Exposing for shadows without LR adjustment?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by hchangphotography, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. Hi community,

    My first post on here, reason i'm posting in this category is because I'm mostly a hobbyist automotive photographer but have done some paid shoots and I don't know what automotive photography falls under in the practice and technique forum section. I just recently learned all cameras meter for 18% gray, which is why i've been having trouble with exposing a car properly; my personal definition properly exposing is making sure car body is lit exactly the same on all sides as well as the tires. I also over expose by a few stops to retain the full tonal range, in case I need to raise the shadows in lightroom and don't want noise in the shadows. My question is, if say I am shooting a bright colored vehicle against a dark colored background, center the vehicle while locking the exposure using center weighted average metering mode, will the shadows retain detail without me having to move the slider to the right? I'm always trying to aim for a natural look but it's always the shadows that gets to me. I've literally shot with a bright colored vehicle against a bright colored background and the tires, wheels, lip are pretty much nonexistent without me moving the slider to the right by 50 and then i've also done a dark colored vehicle in the middle of the road and could only shoot with 0 EV due to clipped highlights and then shadows don't retain any detail at all in post process.
  2. In general, digital photography is intolerant of overexposure. Neutral gray is only about 4 stops under the absolute maximum, in the absence of an imposed gamma curve. On the other hand, digital detail extends far into the shadow region. Considering the high contrast of an automobile under bright lights, your best exposure would be from a grey card, or better yet, using an incident light meter.

    Another valuable technique would be a bracketed set of exposures, +/- two stops or more, rendered using HDR software like AuroraHD or Photomatix.

    In a controlled environment, you can also add lights to fill the shadows.
    ruslan likes this.
  3. I never knew you could use a gray card to expose. I watched a video recently how people use gray cards to adjust WB but i've never heard of anyone using a gray card for exposure. What if I'm at a car show though? Would I have to experiment with spot metering and set a dark area as 0 EV? I never knew photography was this complex but that was because I didn't factor in true shadow and highlight detail, nor did I know about the 18% metering off gray fact. I've considered and experimented with HDR but the few I've shot in the past all seemed dull with almost no contrast.
    This photo for example (click Senna), everything is well lit. I personally DM'd him about it, he says he uses center weighted average metering mode to expose off the car and would make the rest of the frame exposed in correspondence to the vehicle, only sometimes raising the shadows and/or reducing highlights. I've heard other people [who have studied his photos extensively] say he raises the midtones just slightly so i've tried all different ways but still cannot achieve the expected result.
  4. The reflective surface of a car may produce a high contrast scene where correct exposure is important, but it shouldn't be too hard to obtain good results with a modern digital sensor and Lightroom's capabilities.

    If you don't want to do shadow recovery in Lightroom, you'll have to expose more, but then you run the risk of blowing out the highlights, which is generally harder to correct. Are you shooting raw or jpg? If you are shooting jpg, try a different profile, like "flat", "neutral", or whatever low contrast profile your camera has. If you shoot raw, you can also select a lower contrast camera profile to start with in Lightroom.

    I wouldn't sweat lifting the shadows slightly in Lightroom if necessary, most of the times I am able to get quite good results.
  5. Histograms, if your camera displays them, are your friend. So is a spot meter. As said above, digital is intolerant of overexposure, very much like the old slide films. Worse, overexposure can make post processing more difficult. IMO, exposing for the shadows isn't a good strategy.
  6. Try bracketing exposure on a tripod.
  7. I just recently switched to overexposing but I at times only shoot maybe half to two thirds stop over if it's a high contrast scene. I do shoot raw and recently started shooting either neutral or monochrome (depending on lighting situation and have picture profile set as a shortcut. Yeah I just thought, because I have a sigma art 35mm and a capable sony body, i should be able to underexpose more than I usually could because it should be able to handle shadow noise but at times, when I push shadows all the way to 100, I can see visible noise in either color or lifted shadows. So I'm like crap, no can do. That's when I started looking into overexposure and trying to retain information for shadows areas at the time of the shot, so I'm forcing data that's not there in post processing.
  8. I always have my histogram on. What's the difference of spot metering though in comparison with center weighted? I experimented with it one time and tried to see what the differences were. There were barely any differences.
  9. I would but at car events, people will walk in front of the camera and i'm not one to shoot long exposure because I still want bokeh so I go handheld.
  10. In the digital RAW file you can usually recover dark shadows, but overexposed, burnt-out areas will be just that, forever.

    In scanning my slides, I discovered that underexposed "seconds" could be corrected in RAW (or other shadow manipulation software) so that I could rediscover why I took them in the first place.
  11. It can be a PITA but spot metering lets you know how bright the highlights are and how dark the shadows are. In a perfect world you'd then adjust the lighting to keep the range within what you can photograph without overexposure or noise. You might also try HDR imaging to combine multiple exposures. Most HDR images I see are over-enhanced and dreadful (to me), but there's no law that says you have to make it look that way. Of course that needs a tripod. Not sure if software aligns things well enough for a monopod, but worth investigating.
  12. Spot metering must be used with a concept of the native reflectance of various surfaces. This comes with experience. For example, an 18% gray card, green grass, barn red and open blue sky are roughly equal. Shrubbery is about one stop darker, asphalt about one stop brighter, and concrete two stops brighter. Cars at an auto show can be any place on the exposure map. You can also measure highlights with a spot meter, so that areas in which you need detail are no more than 3 or 4 stops over, letting the shadows take care of themselves.

    The best overall results are with matrix metering. You must be cognizant of hightlights which can offset the exposure, or be overexposed. Specular highlights, like reflections of the sun or lights, can be ignored, as long as they don't cause gross underexposure. Center-weighted metering is neither as precise as spot metering, nor as forgiving as Matrix metering. I use it with caution when the subject is against a very bright or very dark background. Where people are involved, it's always better to expose for the faces, using a spot meter or (preferably) an incident light meter.
  13. I see absolutely no problem here! I have a lot of practice and 10 years of experience with digital. Also, your question has no concrete answer: we do not know your camera, lighting, car's colour, BG colour, etc. Get a camera with broad dynamic range OF 14 EV and all. Meter by the car's body. Here is a photo taken by a super-primitive entry-level Olympus E-420 with the narrowest dynamic range of 8.5 EV in the strongest sunlight.

    stuart_pratt likes this.
  14. broadly, I tend to expose for the highlights, or at least the highest values I want to have detail and let shadows go black. Its the same approach we were taught shooting slide film. I use the spot meter and the EV on my camera with the EV being WYSWYG and I can pretty quickly dial in a workable exposure using my eyes. It seems to work pretty well in most situations.
  15. You can do bracketing without long exposure in reasonably to brightly lit conditions. No more than a fast click, click, click. I dont know what camera you are using, but many modern dslrs have the feature built into the cameras and dynamic range has been improving. Some cameras have better dynamic range than others also.

    Shooting at car shows can be difficult if you want shots of just the car without people. I like the cars to look natural in a natural setting, not parked in a row with dozens of cars with hoods up and signs and trophies lined up by the front bumper and a guy in a folding lawn chair in front of the car. While it can give you some nice shots of the engine, you aren't getting the same look you might see in a car magazine. But it is what it is. Some venues are better than others.

    One of the local towns in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Hatboro shuts the main street of the town down for a classic car show one day in July. That is a show I enjoy attending, if you get there early you can catch the cars rolling in looking very natural on the street before the hoods go up. LINK
  16. Many cameras (e.g., Nikon D3) will let you set up a bracketed exposure. In "High Speed" mode, all the shots in the bracket will be taken with a single press of the shutter release. The process goes so quickly, you don't need a tripod in good light. There will be some variation in position, but Photomatix and AuroraHD crop the results automatically. Be sure to use Aperture Priority, and if the light isn't so good use Auto ISO.
  17. The Fuji has a similar feature.
  18. I would be more concerned with the lighting than camera exposure setting. I wouldn't use a meter at all and use the camera in manual not using the meter. For the camera settings you can just try and see what you get. It's easy. But the light must be right in order to get a picture that show everything well.
  19. add artificial light - no problems there, you need not HDR: it looks unnatural and dated in 2019 you need a good camera.
  20. I tend to agree with Ruslan, although for clarity I would stress that I am not a professional and do not photograph shiny cars. You should really be having no significant issues with a modern (ish) digital body. Most should have sufficient dynamic range to cope with shadows and highlights of an object in full sun. Sure there will be some noise in the deepest shadows, but you would need to pixel peep to see it. If you want to get some light in the shadows, consider fill flash as others have suggested, but this in itself would be a learning curve with polished metal! It sounds from your description of over exposing by ‘a few stops’ that you are trying to retain detail in the shadows at the cost of highlights, which would almost certainly blow out with a 'few stops' extra exposure, assuming an initially ‘correct’ exposure. As for your question specifically, if you bias your exposure towards a light object in a dark background (i.e you meter mostly from the light object), your light object (in your case a car) becomes darker, and so do your shadows. Remember your ‘average grey’. Whatever you point your meter at is rendered as an average grey – if that is white it becomes average grey, if it is black it becomes average grey, if it is average grey it becomes….. hey, you get the idea). This has the opposite effect to that which you are seeking (i.e retained shadow detail).
    ruslan likes this.

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