Best way to adjust camera settings to properly expose a backlighted human subject?

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Shooter41

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I am preparing to photograph the Wichita Symphony Orchestra performing on an outdoor stage at Botanica Gardens in my home town of Wichita, Kansas. Having shot there previously, I know that the stage will be lit mostly using back lighting to avoid the lights and light stands from blocking the view of the audience situated in front of the stage on the lawn. The two attached practice photos of NOON ads on television demonstrate the difficulty I have trying to properly expose dark skinned subjects, when they are backlit and not have the background be too bright. I can use my spot exposure gun to know the setting to properly expose the subject. But that makes the background way too light, overwhelming the subject. I would appreciate any suggestions regarding how to decrease the brightness of the background and increase the brightness of the subject in post editing. Thank you in advance. Shooter41
 

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  • ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    476.4 KB · Views: 5
  • LIGHTENED  NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    LIGHTENED NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    523 KB · Views: 2

Jeff A

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Side question Don, are you a Raw shooter? If so, what software do you post process with? I don't have a lot of experience but I have been taught "Expose for the highlights" and "Process for the shadows"
 

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Hmmm. Such a tricky thing to deal with, because, as you say, exposing for the subject blows the background out, and adding compensation makes it worse. I have found that using minus compensation can help in certain situations. You could also experiment using highlight metering in camera (in advance of the event of course) as I have found this works as well, but not every time.
I do tend to end up raising shadows and reducing highlights in post in the end, as this works well in RAW images, especially with the dynamic range of the A7R4.
 

Brownie

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Any chance to use fill-flash?
 

Shooter41

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Side question Don, are you a Raw shooter? If so, what software do you post process with? I don't have a lot of experience but I have been taught "Expose for the highlights" and "Process for the shadows"
Dear Jeff A... When I shoot low light, high action, indoor soccer games, I like to use both RAW and JPEG on seperate memory cards. I first cull the JPEG images that are throw aways and narrow down 2000-3000 images per game to perhaps 8-10 depending on how well I shot that night. I then begin post editing the 8-10 JPEGS to perhaps pick 3 or 4 winners. Then I post edit the 3 or 4 winners in Topaz Exposure 7, Photoshop and finally Topaz Photo AI. Those are the ones I show the public. I set up my camera for the highlights on the NOON advertisement image I attached, but when I edited in post, I was not satisfied with the lightened image using Exposure 7 because the background was much to light and overpowering the human subject. I was hoping someone on Alpha Shooters Forum would help me learn how to mask the subject and be able to lighten just the subject and darken just the back ground. I am NOT good at masking yet. Shooter41
Side question Don, are you a Raw shooter? If so, what software do you post process with? I don't have a lot of experience but I have been taught "Expose for the highlights" and "Process for the shadows"
 

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  • LIGHTENED  NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    LIGHTENED NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    523 KB · Views: 1
  • ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    476.4 KB · Views: 1

Shooter41

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Hmmm. Such a tricky thing to deal with, because, as you say, exposing for the subject blows the background out, and adding compensation makes it worse. I have found that using minus compensation can help in certain situations. You could also experiment using highlight metering in camera (in advance of the event of course) as I have found this works as well, but not every time.
I do tend to end up raising shadows and reducing highlights in post in the end, as this works well in RAW images, especially with the dynamic range of the A7R4.
Dear Kevriano...I am not good at masking human subjects in portraits yet, so I have trouble attempting to lighten dark skinned subjects and darken too bright of a back lighted background separately. Do you use levels in post processing or mask the subject or subjects and darken and lighten them separately? What masking program do you like and use in post? Shooter41
 

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  • LIGHTENED  NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    LIGHTENED NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    523 KB · Views: 1
  • ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    ORIGINAL NOON AD ON TV.jpg
    476.4 KB · Views: 3

Kevriano

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Dear Kevriano...I am not good at masking human subjects in portraits yet, so I have trouble attempting to lighten dark skinned subjects and darken too bright of a back lighted background separately. Do you use levels in post processing or mask the subject or subjects and darken and lighten them separately? What masking program do you like and use in post? Shooter41
I never use mask, as I've not really sussed out how, so I use the sliders in Camera Raw to adjust the whole image until I like the look. I will also use Auto to guide me. It often does a great job on its own.
 

Shooter41

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Dear Kevriano... Thank you for your wonderful suggestions. Shooter41
 

Shooter41

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Any chance to use fill-flash?
No! Just like taking pictures of the Wichita Wings indoor soccer, they do not allow flash because it can temporarily blind the player and also it often startles them enough to break their concentration and lose the ball. However, my Sony R7M4 has such a large sensor that I can carefully adjust the aperture; shutter speed and ISO to open up the shadows on players faces from overhead lighting until very little post editing is needed for a well exposed, tack sharp image will no camera shake. Please take a look at the attached example and feel free to make comments. I love my "Sony of my Owny!" Shooter41
 

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SteveCress

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CC Welcome
  1. Yes
I set my zebras to a lower limit of 109 per Mark Galer's suggestion. The default is too sensitive. 109 will genuinely tell you what is actually blown out and allow you to maximize dynamic range.
 
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