we all do that to some degree. It's a discussion, after all, right? I think we owe it to newcomers to at least nudge them toward a higher standard if we can, without saying "this is how it should be done".
  12. I’m going to agree with Steve about the two pictures Kay picked as examples because… well…. My opinion is golden…. Right? I’m not seeing the WOW factor here. I like the foreground background subject thing but that’s about it. The crosswalk button kind of fits the street view style, but the traffic lights do tend to distract.
  13. I’m going to agree with Steve about the two pictures Kay picked as examples because… well…. My opinion is golden…. Right? I’m not seeing the WOW factor here. I like the foreground background subject thing but that’s about it. The crosswalk button kind of fits the street view style, but the traffic lights do tend to distract.
  14. Thank you everyone for your input! I really appreciate it! Do other photographers normally not use a flash during a photoshoot? I ALWAYS use my flash and bounce it. Is that something I should shy away from?
    -lol at the pole coming out of her head...
    -Steve C- you don't like the over-exposed background? I just like it because it looks like theimageisfound.com They use a lot of white backgrounds so the couple is more the center of attention.
    Ok so now for the REALLY dumb question. I thought there was only like spot-metering or partial metering, evalutative etc...
    So I usually leave it on spot metering to expose for the couple. So what is Matrix metering? I never even heard of it :(
  15. Matrix Metering ... some things are searchable and better understood when you read it from several different sources.
  16. oh so it's only with Nikons? That's probably why I never heard it :)
  17. Kay, matrix metering uses several sections of the image to determine the metering, instead of only evaluating the center area. This gives the camera a broader range of brightness/darkness levels to choose from. You use whichever works best for your subject matter.
    As I said, there are some instances where you want to blow out the background for artistic reasons, and some where you don't. Again, it depends on the look you are trying to create and the scene you're shooting. I just didn't like the overexposed background in that particular shot because of the way it makes the traffic light artifacts look like they're floating in air in front of her face.
  18. Steve- can I see your website :D
  19. Not just with Nikon.
    Read your the manual for your camera (not sure what you have). The camera metering that evaluates the entire field of view and averages out the values is "matrix". Different names for different manufacturers but essentially the same process. (Marc Williams has a special skill of being able to succinctly put words to these concepts in a way that creates ah-ha moments so you might search some of his posts on exposure.)
    The following is from a quick search:
    • Matrix metering on Nikon camera's is called either Pattern or Evaluative on other models.
    • Most brands all name the second mode, Center-weighted metering or very close to it.
    • Whereas Spot metering found on Nikon SLR's, basically work similar to Partial metering on Canon digital camera's. (note: Canon 5d now has "Spot Metering" ... Wm.)
    Understanding how each metering mode works, is best learned through a method that I like to call 'try and see'.
    Assignment: Lesson in understanding metering modes

    1. Set your SLR camera on program mode for this assignment by turning your dial to the letter P . Just for this example, also change your ISO to 400. This will ensure you are able to take a fast photograph in many different situations.
    2. Go outside and take a landscape photograph in your street, firstly using the Matrix (Pattern or Evaluative on some camera's) metering system. Then change your metering to Center-weighted and take another shot of the same landscape. Finally take a third photograph of the same scenery with Spot (partial) metering.

      Load all 3 images onto your computer and see what the difference is. Try this a few more times with different landscapes and sceneries.

      What you should find, is that the Matrix metering system works best in the majority of cases.
    3. Now find a friend who will let you photograph them against a bright background. For example, with the sun shining directly behind them, or against a white sandy beach or freezing snow.

      Compose your shot so their shoulders and head takes up 2/3's of the frame. Once again, take three photographs, one with each of the different metering settings. Load them onto your computer and see what the difference is between each one.

      In this case, you should find that Center-weighted metering works best to expose the facial area correctly.
    4. For the next part of this assignment, place a lightly colored object against a darker background (black if possible). When you compose your shot, place the object directly in the middle of the frame. Once again, take 3 photographs, one for each metering mode. Load them onto your computer and see what the difference is.

      This time you should find Spot metering works best for this particular situation.
    For weddings I use Center Weighted most of the time because "the subject" I'm most interested in is what I want to expose correctly and I shoot with "art" in mind instead of wanting to see a more flat exposure that balances an entire frame. Some think a well balanced look across the entire frame is "good" photography; I say that it's good for them but may not work for others.
    My way is not "the right way" ... it's merely a way that works for my style of photography and processing that gives me a final "look" which defines my style. I attract a certain type of bride via my style: it's not "right" but it's my preference. The style becomes my look and my goal is that it's not what I consider to be generic photography.
    I mention the above because the exposure process will be the first step in defining your style and it seems to me that you are seeking a style; imo, style starts with defining, in a knowing way, the way you approach and understand how you want to achieve an exposure. So, you're on the right track in asking the questions you are asking.
    It's Important to be able and willing to expose for "blue sky" backgrounds as well as learning how to make quick adjustments to blow out the sky ... don't just go for one or the other but actually practice and stand outside clicking away until you understand the concept and can get a "blue sky" or a "blown out sky" when You want it to be that way.
  20. William - Very good point! A quote the was presented to me recently kind of drives your point home, "Those that know 'how' will always have a job, those who know 'why' will always be their boss." The 'how' makes us technical photographers and a slave to the camera, the 'why' free's us to create and be artists.
    Steve C - I'm not sure I understand your consistant drum beat of "your way being the only right way to create art." How you create your art is your way, how others create their art is their way, neither of which is the true, only, or correct way. Rules are meant to be broken, trampled upon, and disregarded based on the artists prerogative, not someone elses idea of what proper photography is. Actually, its always been the artists in the world who have pushed the envelopes of creativity, brought about new forms of expression and business models to make money from them. My suggestion is for you to check out any of Chris Orwigs videos on Lynda.com and listen, really listen.
  21. Kay - if you like J*'s work, check out ecker , Mike Colon , Jessica Claire , Laura Novak , Chenin Boutwell ...there are a ton of really successful photographers who shot this style to certain degrees, are making a ton o'money, and having a blast doing it. Why, because they shoot the way that not only makes them happy as artists but gives them a nice income as well.
  22. Eliza Beth uses herself as the reference for the sun position.
    Eliza Beth offers her images as examples of blue sky/white sky, not for critique. Just saying...
    Thanks for pointing that out, Nadine:)
  23. Chris, I think you misread my posts. I never said my way was the best way. I'm always very careful not to do that, because photography is a very subjective pursuit, and what looks good to one may look bad to another. So there is no "drum beat" coming from me, only my opinions on what I think would improve a particular shot. Nobody here can say their way is the only way.
    Photography is part of the world of art, and the world is full of art critics. We'll never all agree on things so subjective and subtle as what constitutes a great photograph.
  24. It has to do with sun position more than anything else.
    Blue Sky = Sun behind photographer
    White Sky = sun shining into lens.
  25. Steve C.
    You can say a lot of things with almost certainty but that just means that when you are disproved, the credibility of your certainty is reduced more quickly.
  26. Galen, I think that sounds more like a perception than a fact. Has anything I've said been proven as unfactual? I explained that the inconsistency of her exposures led me to believe she was not shooting manual, though the Exif showed otherwise. Still, in my opinion, this photographer was not managing her exposures as I would expect, given the high quality of much of her work. Again, that's my opinion, not a statement of fact, and nothing that has to be defended or proven credible. And within that part of the discussion, my opinion is as credible as yours or anyone else's.
    As to the original question, how do you blow out backgrounds, I think it has been answered.
  27. Notice also that the reflection of the sky in the guy's glasses is blue because it's BEHIND her.
    Just sayin'
    By the way, nice work Eliza Beth :)
  28. Well to answer Kay's other questions--whether to use a flash or not is entirely up to you and varies considerably from photographer to photographer. You cannot usually successfully bounce your flash outside unless you have convenient nearby surfaces and aren't trying to go up against bright light.
    Usually, the white sky is not something one can deliberately turn off and on, so when you say this or that photographer uses white skies to focus attention on the couple, it may or may not be something deliberately chosen. For instance, if you opt not to use flash, and the sun is behind your subject, you will not be able to have the blue sky and decent exposure (seeing detail) on the subjects at the same time unless you use flash to bring up subject exposure to balance with the sky or bright sun exposure. If the photographer chooses not to use flash, he or she has no choice but to end up with white skies.
    Others have answered your question on matrix metering. It is both a specific Nikon term for their metering mode and also has a more general meaning that describes a method of metering. Canon's evaluative metering is a kind of matrix metering (in the larger sense).
  29. Also, one of those Marc Williams explanations worth re-reading, mentioned by William M., above.
    Obviously--read Marc's post.
    Steve--we are splitting hairs here. The sun is more or less behind the photographer in Eliza Beth's blue sky image. As noted in my post, it may have been somewhat more oblique than directly behind, but behind, nonetheless, which is the point to be made in relation to blue sky exposure--the point is not whether or not it was directly behind the photographer. If I were to guess, I'd look at the bride's nose shadow, since she (her face) is basically square to the photographer. You see the 'triangle' of sunlight on her shadow side cheek, which is classic Rembrandt lighting, so the sun was about 45 degrees to the photographer's right, and behind.
    As for stating an opinion on the images, I did not get the impression that Kay was holding these images up as perfect or ideal, but as examples to illustrate her question. So when you say something like, "I just want her to have a better understanding of what she's looking at, and ways they could be even better (even though this is all very subjective), before she settles on a style to emulate," the 'better' in the sentence is according to whom? And the 'higher standard' you mention is again, whose higher standard? I'm not defending Ms. Starr's work--I remain neutral. But Kay should be free to emulate her all she wants.
    And I'm not criticizing you for stating your opinions. Perhaps I'm suggesting you state them in a less emphatic manner--it sounds like you are the one saying "this is how it should be done," even if it isn't your intent. Because commenting on composition, for instance, is definitely not related to a question about exposure for blue or white skies. However, I do think critiquing Eliza Beth's images was unnecessary. Her examples served to illustrate blue sky/white sky very well, I thought, regardless of content or technique or whether they could have been 'better'. As always, my opinions, stated not to start any trouble, but in the spirit of discussion, as you noted.
  30. To the contrary, Nadine, I got the impression that Kay was really wowed by the images on that blog page, and if she wants to emulate them, that's fine. I never said she shouldn't. And some of the images on the blog were quite striking and well done, as I said.
    I haven't once stated the shots should be done this way or that, only my opinion on ways they could have been better. I've re-read all my responses here, and can't see how anyone could construe anything other than that. My words have been very clear and leave no room for confusion. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I don't see how one could get the wrong message. I can give my personal opinions without ever saying they should be everyone else's opinions too...and that's exactly what I did.
    As for Eliza Beth's images, I was quite surprised that she submitted such a badly overexposed white sky image as an example of white sky, with such a well-exposed blue sky image. Typically, when you blow out the sky in a shot like this, you at least have the foreground subjects well-exposed. Did she submit the images for critique? No. Do I have the right to point out an area for improvement of the image? Sure. I think any seasoned professional here would agree that this shot is overexposed. I'm not being mean or anything, just giving my opinion in an open forum. After all, we're here to teach and learn.
  31. Listen to most pro commercial and portrait photographers and you'll hear that using a hand-held incident light meter is even more important with digital than is was for film, because of the narrower dynamic range of digital compared to film.
    The deal is that whatever mode you're using with in-camera metering relies on the light reflected off the subject, which the color of the subject can affect. That's reflective metering. With an incident meter you actually measure the light falling on the subject, a critical difference and a major improvement over reflective metering.
    While you're at it, do a custom white-balance with a grey target made for digital cameras to get the color temp spot-on. Then tweak it later if you like.
  32. For that picture with the white sky, I think the photographer uses PS and/or plugin to eliminate the blue of the sky.
  33. I haven't once stated the shots should be done this way or that, only my opinion on ways they could have been better.
    This proves Nadine's point! Your trying to say that the images are inferior to the "better way" you suggest, in your opinion. I think what this is all boiling down to is the new school vs. the old school and their loosing business to said new school or new school making insane amounts of money by spitting all over old school "rules". I'm a gigantic fan of Mr. Hobby and Mr. Ziser, who I will have the pleasure of meeting in September at his workshop, but that is only one way, even he says its only one way. This is not religion, its art. Instead of tearing down, why not try looking for the positives and building up. Again Chris Orwig , check him out, might give you a new clearer on art.
  34. Kay - Jasmine does a very good FAQ post every once in a while describing how she works and answering readers questions. I did a search for you and here is the list of FAQ posts .
  35. Chris, my personal opinion is no more or less valid than your personal opinion. The "better way" as you put it is only "better" to my way of thinking, and anyone here can take that or leave it. If you want to keep defending mediocrity, then go ahead, but to me, the images in question didn't cut it.
    I'm envious that you're going to see Ziser though. I must do the same.
  36. Steve - I really can't wait, just wish I could see him before this wedding season starts....first wedding next weekend. Here's the link for his dates. Style rants aside, as a business person keeping my eye on what the bridal and fashion magazines are showing, I'm seeing more images shot in the Strobist/Ziser style. Which means in about 6-12 months, brides are going to be looking for photographers who can shoot in both styles, because we know its never just one style that makes a bride happy. I saw Jerry Ghionis in Detroit last year and have been using, to some success, video lights and whats available for a more dramatic, high fashion look. That's what I love about photography, there is no one way of doing things and I can appreciate all forms of it.
  37. I really appreciate Ziser's style, and I've adopted the strobist methods he and others are using, so I agree that this look will be in greater demand, once brides see the difference. I plan to be on the cutting edge of that in my area. Best!

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