My images are capturing dark

Started 9 months ago | Discussions
impossible7 New Member • Posts: 12
My images are capturing dark

My images are coming out dark. They are fine once I add +2 exposure in Camera Raw but would it be better to increase the exposure on the camera when I shoot?

I have 3 lights.... (2) Eiko EBW Lamp (500W/120V) and an LED above which doesn't put out much light.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: My images are capturing dark
2

Well, if you are shooting with manual settings, then you could try using a longer shutter speed.

I suspect you are letting the camera's meter determine the settings. The camera doesn't know what is important to you, and is choosing a lower exposure so as not to blow out the highlights (reflections of your lights in off the chrome handles of the cookie cutters).

Now you need to make an artistic decision. If you raise your exposure by two stops, you will blow out your highlights. This may be acceptable to you.

If you want to retain some detail in the highlights, then expose as the camera is suggesting, and adjust when you open the raw file.

My suggesting is that you pick up a copy of the book Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting.

The key here is that your subject is a mirror and you are photographing what it reflects.   You may want to arrange your lights so they are not directly reflected.   You can then place white and black cards to be reflected.   This will let you control the level of your reflections, and the pattern being reflected.

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BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 24,646
You don't know how...
1

to use your camera's built in meter.

Buy a grey card, put it into your shooting area, use it to set your exposure manually, and your pictures will be fine.

BAK

OP impossible7 New Member • Posts: 12
Re: My images are capturing dark

Thanks Michael. I always shoot a white card in the scene but when I pick the card and apply the settings to the rest of my images, they are still dark. I will look into the book you suggested. Thanks again

OP impossible7 New Member • Posts: 12
Re: You don't know how...

BAK wrote:

to use your camera's built in meter.

Buy a grey card, put it into your shooting area, use it to set your exposure manually, and your pictures will be fine.

BAK

Thanks BAK. I will try my gray card again. I did try this a while back and wasn't getting good results but not sure I was executing it properly.

With my white card, I shoot it then pick the card with my white balance dropper tool in RAW and apply it to all the images. With the gray card, am I supposed to do the same thing? Use same dropper tool?

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: My images are capturing dark
3

impossible7 wrote:

Thanks Michael. I always shoot a white card in the scene but when I pick the card and apply the settings to the rest of my images, they are still dark. I will look into the book you suggested. Thanks again

There are two separate issues here; exposure and white balance.

In terms of exposure, the camera's meter is most likely calibrated to work with a subject that has a reflectance of around 15% to 18%. If you want to use a card for metering, a standard 18% grey card is a better choice than a white card. If you do use a white card, then you need adjust the results, or your results will be too dark.

In terms of white balance, you can use anything that equally reflects all colors of light (neutral gray or pure white). When processing the raw, use the white balance dropper tool.  If you want to delve into the fine details, there are some minor advantages to using a brighter target for your white balance. The down side of using a white target, is that you need to be careful not to blow out any of the channels by over-exposing.

The easy solution that produces good results is to use a single grey card for both. You need pay attention to what you buy. Gray cards that are sold for exposure are not always truly neutral gray. Some will have a color cast to them. Cards that are sold for white balance, don't always have the right reflectance for exposure.

You can find grey cards that are intended for both white balance and exposure. If you are using them for both, you may want one intended for both.

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BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 24,646
Re: You don't know how...
1

The use of a white card is the reason your pictures are bad.

The idea of the grey card is this.

The meter sets the camera so that grey comes out grey.

Everything lighter comes out closer to white.

Everything darker comes out closer to black.

BAK

tdwesbo
tdwesbo Senior Member • Posts: 2,022
Re: My images are capturing dark
1

Switch to manual

add two stops of shutter speed

done...

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BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 24,646
Re: My images are capturing dark
1

or not, as the case may be.

Or is the idea to start off setting the camera using manual methods, incorrect on purpose?

BAK

Klaus dk
Klaus dk Veteran Member • Posts: 5,784
White balance problem
5

impossible7 wrote:

[...]

Apart from being too dark, your picture of the setup clearly shows that the three lamps have different colour temperatures/tint. The softbox is magenta, the left umbrella is cyan and the right is slightly yellow. No matter what you do, you won't get clean colours before you have consistent colour temperature lights.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,085
Re: My images are capturing dark
1

In addition to what has been said, learn to use the camera histogram on the review screen. It is not a perfect tool - it probably reads from a JPEG instead of RAW - but it is close enough to be very useful.

You can find tutorials online. You might also search for "expose to the right" - sometimes called ETTR.

As an aside, your tripod and arm looks pretty flimsy for continuous lights in that sort of setup. I expect to get really sharp photos you need a much more sturdy rig -- or switch to flash.

Gato

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: My images are capturing dark
2

Gato Amarillo wrote:

In addition to what has been said, learn to use the camera histogram on the review screen. It is not a perfect tool - it probably reads from a JPEG instead of RAW - but it is close enough to be very useful.

You can find tutorials online. You might also search for "expose to the right" - sometimes called ETTR.

As an aside, your tripod and arm looks pretty flimsy for continuous lights in that sort of setup. I expect to get really sharp photos you need a much more sturdy rig -- or switch to flash.

Gato

His dark image is already "exposed to the right".

If the supplied "dark image" was any brighter he would blow out the highlights.

ETTR uses the largest exposure that doesn't blow out your highlights. Usually, but not always, this results in an in-camera preview that looks too bright. In this case ETTR would result in a dark image in order to protect the bright highlights (reflections of the lights in the chrome cookie cutters).

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,085
Re: My images are capturing dark
1

Michael Fryd wrote:

...

His dark image is already "exposed to the right".

If the supplied "dark image" was any brighter he would blow out the highlights.

Got me. You may be right, based on the bright metal parts and assuming one wants to preserve detail there. But note the OP is bringing up the overall exposure.

Maybe what is needed is a curves adjustment to bring up the mid tones rather than the overall exposure change. Or better yet, improved lighting to get the subject contrast under control.

Gato

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: My images are capturing dark
2

Gato Amarillo wrote:

...

Got me. You may be right, based on the bright metal parts and assuming one wants to preserve detail there. But note the OP is bringing up the overall exposure.

Maybe what is needed is a curves adjustment to bring up the mid tones rather than the overall exposure change. Or better yet, improved lighting to get the subject contrast under control.

Yes.

One possibility is to use a tone curve that raises the overall exposure without blowing the highlights.   Personally, I would suggest different lighting, and careful consideration as to what is being reflected in the chrome (maybe even dulling spray).

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Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 14,552
Re: My images are capturing dark
2

There is a lot of white in the image. If you are using the camera's built-in meter that is the reason this image is underexposed.

When the camera meters something it expects everything in the scene to add up to middle gray.

If everything in the scene adds up to more than mid-gray, as in this image, the camera will underexpose to make everything add up to mid-gray. The classical example is a bride in a white dress standing in front of a white wall - the camera's meter will give you an exposure where the dress and wall are gray, not white.

If everything add up to less than mid-gray the camera will overexpose.

This is why it was necessary for camera manufacturers to add Exposure Compensation and Flash Exposure Compensation to their cameras.

The simple easy fast way to get the right exposure with your rig is to use a good ambient incident light meter.

My recommendation is a secondhand Sekonic L-358 which is both an ambient light meter in both Aperture and Shutter priority modes and a flash meter (only in Shutter Priority mode). This meter is about the same cost as a new Sekonic L-308 which is basically a flash meter that can be used as an ambient light meter in only the Shutter Priority mode. A secondhand L-358 is a lot less expensive than the L-758.

If you don't have or can't afford a good incident meter and If you are shooting JPGs then using an 18% gray card is the right way to set the "correct" exposure.

Most gray cards are NOT suitable for setting the WB.

The Kodak 18% gray card is one of the very few that is suitable for both setting the JPG exposure and for use as a White Balance card.

Kodak R-27 Gray Cards 1903061 B&H Photo Video

Place the Kodak gray card in the subject lighting and flat on to the camera. The surface of the card is slightly reflective so make sure that none of the lights will directly reflect off the surface of the card and into the lens - remember the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.

You can also use a white card to set both a Custom WB in your camera and to give you the best exposure for RAW images, the ETTR exposure. I made my own acrylic plastic white cards for these purposes for about $1.

These show how to make a white card and the way to use it to determine the ETTR exposure as well as how to use it to set a Custom WB.

Sailorblue - HA-ETTR An Easier Way To Expose To The Right Using The Camera's Highlight Alert

Sailorblue - Using a DIY Plastic White Card for WB

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tdwesbo
tdwesbo Senior Member • Posts: 2,022
Re: My images are capturing dark

BAK wrote:

or not, as the case may be.

Or is the idea to start off setting the camera using manual methods, incorrect on purpose?

BAK

Seems like if the image is two stops too dark, then adding two stops of shutter speed (since continuous lighting is in use) would take care of that.  I think we're assuming the OP is letting the camera determine exposure, so switching to manual would simplify the whole issue.

Or perhaps not...

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Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: My images are capturing dark

tdwesbo wrote:

BAK wrote:

or not, as the case may be.

Or is the idea to start off setting the camera using manual methods, incorrect on purpose?

BAK

Seems like if the image is two stops too dark, then adding two stops of shutter speed (since continuous lighting is in use) would take care of that. I think we're assuming the OP is letting the camera determine exposure, so switching to manual would simplify the whole issue.

Or perhaps not...

The issue with simply increasing the shutter speed by two stops is that the highlights will be blown out.   If you look at the reflections of the lights in the cookie cutters you can see that they are quite bright.

Now it may be acceptable to blow these out, but the photographer should be aware and make a conscious choice.  Other possible solutions are to process the raw data differently, or change the configuration of the lights.

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BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 24,646
Pick something important

choice one; glare on shiny metal

choice two; everything else in the whole entire complete picture.

BAK

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: Pick something important

BAK wrote:

choice one; glare on shiny metal

choice two; everything else in the whole entire complete picture.

BAK

Choice three: change the lighting and get both the highlights and the non-highlights.

Choice four: keep the existing lighting and adjust in post.

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cormierphoto Forum Member • Posts: 77
Re: My images are capturing dark

Sailor Blue wrote:

There is a lot of white in the image. If you are using the camera's built-in meter that is the reason this image is underexposed.

When the camera meters something it expects everything in the scene to add up to middle gray.

If everything in the scene adds up to more than mid-gray, as in this image, the camera will underexpose to make everything add up to mid-gray. The classical example is a bride in a white dress standing in front of a white wall - the camera's meter will give you an exposure where the dress and wall are gray, not white.

If everything add up to less than mid-gray the camera will overexpose.

This is why it was necessary for camera manufacturers to add Exposure Compensation and Flash Exposure Compensation to their cameras.

The simple easy fast way to get the right exposure with your rig is to use a good ambient incident light meter.

My recommendation is a secondhand Sekonic L-358 which is both an ambient light meter in both Aperture and Shutter priority modes and a flash meter (only in Shutter Priority mode). This meter is about the same cost as a new Sekonic L-308 which is basically a flash meter that can be used as an ambient light meter in only the Shutter Priority mode. A secondhand L-358 is a lot less expensive than the L-758.

If you don't have or can't afford a good incident meter and If you are shooting JPGs then using an 18% gray card is the right way to set the "correct" exposure.

Most gray cards are NOT suitable for setting the WB.

The Kodak 18% gray card is one of the very few that is suitable for both setting the JPG exposure and for use as a White Balance card.

Kodak R-27 Gray Cards 1903061 B&H Photo Video

Place the Kodak gray card in the subject lighting and flat on to the camera. The surface of the card is slightly reflective so make sure that none of the lights will directly reflect off the surface of the card and into the lens - remember the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.

You can also use a white card to set both a Custom WB in your camera and to give you the best exposure for RAW images, the ETTR exposure. I made my own acrylic plastic white cards for these purposes for about $1.

These show how to make a white card and the way to use it to determine the ETTR exposure as well as how to use it to set a Custom WB.

Sailorblue - HA-ETTR An Easier Way To Expose To The Right Using The Camera's Highlight Alert

Sailorblue - Using a DIY Plastic White Card for WB

All these comments in the thread, and this is the only one with the true correct answer for OP's problem...well detailed. I have the Sekonic L-358 as well and use it for all my commercial shoots.

The best method to understand metering and why you should never rely on your camera's metering alone, is shooting a purely white background versus a purely dark background relying on the camera's meter, where both shots will come exactly the same with 18% grey.

http://www.photography.ca/photography-tips/basic-metering/

And you have to use spot metering (has to be re-iterated) if metering using a grey card if it does not fill the shot, otherwise it's pointless to meter with it for exposure.

And yeah OP...balancing exposure off a white card? That will just get the camera to meter your whites towards 18% grey and make everything darker. It's no wonder your shots are dark.

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