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Old Jun 6, 2005, 1:41 AM   #1
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I use the Cannon Rebel 300D, please look at these un-edited photos and tell me what you think. What am I doing wrong, it looks like they are over exposing. What settings would you used for shots like these in bright sun behind you and how would you go about cleaning them up?


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Old Jun 6, 2005, 2:07 AM   #2
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Proper exposure with a digital camera(or any camera for that matter)is a matter of compromise. Your sensor can only capture 5 stops of light, if the scene you are trying to capture exceeds this you will get pure white or pure black on each end of this exposure range. You as the photographer have to decide which end of the photo you want to lose. You can narrow this range with the use of split neutral density filters, or taking multiple exposures and combining them in Photoshop or other editing programs.
Using your histogram will help you decide which end of the dynamic range of your sensor will be over or under exposed.
Now on to your photos. They were taken somewhere near midday when the sun was high in the sky. Shadows will be harshest, the dynamic range of light to dark will be at it's maximum. Midday unfortunately is the worst time to take pictures, it's just best to avoid photography at this time of day. The best times are the first 2 hours of light in the morning and the last 2 hours of light in the evening. Sometimes though, you are forced to take photos in this harsh light. A polarizing filter will help take some of the harshness out of the light and darken the sky. Purposely underexposing by 1/3 stop or more will help increase saturation and reduce the harshness. Partial metering will help keep your subject properly exposed, but you have to remember that the scene has to fall within 5 stops of light or some of the scene will be rendered pure white or black.
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Old Jun 7, 2005, 6:17 PM   #3
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Use the histogram! You cannot use Photoshop to get detail back in overexposed areas. But you can use Photoshop to get details back, within reason, in underexposed areas. If you see the histogram showing a big spike on the right side, you've over exposed parts of your picture. If those are important to you, re-take the shot with a shorter shutter speed. You can later edit some details back into the shadowy areas.

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Old Jun 8, 2005, 9:23 AM   #4
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I suspect your images are correctly exposed. That is, if they were reduced to 18% gray, the exposures would be exactly correct. The 300D's Matrix metering does an excellent job of assessing the light coming through the lens. Of course, your subject is not an 18% gray card, so what to do?

EOSTHREE spelled out the problem precisely. The range of light that you see is greater than what your camera can record. It doesn't matter whether the cam is your 300D or a 1DsMkII, the limitations are the same.

Partial metering is one approach to high contrast situations. On your camera, as I recall, the only way to get partial metering is in Manual exposure mode. In that setting you adjust your shutter speed and aperture manually so that the exposure indicator in the viewfinder is in the center position. That "partial" meter just measures the center 10% or so of the image, so you point the camera where you want the best exposure, adjust shutter speed and aperture, then recompose the picture and shoot. This may sound like a lot of trouble, but you can get used to it. Some of us who started shooting with SLRs in the 60s were just happy when we got thru the lens metering!

Keep in mind that partial metering and manual exposure will assure that your desired subject is properly exposed. The extreme contrast of the scene will still cause part of it to be completely blown out to white and/or completely lost in dark shadows.

If all this manual stuff is not of interest to you, you can still do a couple of simple things, because the camera may be making the problem worse. Assuming that you are at least using the "creative" side of the dial--P, TV, AV, ADEP, you can change some default settings. If you are in full auto (green box or the little icons for portrait, landscape, etc.), then there is nothing that can be done. You've got to be in P, TV, AV, or ADEP:

Go to the menu screen and check the Parameter setting. If your cam is set to Parameter 1 (the factory default), it has increased contrast, saturation, and sharpening. The increased Contrast setting is making the highlights brighter and the shadows darker. Parameter 2 is the no-adjustment setting. Changing from Param 1 to 2 will help. Again, assuming that you haven't grossly exceeded the sensor's light recording range, you can go a step further by creating a custom parameter set. In this one, adjust contrast a notch or two BELOW the center. This can help with the final image, especiallyif you are shooting JPEGS which seem to have a lesser dynamic range tolerancethan RAW. You can always punch up the contrast later, but at least all the detail will be there.

Also, as eosthree suggested, setting your camera to -1/3 exposure compensation can help prevent lost highlights. The Canon sensor seems to do a better job retaining shadow detail than highlights. When I am shooting white birds, like Egrets, I use -1 full stop exp comp, to preserve the detail in the white subject. Some guys I know use -1/3 Exp Comp as their standard settings. Exposure compensation is only available in the Creative Zone, and is, of course, irrelevant in Manual (where you adjust the meter indicator yourself and can therefore under or over expose at will).

P.S. Don't let anyone tell you that the 300D is the problem. I have many, many spectacular nature shots with the 300D. Like any other camera, it is as good as the lens in front of it and the operator behind it.


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Old Jun 8, 2005, 1:59 PM   #5
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If you do have to take shots during midday hours, you can always use the sunny 16 rule. set your aperture to f16 and your shutter speed to what ever you have your ISO set to. This works only when the sun is out usually from about 2 hours after sunrise to about 2 hours before sunset. But it will give you perfect exposure everytime.
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