Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Shootin’ Solution Wednesday

Good Afternoon Everybody,

LD Sunrise We arose to a beautiful sunrise here in Cabo this morning - which many times, is pretty much the norm around here this time of year.  Kind of makes you glad to be alive, especially when the weather back in good ol’ KY is in the 30’s this morning. Photo curtsey of LaDawn, by the way.

Hey gang, sorry for the very late post yesterday – that’s why today’s post is going up later than usual too.  Technique Tuesdays always take a little time to put together especially when I have to drop in so many images for the video.  That wasn’t the problem with yesterday’s post though. 

It was the 12kb/sec upload speed together with the fact that I was kicked off-line 4 times while trying to get the video fully uploaded – a bit of a “pulling out your hair” day blog-wise that is.  Anyway… it finally went up and our DPT readers seemed to really enjoy it judging from all the positive response.

We might even try to pull off another TTues with Kent and Sarah while we’re visiting in Cabo.  It was a good time for everybody and I think their little finger can be twisted to do it again so stay tuned.

Anyway, on with today’s post.

Shootin’ Solution Wednesday: Fixing The Background One More Time

Over these last few Wednesday’s I’ve discussed some lighting challenges we’ve had this fall with trying to get good outdoor shots in some “not so good” outdoor locations. 

Here are the links to the two previous articles:

1. Making The Day Wednesday: Making A Background Out Of No Background

2. Lighting Challenge Wedding Wednesday

Don’t get me wrong, the locations would have been great if there were just a few leaves on the trees.  I want to hit the topic one more time today.

I like to mix things up a bit when shooting outdoors.  That means I like to bring a little background variety into the group shots if I can.  I had some good shots of the bride and groom with their parents as illustrated in the second link above, and some nice images of the bride and groom around the lake which was shown in the first link.

I found another location that I thought might work for the shot of the guys – the sunlit leaves on a small patch of trees in the background.  The problem was the brightness of the leaves in this case.  Here is my first test shot of the set up.

Early Test ShotI’ll make the test shots while we are setting up for the shot just to save some time.  The shot shows me what issues I need to deal with to pull off a good photograph.

I planned to position the guys in a small shady spot I found.  Why?  So I could then light the group from camera left and create my ever present “direction of light” on the scene.  Too fast of a shutter speed and the shadows would have gone quite dark.  That wouldn’t be a big problem though – I could always use my on-camera flash as a “fill light” to control the shadow densities. Too slow of a shutter speed and I would really wash out the background.

Anyway, here is how I handled this particular lighting challenge:

1.  I choose the longest lens in the gear bag so I can compress the background as I did in the example below.  I used my Canon 70-300mm IS DO lens at 200mm.

2.  I set the camera at a low ISO – ISO 100 and the fastest syncing shutter speed – 1/200 second. My aperture was F6.3. At these settings the trees in the background were quite bright.  We’ll fix that in a second.

3.  The shadows were going too dark so I added some on-camera flash fill by turning on my on-camera flash and dialing it down about 2 stops – just enough to open up the shadows.  I’m starting to get what I want now. I just need to fix the density of the background.

Guys before

4.  I needed to fix the background. Look how it overpowers the guys in this shot. I could have struggled with getting it “right in the camera” but that would have taken much longer than my quick “Lightroom fix” that I planned to use.

Fill Light I knew all I needed to do was add a little “Fill Light” is Lightroom as show here.  That softened up the shadows and the contrasts even more.

Luminance 5.  The easiest fix of all – are you ready?  What’s way TOO bright here?  It’s the “yellows” right? The easy fix – head over to the yellow channel in the Develop module and drag the Luminosity slider all the way to the left, and PRESTO! – the intensity of the yellows is reduced substantially improving the shot.

Guys after

Pretty simple wasn’t it?

So here is Ziser Shooting Rule #15 for this kind of situation. 

“If you can get it right in the camera in a matter of minutes, go for it.  But, if you know you can fix it faster in Lightroom or Photoshop later, don’t waste your time losing precious minutes during your shoot.”

Hey gang, that’s it for me today. We are heading out exploring the Baja surrounds today.  Let’s plan on getting together tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday.  See ya’ then.  Adios from Cabo, -David


  1. Did you mean "drag the Luminosity slider all the way to the left"? Oh, and do you know when the winners of the grand prize will be announced?


  2. Awesome tutorial, thank you!! I would like to be clear on one thing said you used an on-camera flash to fill in the shadows up front, but did you also light the shot from camera left with an additional off-camera flash? You mentioned wanting to do that in the beginning but then I don't remember reading about it again in your actual step-by-step set-up process. Just checking, thanks!