License: Creative Commons - Attribution Author: Lenny K Photography
Hi team! Here's a tip I wanted to share with you that you may or may not already know to help you get the best out of those high contrast sunset scenes.
Problem - We can see that in this super high contrast scene it is difficult to expose the photograph correctly. Focusing on the the surfer will wipe out the highlights (ie the colors of the sunset) and conversely exposing for the highlights will destroy the detail in the surfer / trees and darker parts of the photo. So what can we do?
Solution - If we had a tripod, we can take multiple photos, an underexposed photo (or more than 1) for the 'highlights', a normally exposed photo, and an 'overexposed' photo (or multiple) for the detail in the darker sections. Since our images we be aligned due to the use of our tripod, we then can bring these photos into Photoshop and combine them using the HDR (high dynamic range) tool or use Photomatix. Photoshop knows to stack the photos and to combine the highlight details in the underexposed photo with the shadow details in the overexposed photo. This will result in a hybrid 'HDR' photo curing our problem. If we're up for the challenge and wanted a higher degree of precision we can manually blend these photos or if we have some level of OCD like myself we can use the power of luminosity masking to help us. I won't go into this topic more can be read about it here
But what if we don't have a tripod (or flash or filters)? I personally would go with slightly under exposing the image to capture as much of the sunset as possible.
I do this for a number of reasons:
1. It increases our shutter speed resulting in a sharper image depending on our camera technique
2. Naturally the eye skips over the shadowed areas of a photo and is drawn to marvel at the lighter parts of an image.
3. I can live with losing the detail in the surfer but I can't sacrifice losing the sunset makes up the majority of the photo.
By shooting in RAW we have great flexibility in recovering some part of the shadows, however we must be aware that by doing this will incur noise to creep into our photo. We would then need to do some noise removal or Photoshop techniques to eradicate this noise.
A further read regarding the limitations of underexposing vs overexposing can be found here
Thanks heaps for your support and for following!
Much love and respect from www.lennykphotography.com