Proper Exposure with DSLR

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by shab_sadr, Oct 18, 2006.

  1. I have some experience shooting weddings and would like to shoot them
    professionally. I have a Nikon D70s and have a major problem with exposure.
    Many of my images have blown out highlights (often as a result of shooting group
    formals under direct sunlight). Many others (often during indoor reception) are
    underexposed and have a lot of shadow and midtone noise. I use a Sigma EG-500
    adjustable flash and often try to bounce it to avoid harsh lighting/shadows etc.
    How can I make sure my exposures are within range? I use the flash to fill
    under direct sun, but I still end up with blown out whites which are
    unrecoverable even in ACR. This requires major editing in post-production to
    ensure high quality images, and many rejected photos. Please help.
  2. I can see it now ... every answer will say SHOOT RAW!!!!
  3. well - shooting raw will help, but only if you are a bit over.

    why are you shooting overexposed images anyway?

    watch your histogram and adjust as necessary. increase your shutter speed and f-stop until your flesh tones are good, and then apply flash to fill in the shadows.

    your flash might not be good for fill in outdoors - I'm not sure how powerful it is...???

  4. Well, it's been called...

    Shooting RAW (at least with our 5D/20D's) gives us over 1 stop (1.3-1.7 stops, it appears to me) of extra room for the brights.

    We actually intentionally overexpose, to an extent, in order to give more detail/less noise in the shadows/darks.

    I tend to spot meter at +2/3 on the brightest thing I want to still have detail... such as the white wedding dress. The histogram (and the jpg) LOOK blown out many times, but once you open the RAW and bring it down, it actually looks cleaner.

    You may not want to intentionally overexpose, but shooting RAW will certainly help if you do, so long as you don't WAY overexpose.

    Also, another thing to consider with your outdoor/fill flash... Make sure that your shutter speed isn't being brought down in order to sync with the flash. I'm not sure what the sync speed on the D70 is, but on our canons we have to kick in the high speed sync above 1/200 (or 1/250 for 20D)... otherwise the flash will kick the shutter back down to 1/200, which could very well make your scene too bright.
  5. Sarah Quiara, "I can see it now ... every answer will say SHOOT RAW!!!!"

    ... and use manual metering!!!!

    But seriously, I still think every serious digicam photographer needs to read the two Adobe whitepapers on digital image capture:
    • Even if you never shoot RAW, they still help you understand what's going on between the sensor and the JPEG.


      Geoff S.
  6. First thing you need to do to improve your flash photography is get a Nikon flash, preferably the sb-800, but if money is an issue, the sb-600.

    I had a d70 and have the same problem. I was thrilled to loose the problem with my d200. Sell your d70 and upgrade to the d80 (equivalent to the d200) and you will virtually never have exposure issues again. It is rare that I get blown out highlights. You can easily make back the additional cost after 1 wedding.

    If you can't afford an upgrade, adjust your exposure compensation to -1 or -2 and adjust iin post processing.

    I know a lot of people shoot weddings with a d70. I loved my d70 but would never consider using it for event photography.

    Good luck!
  7. That sigma flash is a piece of C RAP! I could take two shots same time place and get two different results.

    Let me guess, you're shooting in program mode? Yes, no?
  8. Folks, thank you. First of all, I am shooting RAW. To check the histogram after the intitial exposure takes time- is it okay to make people wait around while I'm fine tuning? And how accurately can i guage my exposure from such a tiny LCD? I am beginning to wonder if maybe the sigma flash is a piece of crap, it seems inconsistent, even with its firing (and I've had a whole different slew of problems with that...). To meter manually am I orienting the focus area on the face in spot mode? How do I lock the exposure? I'm not a pro with the dig. cam. yet and seem to be tripping over my own feet a bit. Is upgrading camera and flash going to make all the difference?
  9. oh yeah, mostly I'm shooting in Aperature priority mode
  10. Shab, You need to grasp the basics of exposure. The 'brain/meter' in your camera sees the world as medium grey. Point it at black and it will 'overexpose' to make the black grey. Point it at white and it will 'underexpose' to make the white (you guessed it) grey. By using your bigger brain you can compensate for these exposure inadequacies of automation. You can give it + for the light subjects or - for the dark subjects. There are several ways to do this. Dial in plus or minus exposure or shoot in manual mode where you pick the shutter and aperture. Flash is just a more complex equation of the same kind. Good luck.
  11. A Nikon SB-800 will certainly be better integrated with the D70's metering system than the Sigma. Nikon flash integration is unsurpassed in the industry.

    You can lock in the exposure with the AE-L button. You may have to program this button to work the way you want in special functions. I don't think this is necessary, however. Spot metering gives "spotty" results with flash ;-) If you are getting good non-flash exposures in Matrix mode, use this mode for flash too. I generally use compensation on the flash, depending on the environment. Inside, where the background tends to go black, I use -2/3 stop comp. Otherise, I use 0 comp.

    There may be another problem outside, at least with a Nikon flash. The presence of the flash on some cameras constrains the shutter between 1/60 and 1/250 (or the max sync speed). Depending on the aperture, you may inadvertently overexpose as a result.

    The LCD is useless for determining proper exposure, except for the Histogram function.

    If you use Adobe Camera Raw, you can recover 2 stops of overexposure without loss, and up to 4 stops in some cases.
  12. Lose the DSLR and shoot film. It is much more user friendly and requires almost zero post production.
  13. <<requires almost zero post production.>>

    Hahaha. Oh, that's funny Steve. Thank you for making my day.
  14. It's hard to be helpful since the information you seek would fill volumes. Sounds like you need to go back and study exposure theory and application--both ambient and flash. Any actual suggestions referencing settings and specific gear would only be temporary fixes and wouldn't really be helpful unless you understood the theory.

    For instance, most in camera meters will give you blown highlights in contrasty situations like outside in the bright sun because it is actually trying to find a happy medium between shadows and highlights when for digital, the better thing to do would be to expose for the highlights and fill the shadows.

    I can suggest that you try searching for the fill flash tutorials that we had here on this forum a little while back. Also read the article on on camera flash use at And, while hard to find, maybe try to search for some of the posts from Marc Williams re metering and flash metering. Here is one. Read his comments toward the bottom of the thread. He has a great way of simplifying things.

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