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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> What is causing this, how do I fix it?
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11/04/2006 05:27:06 PM · #1
I am struggling with beach portraits. :o( High noon I don't seem to have much of a problem, but morning and evenings I do. (Here is my post from yesterday asking for help with fill flash at sunset.)

The problem I am having on several pics is it looks washed out; it lacks contrast BIGTIME.

Here is an example, I posted the EXIF info. For this shot I used my 420ex flash and lightsphere, pointed directly at my subjects. I metered off the sky, locked the exposure, recomposed and shot. This is the unedited JPEG. (I also shot RAW) The pics seem to have the same problem whether or not I used the flash. The light was strong off to the left,just outside of the frame, about 1hr prior to sundown. I had my lens hood on.

422452.jpg

I am sure I can fix it up somewhat in Photoshop....but I REALLY want to get it right out of the camera.

Thanks for any help on what to do!


11/04/2006 05:36:59 PM · #2
I think the previous examples were showing something much closer to sunset, which is a totally different lighting condition.

What I see here is lens flare. You'll note the spot next to the fathers face. This will usually cause the contrast problems you were having, but the scene overall does seem simply overexposed, really.

How do you know you were metering off of the sky? I'm not totally familiar with the 20d, but I don't belive the spot metering moves with the chosen focus point, it stays in the center, actually it's more like 5% center weighted if I remember right. (which I probably don't)
11/04/2006 05:41:09 PM · #3
Originally posted by wavelength:

I think the previous examples were showing something much closer to sunset, which is a totally different lighting condition.

What I see here is lens flare. You'll note the spot next to the fathers face. This will usually cause the contrast problems you were having, but the scene overall does seem simply overexposed, really.

How do you know you were metering off of the sky? I'm not totally familiar with the 20d, but I don't belive the spot metering moves with the chosen focus point, it stays in the center, actually it's more like 5% center weighted if I remember right. (which I probably don't)


I agree, it does look overexposed. I aimed at the sky, locked the exposure, recomposed my shot and fired. I don't have spot metering on the 20d. So am I just trying to shoot with TOO much backlighting/sidelighting. It was really bright, especially the glare coming up off the water. Thank you :) You were editing a shot that had the same problem where the dad was super washed out.
420839.jpg

I don't think I want to do any beach portraits till I get this right.
11/04/2006 05:54:06 PM · #4
yeah, the 20d uses a partial meter. Even when set on spot, you'll be on the partial metering circle. You'll have to point the camera at the sky first on say P mode and see what the camera tells you.

Change the program setting till you have an shutter of about 125, and record the f/.

At this point, all you have to do is figure out what to do with the flash. Since you'll have to use full manual to balance the sky vs. the flashed area (subjects) The shutter speed will control the exposure of the sky, while the f/ will control the exposure of the flash (roughly). Alternately, you can set the manual setting to underexpose the sky a bit (so, get the exposure and minus a stop of shutter or f/) and then manually adjust the ev on your flash (not the camera) until the fill results are good.

The 20d only has a 1/250th flash sync, so any faster shutter than that will cause the flash to fall off because you're getting only a partial cycle of the light.

Now go practice on a trashcan or something before your next shoot, or hope your next clients are patient.
11/04/2006 05:56:57 PM · #5
Thank you! I definitely just need to go practice on a trash can...LOL
11/04/2006 06:09:26 PM · #6
I assume you are using a hood when shooting. I have had a similar problem on some shots. The exposure on the subject matter is not way off, but the overall picture looks washed out. I found a lot of the problem being flare in the lens. I really picked up on it the other day when shooting some portraits. The view through the camera looked a little washed out. I put my hand up to shade the lens and sure enough, I could see a big difference through the camera.
11/04/2006 06:32:18 PM · #7
Originally posted by igoofry:

I assume you are using a hood when shooting. I have had a similar problem on some shots. The exposure on the subject matter is not way off, but the overall picture looks washed out. I found a lot of the problem being flare in the lens. I really picked up on it the other day when shooting some portraits. The view through the camera looked a little washed out. I put my hand up to shade the lens and sure enough, I could see a big difference through the camera.


Bingo!

You really need to use the hood with the 24-70. The second bit of advice is, if you used a filter, remove it! I've been in several situations with this lens using a filter (*with* the hood!), and experiencing strong loss of contrast that was easily visible in the viewfinder. Removing the filter helped immensely.
11/04/2006 06:36:41 PM · #8
Originally posted by JRalston:

Thank you! I definitely just need to go practice on a trash can...LOL

I was going to suggest something similar. Rocks, woodie, etc. If you did also shoot in RAW, try bringing up the exposure and shadow contrast in that shot. It looks like in THAT shot, you were shooting to much into the sun. Try turning the subjects so the sun is somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees to the subject or, if you want the sun behind the subject, have THEM act as blockers.
11/04/2006 06:37:49 PM · #9
I was using the hood and did not have a filter on. The other day, however, I did have a polarizing filter on. So flare is the problem it seems. I guess the sky was to bright for the hood even. So is moving my subjects the only way around this or is shielding the lens with your hand or some cardboard an effective means?

I will do some practicing with the flash, reguardless. I am scared of flash....mostly because I do not understand it very well.
11/04/2006 06:40:41 PM · #10
Originally posted by MrEd:

Originally posted by JRalston:

Thank you! I definitely just need to go practice on a trash can...LOL

I was going to suggest something similar. Rocks, woodie, etc. If you did also shoot in RAW, try bringing up the exposure and shadow contrast in that shot. It looks like in THAT shot, you were shooting to much into the sun. Try turning the subjects so the sun is somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees to the subject or, if you want the sun behind the subject, have THEM act as blockers.


Thank you. The sun was too bright at that time (and a bit to high in the sky)to use them as blockers. It was so bright, last night, that you could barely make out clouds in the sky. I was a bit chicken to let the sun set more. As I mentioned, I am just not great with a flash!

You guys are awesome. I really appreciate all the great advice you always give me. I have much to learn!
11/04/2006 06:44:28 PM · #11
Originally posted by JRalston:


I will do some practicing with the flash, reguardless. I am scared of flash....mostly because I do not understand it very well.


You'll only learn it with practice. :-) TTL flash can be tricky.

One question: When you say "lock the exposure" are you talking about AE lock? This could be part of the problem, as the flash TTL also wants to lock AE on the sky, blowing the foreground. Metering the sky in manual mode will give ya more predictable results.
11/04/2006 06:52:33 PM · #12
In the other post you made asking how to meter the flash for sunsets, 21.gif dwterry posted this shot 385813.jpg. See how low the sun is and where the sun is in relation to the camera? Looks to be about 90 degrees to the right :)

Message edited by author 2006-11-04 18:53:14.
11/04/2006 06:53:45 PM · #13
Originally posted by MrEd:

In the other post you made asking how to meter the flash for sunsets, 21.gif dwterry posted this shot 385813.jpg. See how low the sun is and where the sun is in relation to the camera? Looks to be about 90 degrees to the right :)


Good point
11/04/2006 06:55:23 PM · #14
Originally posted by JRalston:

... So is moving my subjects the only way around this or is shielding the lens with your hand or some cardboard an effective means?


You can definitely get some added benefit from shielding the lens with something like a piece of cardboard. You need to get the "shield" to shadow the entire lens hood opening. When the sun is very close to in-frame, it will be quite difficult to do so without it intruding into the frame.
11/04/2006 07:44:57 PM · #15
I shot this at sunset. I waited until the sun set behind the cliffs behind me and relied mostly on flash to light the subject. 580ex in an umbrella to my left, that's it (couldn't use a reflector anyways due to the water coming in on the right). All manual settings, underexposed the ambiant light to make it a little darker, and exposed them a bit brighter to make them "pop."

391120.jpg

Edit: forgot the photo, duh!

Message edited by author 2006-11-04 19:45:22.
11/04/2006 08:45:26 PM · #16
Here are some more examples. All of these are shot with an off-camera flash (the 420EX) as a slave off to the side. My 580EX is on camera and is being used to trigger the slave. Except on the big group shots. On those, I actually pointed the 580EX at the people because I knew I needed a *lot* of light to combat the strong sunlight that was still present. So both the 580EX and the 420EX are being used to light the group shots.

237972.jpg - 422559.jpg - 422562.jpg - 422573.jpg - 422574.jpg

11/04/2006 09:15:11 PM · #17
Its over exposed you need to meter for the highlight area (sky o9r beach area ) and set your flash -1stop down from this to get the correct ratios
11/05/2006 01:24:13 AM · #18
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

Originally posted by JRalston:


I will do some practicing with the flash, reguardless. I am scared of flash....mostly because I do not understand it very well.


You'll only learn it with practice. :-) TTL flash can be tricky.

One question: When you say "lock the exposure" are you talking about AE lock? This could be part of the problem, as the flash TTL also wants to lock AE on the sky, blowing the foreground. Metering the sky in manual mode will give ya more predictable results.


I am using that little asterisk * sign. So, when I aim at the sky, I push that button and it keeps the same f/stop and shutter speed despite recomposing the shot. Hope that came out clear enough to explain what I am doing..LOL

So, you are saying when I do that flash is also exposing for the sky? If that was the case, wouldn't it give off less flash because the sky is so bright? I am sorry if I am sounding stupid! I am just trying to understand everything :)

I might as well ask for suggestions here.......anyone know any good flash photography books? LOL
11/05/2006 01:26:32 AM · #19
Originally posted by Telehubbie:

I shot this at sunset. I waited until the sun set behind the cliffs behind me and relied mostly on flash to light the subject. 580ex in an umbrella to my left, that's it (couldn't use a reflector anyways due to the water coming in on the right). All manual settings, underexposed the ambiant light to make it a little darker, and exposed them a bit brighter to make them "pop."

391120.jpg

Edit: forgot the photo, duh!


This looks amazing!!! It is a million times better than mine!
11/05/2006 01:28:26 AM · #20
Originally posted by dwterry:

Here are some more examples. All of these are shot with an off-camera flash (the 420EX) as a slave off to the side. My 580EX is on camera and is being used to trigger the slave. Except on the big group shots. On those, I actually pointed the 580EX at the people because I knew I needed a *lot* of light to combat the strong sunlight that was still present. So both the 580EX and the 420EX are being used to light the group shots.

237972.jpg - 422559.jpg - 422562.jpg - 422573.jpg - 422574.jpg


Excellent, DW! You have also done an excellent job working with the dogs. They can be a pain..LOL! Once I master using my 420ex, it looks like the 580 would make a nice addition to my bag.

I know I am probably making this harder than it is, it is just so overwhelming!
11/05/2006 01:41:47 AM · #21
Originally posted by JRalston:

I am using that little asterisk * sign. So, when I aim at the sky, I push that button and it keeps the same f/stop and shutter speed despite recomposing the shot.


AHA!

I know what's going wrong. Your camera knows that the flash is turned on. So it is purposely setting the shutter speed at 1/250th of a second. You are in Aperture Priority mode and set the Aperture to f/5.6, so the camera is going to honor that. But 1/250th and f/5.6 is TOO MUCH LIGHT. The camera would have picked a faster shutter speed, but because the flash was turned on, it was forced to pick 1/250th as the maximum. Therefore, the camera let in too much light.

Two solutions:

1) Your flash has a High Speed mode (more about this later). It's the letter "H" you see on the right side of the unit. Move the switch to H. This lets your camera pick a shutter speed that is FASTER that 1/250th.

2) Alternatively, switch to manual mode. Set the shutter speed to 1/250th and then turn your aperture down until you can see a proper exposure on the scale inside the view finder. You might even want to under expose the sky just a bit.


11/05/2006 01:42:40 AM · #22
You have received good advise on your solution. I would only add to observe the histrogram after each shot. It looks like it is right hand heavy in this case.

Another thing you can do is go right up with the d20 and merely check exposure, like a feet away from the subjects face.

Message edited by author 2006-11-05 01:44:17.
11/05/2006 01:50:39 AM · #23
Explanation of High Speed mode on your flash:

The reason cameras have a "sync speed" is because there is a limit to how fast the shutter curtains travel across the opening over the film or sensor. At 1/250th on the 20D (or 1/200th on the 5D), the speed of the curtains is such that the entire sensor is exposed for the duration of the exposure.

To get a faster shutter speed, what happens is that the 2nd curtain begins to shut before the first curtain has finished traveling across the sensor. At the fastest possible shutter speed, the 2nd curtain is just millimeters away from the 1st curtain. Meaning that only a sliver of light gets in as the shutter curtains move across the sensor at 1/250th of a second.

The effect of this is a proper exposure for normal lighting conditions. But what happens when you use a flash whose duration is LESS than the shutter speed? At faster shutter speeds, the sensor is not entirely exposed for the duration of the flash. So you get a dark band across the top or bottom of the image (the part that wasn't exposed by the flash).

So how does High Speed mode work?

Contrary to what you might expect - it works by SLOWING DOWN the flash!!! It makes the flash stay on longer so that the shutter has more time to travel across the sensor.

So High Speed mode can be a life saver when you just have to shoot in bright sun light and can't get the shutter speed down to 1/250th of a second or below. But it also means you're going to chew through batteries faster because the unit is having to use more energy per flash. So use it when you need it. But turn it off when you don't.


11/05/2006 01:53:08 AM · #24
Originally posted by dwterry:

Originally posted by JRalston:

I am using that little asterisk * sign. So, when I aim at the sky, I push that button and it keeps the same f/stop and shutter speed despite recomposing the shot.


AHA!

I know what's going wrong. Your camera knows that the flash is turned on. So it is purposely setting the shutter speed at 1/250th of a second. You are in Aperture Priority mode and set the Aperture to f/5.6, so the camera is going to honor that. But 1/250th and f/5.6 is TOO MUCH LIGHT. The camera would have picked a faster shutter speed, but because the flash was turned on, it was forced to pick 1/250th as the maximum. Therefore, the camera let in too much light.

Two solutions:

1) Your flash has a High Speed mode (more about this later). It's the letter "H" you see on the right side of the unit. Move the switch to H. This lets your camera pick a shutter speed that is FASTER that 1/250th.

2) Alternatively, switch to manual mode. Set the shutter speed to 1/250th and then turn your aperture down until you can see a proper exposure on the scale inside the view finder. You might even want to under expose the sky just a bit.


I was just outside practicing. I found inconsistent results when I was playing around in Av mode. Manual was much more reliable. I practiced messing the the aperture and shutter speeds to get better exposure. I will keep practicing till it becomes more natural.

High speed mode? So that is what the H is for...LOL
11/05/2006 01:58:13 AM · #25
Originally posted by dwterry:

Explanation of High Speed mode on your flash:

The reason cameras have a "sync speed" is because there is a limit to how fast the shutter curtains travel across the opening over the film or sensor. At 1/250th on the 20D (or 1/200th on the 5D), the speed of the curtains is such that the entire sensor is exposed for the duration of the exposure.

To get a faster shutter speed, what happens is that the 2nd curtain begins to shut before the first curtain has finished traveling across the sensor. At the fastest possible shutter speed, the 2nd curtain is just millimeters away from the 1st curtain. Meaning that only a sliver of light gets in as the shutter curtains move across the sensor at 1/250th of a second.

The effect of this is a proper exposure for normal lighting conditions. But what happens when you use a flash whose duration is LESS than the shutter speed? At faster shutter speeds, the sensor is not entirely exposed for the duration of the flash. So you get a dark band across the top or bottom of the image (the part that wasn't exposed by the flash).

So how does High Speed mode work?

Contrary to what you might expect - it works by SLOWING DOWN the flash!!! It makes the flash stay on longer so that the shutter has more time to travel across the sensor.

So High Speed mode can be a life saver when you just have to shoot in bright sun light and can't get the shutter speed down to 1/250th of a second or below. But it also means you're going to chew through batteries faster because the unit is having to use more energy per flash. So use it when you need it. But turn it off when you don't.


So how fast of a shutter speed can you use for high speed? Am I correct that it is not often you will need to use high speed?
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