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  1. #1

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    Underexposing when backlighting

    I would love to be able to take better backlit photographs but they keep coming out with the subject underexposed. I'm using a sekonic light meter, taking a reading from the subjects face and I am putting iso 200 instead of the 400 on the box which I thought would give me an extra stop, but its still under exposed. I'm kind of stumped! Am I metering wrong? How can I meter for the shadows from the face is there is no obvious shady side?

    Here is an example
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 25270004.jpg  

  2. #2
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    It may take more than a stop; and remember, caucasian skin should usually be raised a stop from neutral gray. So try two stops, or meter their clothes and get an average.

    Is there detail in the negative that's not showing up in the scan? It's possible that your software is thrown off by the bright background.

  3. #3

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    There does seem a bit more detail in the neg, but this is all so new to me I don't always know what I'm looking for!

  4. #4
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    This is where incident light metering comes in handy. Meter from the girl toward the camera. Shoot what it tells you. It will then be perfect. If it's not, it's probably a processing or scanning problem. It does look to be a pretty high contrast image, which is normal for full sun shooting, but you might have too much contrast caused by overdeveloping or by automatic settings on your scanner. Put up a digital photo of the negative backlit against a window if you'd like some analysis of the negative.

  5. #5

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    Its late here now, but I will do what you suggest and post an image of the neg tomorrow. I'm not scanning myself and at the moment I feel as though I'm just picking labs not knowing how good they really are. If you can tell anything by the neg that would be great!

  6. #6
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    Get a scanner! It is convenient to have the lab scan it but really you need to take control of the process as early as you can. Developing your own film is best of course but if you can't do that then try to get a negative scanner if you can because there is more in the negative than you can store in a JPG so the shadow detail may be thrown away at the store when you might be able to increase the brightness at home with the scan to retain those darker details. If you can adjust levels while scanning then you can try to adjust it so the shadows are good and the background isn't totally blown out.
    Harry Pulley - Visit the BLIND PRINT EXCHANGE FORUM

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  7. #7
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    Actually, considering the amount of backlighting in your scene, I think the detail in the girl's face looks pretty good. You could improve it by adding some fill light, either from a flash or a reflector. But if that is not practical for you, then you might just try dodging the face a little during printing. Don't overdo it; a backlit face will not look natural if it shines as if it were in full sun!
    Eddy McDonald
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by michelleg View Post
    Its late here now, but I will do what you suggest and post an image of the neg tomorrow. I'm not scanning myself and at the moment I feel as though I'm just picking labs not knowing how good they really are. If you can tell anything by the neg that would be great!
    Tell the lab what you want.

    They may be just guessing about what you want.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  9. #9

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    With back lighted subjects it is easier with an incident meter.
    Since you point the meter towards the camera there is no compensation to make.
    With a reflected meter, you have to compensate for two things. 1)the reflectivity of the skin of the subject 2)the light source itself.
    The good thing is: once you figure it out, you'll know what to do.
    Heavily sedated for your protection.

  10. #10

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    The face looks like it is exposed just fine in the picture you showed. If you are doing what you said you are doing (metering from the subject and rating a 400 film at 200), then you are actually overexposing the face by one stop, so the exposure of the neg is fine.

    This is one of the hardest situations for which to expose, develop and print. The best option is to avoid it if possible. Another would be to artificially light the subject with flash so that you can bring the background down more in relation to her. A bounce umbrella attached to a speedlight will be the most natural looking option that is "pocketable." Shooting straight through diffusion is softer than a bare bulb, but still has a somewhat brash and artificial look unless it is also bounced, especially if the diffuser is small.

    The reason she is looking a little dark is because the print has been made too dark. It was probably made too dark because of that big bright area in it drawing the attention. If you were to print this more carefully, you could get her to be brighter. You could burn the sky and/or mask the subject, though the former is a more involved and precise process.

    I'd get my own darkroom before getting a scanner, and if you want to talk about scanners, try Hybrid Photo dot com, A.P.U.G.'s mirror site for mixed analog/digital processes.
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 10-29-2010 at 08:42 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

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