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Friday, June 5, 2009

••◊ Staring into the sun

Today I took the day off from work to take pictures at a fundraiser for the Jenna Druck foundation, benefiting leadership mentoring for girls. It was a lunch time affair at the Paradise Grille in Del Mar with an auction, musical performance, and fashion show all in about two hours. Yes, I was one of five people there without two X chromosomes ...but I was loaded up with two DSLR cameras which at least gives me partial male street cred.

Shana Adair, along with her husband, are the owners of the restaurant. Shana was kind enough to take a minute out from running around being the hostess to pose for a picture. Which then brings me to my photographic dilemma. What to do when you're shooting outside in direct sunlight (no choice)? No DSLR camera can handle the contrast range of direct sunlight and shade. Typically there are three solutions...

  1. Panic
  2. Underexpose and compensate in post
  3. Let the background blow out

Considering I always shoot in raw format, I tend to underexpose by -2/3 to -1 stop and decide how I want to compensate in post. Any more than that and I tend to reconsider my options. The first picture of Shana was taken with -2/3 stop of exposure compensation, however the items in the background are still blown out. That's where raw comes in. Typically raw has 1 stop of exposure headroom. So I can take the raw file, underexpose it by another -1 stop, lay the two pictures over one another in post and cut out the overexposed bits in the file that's brought up by +2/3 stop. This gives me -1.67 to -2 stops of "sun compensation headroom," and a better final product. The second picture below is fixed using this technique. Notice that Shana is brought back up by +2/3 stop, but the background she is resting against isn't blown out like in the underexposed original because it's been brought down by -1 stop.

So, if I have to reconsider the location or shot there are two main techniques I use: shade and full sun. Here are pictures of two of the models from the fashion show. Model #1 was in the shade and had a half way dark background. It really isn't worth recovering the background for this particular picture in my opinion. Model #2 was in complete sun, but was underexposed by -2/3 stop so I could recover the highlights in post if I chose (especially with the dreaded white shirt). In her case I applied an additional exposure compensation of -0.8 stops in post and played with the contrast a little to maintain a few details in the shirt and to get some light into her eye sockets.

The musician for the afternoon was Alyssa Jacey, a folkie and friend of Brooklyn as it turns out. I decided to include this picture just because I like photos of musicians and it's my blog so I can post what I want, when I want. Alyssa, you rock in an acoustic, soft, ballad-ie...I guess that doesn't really make sense. Just keep it up.

Rock on. Peace, out.

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