Ideal Exposure with Histograms & Filters

  by Jay Patel Ideal Exposure with Histograms & Filters

Let face it, there is no such thing as a perfect exposure. Sure, you can get close sometimes, but more often than not, you have to make tradeoffs in order to do so. By using your knowledge of histograms and filters, however, you can achieve an exposure that is just about ideal.


So, when I see breathtaking images like this one, my first question is usually something like: How did the photographer choose such a perfect exposure for this scene? Or is it heavily Photoshopped?

Backlit images like this one are almost always difficult to expose. You have to deal with an extreme dynamic range of light, and that makes it extremely difficult to capture accurate colors and details in every part of the image. When I shot this photo, I used a combination of information from my histogram and GND filters to get as close to a perfect exposure as possible.

Under Exposed Scene – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

Under Exposed Scene – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

Exposed for Shadows – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

Exposed for Shadows – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

When I first started shooting this scene, I intentionally underexposed the image, as you can see on the left. I knew that I could process the image later and recover the shadow details in Photoshop; however, the resulting image would be too noisy.

Instead of choosing this approach, I decided to keep a close eye on my histogram and adjust my exposure until the shadow areas had sufficient detail and the highlights were not completely blown out, as seen in the image on the right. The result was much better.

Now I was closer to the image I wanted, but the the colors in the sky and the details in the highlights were still pretty washed out. To get my exposure closer to perfection, my next step was to add a soft GND filter. So how could I determine which strength of GND filter to use?

1-Stop Soft GND Filter – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

1-Stop Soft GND Filter – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

2-Stop Soft GND Filter – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

2-Stop Soft GND Filter – Yellowstone National Park, WY (USA)

Once again, I had to make a tradeoff. The first image was taken with a 1-stop soft GND filter. As you can see, the exposure for the sky looks nearly perfect; however, the highlights are still a bit overexposed, washing out some of the details. My first instinct was to use a stronger GND filter to restore the highlight details, but by using a 2-stop GND filter, the sky and the mountains got unnaturally dark. Ultimately, I decided to go with a 1-stop filter and apply minor tweaks in post-processing the RAW image.

So, my ideal exposure for this scene was achieved by using my knowledge of histograms and choosing the right GND filter. To help you master these skills for yourself and finally leave the guesswork out of choosing an exposure, we are offering our Histogram Exposed course as part of our May 2016 InFocus Deals. This course takes you into the field with us, where we will teach you how to read and use the histogram on the back of your camera step-by-step. It also includes real-life case studies that will show you how to follow our simple, 4-step workflow so you can start exposing your own images with confidence.

In addition to this great course, our InFocus Deals include a wonderful variety of eBooks and video tutorials from some of the best landscape photographers in the world. For a limited time, we're excited to bring this handpicked selection of resources to you at an astounding 89% discount. You're not going to find a better way to improve your fieldwork and post-processing skills at a better price.

May 2106 InFocus Deals - Sale Price $49 (Reg. Price: $450, 89% Off)

May 2106 InFocus Deals - Sale Price $49 (Reg. Price: $450, 89% Off)


10 Steps to Shoot the Stars: Your Guide to Astrophotography - Scott Kranz

  by MeFOTO Blog

1. Know your camera. First things first, familiarize yourself with your camera and its settings. Is your camera sufficiently powerful to shoot at night? Does it have the basic functionality needed for a good night shot? Check to make sure you can manually adjust focus, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO (each addressed below). And a wide-angle lens is always helpful to capture the vast night sky.

2. Grab a bombproof tripod. The right camera, without more, isn’t enough. You need stability in the form of a solid tripod. Why? Because a single exposure can be upwards to 30 seconds in length, and perfect stillness is required. Have a tripod that is plenty sturdy, given the weight of your camera and any external forces (such as the wind). I currently use a MeFOTO Globetrotter Carbon Fiber tripod .

3. Find your spot. To photograph the stars, you’ll need to get away from most artificial light pollution (from cities and large towns). Head into the wilderness where the stars shine brighter. If you already plan on hiking, backpacking, or camping in a remote area, you should be set, assuming clear skies are in the forecast.

The heart of the North Cascades in Washington State is far from most artificial light pollution present. Settings: 25 secs, f/2.8, ISO 2500. Shot with MeFOTO Globetrotter.

The heart of the North Cascades in Washington State is far from most artificial light pollution present. Settings: 25 secs, f/2.8, ISO 2500. Shot with MeFOTO Globetrotter.

4. Focus on the stars. Once you find your spot with camera and tripod in hand, you need to turn to the camera itself. To vividly capture tacksharp stars, you will first need to set your camera lens to manual focus (as opposed to autofocus). Then, manually focus “on infinity.” Often lenses have an infinity marking (the symbol ∞) to dial to.

5. Nail your shutter speed. To capture starlight in a photograph, your shutter speed will need to be significantly longer than daytime shots 10 seconds, 20 seconds, or even 30 seconds in length. As a rule of thumb, if there is little or no moonlight or light pollution, start with a 20, 25, or 30 second exposure. One warning, though: depending on your lens focal length, too long of an exposure may produce star “trails.” The more you zoom in the greater star movement your camera will capture. Try a wider focal length (16mm to 24mm) to keep the stars tack sharp, even with a 30 second exposure.

If there’s plenty of light pollution on the horizon, try a quicker shutter speed, such as 10 or 15 seconds. Settings: 15.0 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4000. Shot with MeFOTO Globetrotter.

If there’s plenty of light pollution on the horizon, try a quicker shutter speed, such as 10 or 15 seconds. Settings: 15.0 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4000. Shot with MeFOTO Globetrotter.

6. Find the right aperture. Your camera’s aperture (the “Fnumber”) concerns the size of the shutter’s opening, which allows more or less light in during the exposure. The larger or wider the aperture, the smaller the “Fnumber.” For a night shot, set a wider aperture, that is a low “Fnumber,” to let in the most starlight. An Fnumber of f/2.8 or lower works well in the dark of night.

7. Adjust your ISO. The last primary setting, ISO, concerns your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more light it will capture. But take note: when you increase the ISO, you also increase the level of “noise” in the photo, impacting the quality of the image. For starters, try an ISO between 2000 to 4000 depending on your camera and the degree of darkness.

8. Let your tripod do the work. After nailing down the camera settings, let your tripod maintain perfect stillness for the entire exposure. To increase stability, you can always hang additional weight, such as your pack, from the spring loaded hook located in the bottom of the tripod’s center column (available on MeFOTO tripods). Also, because even your finger pressing the shutter button can create slight camera shake, use a two second timer to take the shot!

Using a 10 second timer and the sturdy MeFOTO Globetrotter, you can capture an epic night time “selfie

Using a 10 second timer and the sturdy MeFOTO Globetrotter, you can capture an epic night time “selfie

9. Trial and error is a good thing. After you test out your initial camera settings, double check the image for focus and lighting. Are your stars tack sharp? Is the photo too dark or too light? If anything is off, adjust your focus or settings accordingly, and try again!

10. Experiment and have fun. Once you meet the goal of nailing down the right settings and capturing tack-sharp stars, the next step is to simply experiment. For example, you can get creative with artificial light in the foreground. Use a headlamp, a flashlight, or lantern. To mute or more evenly distribute the light, cover it with a white cloth (e.g., a shirt or a bandana).

A popular subject to use when backpacking is your tent. Use of a dim headlamp or other artificial light can give the tent a warm glow to your shot. Settings: 30 secs, f/2.8, ISO3200. But, above all, have fun exploring the visuals only the starry night sky can offer!

A popular subject to use when backpacking is your tent. Use of a dim headlamp or other artificial light can give the tent a warm glow to your shot. Settings: 30 secs, f/2.8, ISO3200.

But, above all, have fun exploring the visuals only the starry night sky can offer!

  Follow Scott's Adventures on his Website , Instagram , Facebook , Twitter , and Snapchat (@scott_kranz).

 

Follow Scott's Adventures on his Website , Instagram , Facebook , Twitter , and Snapchat (@scott_kranz).


Match Your Favorite Decade - Build Your Very Own MeFoto Roadtrip Tripod

  by MeFOTO Blog

Be the first to design your very own Aluminum MeFOTO RoadTrip Tripod. There are over 792 combinations! Custom build your own by choosing your favorite colors. 

You can start from scratch or start with an inspiration from our RoadTrip Gallery. You can choose from Donatello, Rebel, Fruit Punch, Halloween, T-Stark, B Banner, Ireland, Thriller, Mardi Gras, Plum, Limeaid, Chic and many many more. 

Purchase yours right now for $249 and the shipping is FREE!

Go to www.mefoto.com/byo to build your own today!


The SideKick360 Plus: Our Popular Smartphone Adapter - SuperSized!!

  by MeFOTO Blog
sidekick360_Plus.jpg

Hey, out there... are ya'll lovin' your supersized phones? I know here at MeFOTO headquarters, we don't know how we ever lived without them.

Well, if you missed the good news or just never got the word, MeFOTO now has a version of the popular SideKick360 especially for photography-loving owners of plus-size phones in the 76–91mm range. (That's you iPhone 6 Plus and SamSung Galaxy Note owners!)

Never thought about a smartphone adapter before? Consider:

What’s your favorite photography centric app, Instagram? Snapchat? Vine?
Whatever your choice may be, chances are the SideKick360/360 Plus is as essential as the filter you throw on that hilariously embarrassing photo of your friend tossing back a few too many on Saturday night.

Having a good hair day? This adapter is perfect for selfies upon selfies, and with a 360 degree rotating ball head, it’s as flexible as those yoga pants that make your outfit worth taking a picture of.

If time-lapse and video are more your flavor, we can promise you stability and solid support to keep your smartphone right where you need it.

The best part? The SideKick360 Plus comes in 12 colors so you can match your MeFOTO tripod.

Now, in celebration of this glorious spring day, we invite you take a minute and join us for some SideKick360 fun: