Tag Archives: Exposure compensation

My Approach to Shooting and Processing on Crappy Weather Days

This is the finished image. This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye (through the viewfinder) when I took the shot given how dark the sky was.

A rare arrival was due on a day that was not good from a weather perspective.  It was dull and rainy and so not what you would hope for.  Conditions like this mean I try to exploit some of the features of the camera and the processing options available.  First, how to set up the camera?  With the light being bad and variable, I went to a pretty high ISO level.  I shot in aperture priority mode and added a lot of exposure compensation.

In my experience, the metering is pretty good when shooting against the sky in clear weather but, when there is a lot of cloud, the camera tends to treat the clouds as too bright and it underexposes the subject too much.  I use a lot of exposure compensation in this case with a setting of +2.0 being used on this day.  The reason I do this is that, aside from the exposure question mark, there is a lot more information available in the lighter end of the exposure curve.  Shooting in RAW gives you options.

This is how the camera recorded the image. This is the in camera JPEG that I extracted from the RAW file using Instant Raw From JPEG.

If you were to look at the aircraft at the time, you would see a dark and menacing sky but you would see plenty of detail on the plane.  The camera does not see that for the original shot.  The aircraft would be very dark.  When processing, this dark area would give you something to work with but the variation in data would be more limited.  Shoot overexposed and you get more to work with.

This approach will only work well if you are shooting RAW.  If you are using JPEG, too much of the usable data will be discarded during the processing in the camera.  To show you what I mean, here are two images.  These are both from the same shot.  One is the RAW file as it showed up when imported in to Lightroom and the other is the embedded JPEG that you can extract from the RAW file and which can be seen when the file is first imported before the rendering is undertaken.  As you can see, the JPEG is over exposed but the RAW rendering seems even more so.

There is way more data in the RAW file though.  Immediately, as I bring the exposure slider back down, the clouds go from being white to quite dark – just as they appeared on the day.  Meanwhile, the fuselage of the aircraft has a lot of the data intact and maintains a lot of the brightness that you could see at the time.  Very little needs to be done with the blacks and they are almost in the right spot by the time the exposure is good for the clouds.  The fuselage might be a bit too dark though.  A small tweak of the blacks and a little boost in the shadows to compensate for too much darkening with the exposure slider and suddenly the shot is looking a lot more like it did when I saw it develop.

My RAW processing baseline always results in a slightly more overexposed shot the embedded JPEG includes. When you first open the image, the embedded image you see in the previous shot initially shows up and then it renders the RAW file. This was the initial RAW rendering prior to any adjustments.

One advantage of shooting on such a crummy day is that the sky is a giant softbox – in this case a very soft one!  The result is that the light is a lot more even than on a sunny day.  The darker look can actually make the colors look a bit more intense than if they were losing out to the whites when the sun is right on them.  While there was only one plane I was specifically there for, playing around with these other shots and working on the technique was a nice extra benefit.

After Dark! Testing the Low Light

AE7I2413.jpgThe real goal of my shoot after sunset was to see what is possible with the cameras.  An awful lot is written these days about the incredible low light capabilities of the latest cameras.  I am rather suspicious of some of the claims that are made so I was interested to see what could be done.  I have seen reviews in which people describe shooting with ISO settings and claiming they are absolutely clean – no noise!  I am imagining that there is a little bit of over enthusiasm in these claims.  No one wants to write a review that says nothing much has changed for fear that they won’t get to review the next camera.

AE7I2611.jpgConsequently, while I do expect some improvement in capabilities – particularly given I skip generations of cameras when buying my own – I am skeptical that they will be quite so dramatic.  Even so, I did anticipate some improvements from my previous bodies and I did get this.  I am not talking about noiseless shooting at ridiculous ISO settings.  I am able to work in a far higher range though.  It is worth noting that a blog post involves relatively low image sizes so the worst of the noise becomes less apparent.  Full size images are a lot more harsh.  (For this post I won’t focus on a previous issue of mine which is how printing is far more forgiving of noise than a screen is.)

AE7I2394.jpgA tricky issue with shooting as the light disappears is the use of exposure compensation.  From having some positive exposure comp during the day, as the night comes on, I go through normal exposure to having a bit of negative exposure compensation.  It is dark so the shots should be dark.  It shouldn’t look like daylight.  I ended up playing around with the settings a bit to see whether -1 to -2 should be used.  -2 ended up being a bit too much.  However, it is a bit of a guessing game depending on what you are shooting and how much light there is in the background.

AE7I2482.jpgOne good thing about these bodies is their ability to handle some post processing.  If the shots were a bit dark, boosting the exposure did not bring as much noise into the shot as I would have expected with my previous bodies.  I was able to mess around with them a lot more without things going horribly wrong.  I am not getting amazing shots (unless you are comparing them to what you could do in film or early digital days in which case this really should be considered amazing – that’s how spoilt we have become).  The contrast at night is harsh so things will always be a bit difficult.  However, you can get shots in some very difficult conditions.  You won’t get detail in the images like you expect in normal lighting but that really would be phenomenal!

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