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Photographing White Wildlife
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Apr 14, 2019 15:45:41   #
tiphareth51
 
This was originally posted in the main photography forum.
Thank you to Linda from Maine for your suggestion to post here on the PP forum.

"Requesting help please! I am having difficulty photographing birds (both large and small) that are primarily white in color. In some areas the white is blown out while other areas seem okay. Is exposure compensation the answer to this problem? What do you pro's recommend? Your suggestions are very appreciated! Samples below. Thank you. Nikon D750 with 200-500, F5.6 lens."

This is the original nef version that has been resized to fit forum rules. By posting here, I do grant permission for others to alter or enhance and then repost this (bloody, messy) image.

Thank you!


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Apr 14, 2019 16:16:15   #
kymarto
 
Yes. You will probably need to compensate between 1-2 EV with matrix metering depending on the size of the white birds and the rest of the scene. With the D750 you have quite a bit of headroom if you are shooting raw, and should be able to bring all the highlights back in PP. Or bring up the shadows if you expose strictly for highlights. If you are shooting jpg you are pretty much shooting yourself in the foot. Another way to go is to spot meter the white birds and open up about 1.5 stops, just like shooting snow. Again, shooting raw is by far your best bet, as the dynamic range between shadows and white birds is too much for any jpg.

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Apr 14, 2019 16:46:15   #
l-fox
 
tiphareth51 --

Your image was a JPG, not a NEF. I used ACR from within PS Elements 10 to work mostly on exposure. Next, corrected for color caste (just in case) even thought I'm not sure I saw any. All other was done with LEVELS.

I depended on my experience with Canada Geese on my pond to help achieve what I hope looks good on your monitor.

No other processing was done, though you should level the pic (note the water line) and crop out the water at the top.

-- Larry


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Apr 14, 2019 16:55:44   #
Linda From Maine (a regular here)
 
Welcome, Tip! Kymarto and the folks in your other topic have given you the information you need for shooting - confirming you were on the right path.

I wanted to suggest that this scene needs a gentle touch and selective edits (I use layers in PS Elements). For example, I selectively darkened/lightened parts of the swan + selectively added structure to just the swan. The background is very busy and should be kept subdued IMO.

You can go cooler/blue or warmer/red, depending on how you want the scene to feel.

I might have messed up the aspect - my swan is taller and skinnier than yours in the other thread, but the detail is definitely there


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Apr 14, 2019 17:55:49   #
SalvageDiver
 
I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlights so it appears that you didn't exceed the dynamic range of your sensor. I didn't find the bird missing detail. The brightest area was the left wing, but there is still detail there.

I used LR, but I see you used paintshop pro so I don't know exactly how this translates. I made global adjustments then masked the swan, adjusting exposure, clarity and blackpoint to get the bird to match the background exposure and bring out the feather details.

I would have used a lower ISO since you had plenty of light to preserve a little more detail. You could have shot at ISO 100 instead of 400 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 rather than 1/4000.

I agree with Kymarto, compensating with a 1-1.5 EV should prevent clipping your highlights. You can also check your histogram after the shot if you're not rushed.

I also highly recommend Steve Perry's book.

Hope this helps
Mike


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Apr 14, 2019 20:05:46   #
luvmypets
 
There is an excellent B&H video on YouTube instructed by Charles Glatzer called How To Correctly Expose and Post Snow scenes. (This: https://youtu.be/mvT9TlurUy8 - Linda)

In this video he talks about how to expose for white animals as well. The video is almost 2 hours long but very informative and he is a very entertaining speaker. I think you will find the answers you are looking for in this video. He has several other videos as well that are equally as informative and entertaining.

Best wishes in your journey to find that perfect exposure

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Apr 15, 2019 07:52:39   #
Linda From Maine (a regular here)
 
SalvageDiver wrote:
I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlights so it appears that you didn't exceed the dynamic range of your sensor. I didn't find the bird missing detail. The brightest area was the left wing, but there is still detail there.

I used LR, but I see you used paintshop pro so I don't know exactly how this translates. I made global adjustments then masked the swan, adjusting exposure, clarity and blackpoint to get the bird to match the background exposure and bring out the feather details.

I would have used a lower ISO since you had plenty of light to preserve a little more detail. You could have shot at ISO 100 instead of 400 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 rather than 1/4000.

I agree with Kymarto, compensating with a 1-1.5 EV should prevent clipping your highlights. You can also check your histogram after the shot if you're not rushed.

I also highly recommend Steve Perry's book.

Hope this helps
Mike
I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlight... (show quote)
Beautiful work!

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Apr 15, 2019 10:17:34   #
abc1234 (a regular here)
 
Tiphareth51, your post has an important lesson: above anything else, make sure your exposure is right. As has been pointed out, this shot is very underexposed. The time to fix that is when you are taking the picture. LR is merely remedial afterthought. We are so lucky today to view our shots immediately. Take your picture, review it and adjust as needed. If your camera has autobracketing, consider using that to improve your eye for proper exposure. Try three exposures at -1, 0 and +1 stops with 0 determined by one of your autoexposure modes. Once you get more comfortable with exposure, then you can try shutter or aperture priority or even manual.

Good luck and keep posting.

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Apr 15, 2019 11:04:18   #
RRS
 
SalvageDiver wrote:
I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlights so it appears that you didn't exceed the dynamic range of your sensor. I didn't find the bird missing detail. The brightest area was the left wing, but there is still detail there.

I used LR, but I see you used paintshop pro so I don't know exactly how this translates. I made global adjustments then masked the swan, adjusting exposure, clarity and blackpoint to get the bird to match the background exposure and bring out the feather details.

I would have used a lower ISO since you had plenty of light to preserve a little more detail. You could have shot at ISO 100 instead of 400 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 rather than 1/4000.

I agree with Kymarto, compensating with a 1-1.5 EV should prevent clipping your highlights. You can also check your histogram after the shot if you're not rushed.

I also highly recommend Steve Perry's book.

Hope this helps
Mike
I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlight... (show quote)


Well done, you even got rid of the little noise that was there. As long as the white area is not blown out there are so many ways to "Skin the cat".

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Apr 15, 2019 11:06:13   #
Linda From Maine (a regular here)
 
abc1234 wrote:
... this shot is very underexposed...The time to fix that is when you are taking the picture.
Salvagediver did the heavy lifting and checked the histogram in his editor. He reported, "I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlights so it appears that you didn't exceed the dynamic range of your sensor. I didn't find the bird missing detail. The brightest area was the left wing, but there is still detail there. "

Since detail was retained in both shadows and highlights, the exposure works. Could he have shot this a little brighter and still retained feather details? Looks like yes, which is why bracketing, as you mentioned, is a good idea if time permits.

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Apr 15, 2019 12:56:20   #
abc1234 (a regular here)
 
Linda From Maine wrote:
Salvagediver did the heavy lifting and checked the histogram in his editor. He reported, "I didn't find any clipping of shadows or highlights so it appears that you didn't exceed the dynamic range of your sensor. I didn't find the bird missing detail. The brightest area was the left wing, but there is still detail there. "

Since detail was retained in both shadows and highlights, the exposure works. Could he have shot this a little brighter and still retained feather details? Looks like yes, which is why bracketing, as you mentioned, is a good idea if time permits.
Salvagediver did the heavy lifting and checked the... (show quote)


Good questions. I find that in cases like this, I get more noise and less detail than with proper exposure. Between raw's and LR, the exposure latitude is easily +/- one stop from "perfect". In other words, you do not have to have "perfect" exposure so close is often good enough. I also find that what looks perfect on the camera is not so in LR. That is the difference in the technology. Just be aware.

Bracketing. I am only familiar with the Canon 60D and 80D. You pick the exposure compensation to what you like and then set the amount of bracketing above and below that. Next, set your shutter mode to continuous or high-speed continuous. You ready to shoot. Press and hold down the shutter until all three pictures are shot and there they are. All in less than a second.

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Apr 15, 2019 13:32:45   #
Linda From Maine (a regular here)
 
abc1234 wrote:
Good questions. I find that in cases like this, I get more noise and less detail than with proper exposure. Between raw's and LR, the exposure latitude is easily +/- one stop from "perfect". In other words, you do not have to have "perfect" exposure so close is often good enough. I also find that what looks perfect on the camera is not so in LR. That is the difference in the technology. Just be aware.

Bracketing. I am only familiar with the Canon 60D and 80D. You pick the exposure compensation to what you like and then set the amount of bracketing above and below that. Next, set your shutter mode to continuous or high-speed continuous. You ready to shoot. Press and hold down the shutter until all three pictures are shot and there they are. All in less than a second.
Good questions. I find that in cases like this, I... (show quote)
Good point about the speed at which auto-bracketing works

Also a good point about severely under-exposed images and noise. OP's pic looks darker than it really is. A one-stop adjustment appeared to do the trick in an editor, and then there were just the selective tweaks. The negative EC (exposure compensation) helped assure her goal of retaining feather detail.

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Apr 15, 2019 17:13:32   #
SalvageDiver
 
I agree with most of the replies here. Not using the EC would have helped the exposure and reduced a little noise after PP. However, if you're running and gunning to get the shots, an image with a little noise is better than an image with clipped highlights. Personally, I would go with the EC if I were using a DSLR or shoot raw. With my mirrorless, I have a live histogram in the viewfinder which is a big help.

The other improvement in image quality would have been to use a lower ISO and a lower shutter speed. I can see more noise at ISO 400 when compared to ISO 100. The higher ISO also reduces the sensor's dynamic range. A double whammy.

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