Exposure Tips for Landscape Photographers
Okay, cool. So let's talk a little bit, let's kind of back up for a second 'cause I think a very important topic for us is exposure. When it comes to landscapes if you've ruined the exposure there's really no amount of editing that's ever gonna bring that back. So I want to talk a little bit about exposure. I want to tie it into a little bit about shooting, and then a little bit about the post-production and then talk a little bit about HDR too. So what I can give you is my feeling on exposure, in the field, is I bracket everything, okay? If you were to look at my grid when I come back from a photo shoot it's a lighted mess. Because it looks like I was all over the place. It looks like it's bright, it's dark, it's kinda in between. And that's because I bracket everything. I don't do it because I want to merge these into an HDR or anything later. I want to keep my workflow as simple as possible. And I know somebody had said this is all complicated stuff. Hopefully they'll hang in with u...
s because I think as you go through, as they go through the day, and if anybody's here, fill in, I think what you'll see is I do the same things over and over and over again. I mean there is... I probably haven't covered more than eight sliders here. So there's eight sliders that I use. But I have that workflow and I want to keep it simple. When it comes to my exposure, I want to keep that simple out in the field. The whole reason that I bracket everything is not to merge it into an HDR, it's not to bring it into Photoshop and layer on top of each other. That's the last resort and only if I ever have to. So the reason why I bracket everything is when I'm out in the field I don't want to look at a histogram. I want to look at color values. I don't want to look at the, I mean I'll have the blinkies on on my camera but I don't even want to look at that. I don't want to look at the LCD when I'm done taking a shot. When I'm out in the field, and this again is you've all been outside before, the light changes pretty fast. You've got a finite amount of time to capture all that great light that we go out there early in the morning or late in the evenings for. Or if it's a dramatic cloudy day, it changes in five seconds and it could never be, you know. The sun could poke out through a cloud and then be gone. So I want to capture that stuff fast. That's how I do it. I turn my camera on to auto-bracket mode. So auto-bracket, I do minus two, zero, plus two. That's plenty. You've all probably seen, done, or heard of somebody that's done minus nine, minus seven, minus eight. There's situations for that. A lot of interior architecture type of things where you got a bright, bright window, or something like that. But honestly, minus two, zero, plus two, gets me anything that I would ever need. So the way that I do it is I got my camera on the tripod. I walk around and I do what to me is the most important thing, that's composition. Composition and creativity. Find the right shot, okay? Composition is king amongst anything that's out there because when you get back to the computer there's not much you can do. If you put your camera down in front of a weed with a mountain in the background, and all this great light happened, and then 10 minutes later you saw a beautiful rock with maybe a tree in the foreground, and you wanted to go over there, you can't. You can't fix that in post. So composition. I put my camera down, I hit my cable release, click, click, click, I pick it up, I walk away. I'm done. I don't ever have to look at whether or not I nailed the shot. 'Cause I know I did. I know one of those photos will be it. If you look on the computer here, here's an example. Set my camera down, click, click, oh there, click, click, click. Dark, medium, super-bright. One captured all of the bright stuff. One captured kinda in the middle. And one captured all the dark stuff. So I know that one of those is it. So when it comes to this, if you look at my lightroom library you're gonna see a mess of three exposures for all of that. The reason why I'm talking about this is because I do keep it simple. I rarely ever edit all three of those. I usually just go to one. You've seen what we can pull out of one photo. I mean that photo, I was shooting into the sun, and you guys saw the detail that you can pull out of these photos. These cameras are amazing. If you've got a camera made in the last five years it's got a crazy, crazy amount of range inside of it that'll pull out those details. So if I can say anything it's don't stress that too much. If you're gonna bracket, if you're gonna do those things, I just do it 'cause I want to be creative. I know that I can meter and I can use the zone system, I can use all these different things to try to just make it in one shot but to me this is just easier. So once I get it on to the computer, how do you know which one to edit? Because I'm not gonna edit all three of these, okay? I'm not gonna edit all three and I'm not gonna worry about all three. I'm not gonna layer all three. What it usually becomes is just kind of the more you do it you'll start to know which photo to gravitate toward. So as I look at these I know this one has a good representation in the foreground and then what I'll usually do is I'll go to the Develop module and I'll play with the exposure a little bit. So here, look. I brought the exposure all the way down. You guys see that blah area back there? That's gone, that's overexposed. So this isn't a good candidate. Which means the brighter one's not gonna be a good candidate which means I'll go to this one. See, much better back there. So I'll go to this one because I know, look, I've got all the detail I want in the foreground. Somebody's gonna say yeah, but when you increase the exposure, don't you bring up the noise? There's no noise there. Right? There's no noise there worth worrying about. So that's kinda how I'd go through and kinda pick it. And it just becomes, again, the more you do it as you get out there the more that you'll see you kind of gravitate toward. Every once in a while you'll have to move the exposure slider to figure out which one you're gonna edit but at that point, and this is the shoot. We'll go through the whole workflow later and you'll see me do this stuff. Like how I mark the photos and kinda how I organize that stuff so I don't have this mess in front of me at the end of the day. I think that's an important part is that we have our favorite photos and we can get there. Let me go back here to... I do want to show you. So just kind of a little side note for you, if you ever wondered how much power that you have inside of these cameras. I didn't have an ND filter with me when I was on this photo shoot. And that's what I did. So what I did is I overexposed the daylights out of it. A lot of people say so do I have to shoot in JPEG? Do I have to shoot raw, does it matter? Usually it doesn't matter. Until you get to something like this, okay? Till you get to something like this, because if this were a JPEG I wouldn't be able to pull this detail back. But this is a raw photo. I mean hopefully you would never walk away from a photo shoot and say I nailed this shot. But if you look at the exposure, watch what I can do. See how much I can bring back? I could even bring, you know it looks a little bit flat, so just add a little bit of blacks back into it. We can get some contrast back. But I can bring back so much of that detail, so much of that exposure with the photo and what it does is, if you look at the difference, I took this photo and the water was kind of frozen. And that's not the look that I was going for. The look that I was going for was a longer exposure. So I didn't have the neutral density filter to make that exposure longer, so I just overexposed it, but the more that you do this, the more you start to realize what you can pull back from it. So I think that it's an important to kinda understand the capabilities that you have inside your camera. So if you haven't done it yet, go outside one day, take a picture. Take a picture, middle of the day, something that has sky in it, something that has some dark shadowy foreground in it. Take it at plus one stop, plus two, plus three, minus one, minus two, minus three. Crank your ISO up, 400, 800, 1,600. They go up to like 128,000 these days. Crank your ISO up, do all those different things. Bring it on to your computer, look at what it does and see. You gotta know what your camera can do. I think that's another important part of this.