Better way to take this shot? CC on exposure please

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TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324
Better way to take this shot? CC on exposure please

I took this photo of a friend while we were out the other day. She picked the spot (wanted to be by the tulips), and I angled her to remove shadows from her face in a spot where there was full sun and not many options.

My question is: she has very blonde hair, as you can see, and even when I underexposed a fair bit (-2/3 stop), parts of her hair are still blown. Is there any way to take this shot under those circumstances without blowing her hair? I'm just wondering as a learning point, so that I can be more aware of stuff like this the next time. I did see that her hair was badly blown with the initial shot and so took the exposure way down, and then worked on it in GIMP to balance it out, but she would've been REALLY dark if I had've underexposed any more than I already did. What would you advise in this type of situation?

TIA for helping me learn.

ETA: Wish I had done some other things differently in this image, too, but mostly I'm looking for advice on the exposure issue I had with it!

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

It's totally acceptable to blow bits of hair in a backlit shot like this.

shadow_grey's picture
Joined: 05/03/12
Posts: 581

I'm interested to see responses. I would have metered for her face and so be it if hair is slightly blown. Otherwise maybe use a reflector?

Amy_&_Eva's picture
Joined: 08/23/07
Posts: 2378

I agree, with backlit shots it is ok that the hair is very sunlit at the edges.

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324

It seems like it's more than just "bits", but certainly after I made some exposure corrections the amount of hair that's blown is much smaller than before. Good to know it's OK! Thanks for the input!

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2975

What Amber said. But since you're still worried about it being more than just bits of her hair, you would want to try this at a later part of the day. Was this late afternoon? You might want to wait until the sun is even lower in the sky. Also, if you could block the sun a little bit by the background, that would help.

ETA:
BTW, I think you did a great job getting nice even light on her! Way to go! Backlighting is difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324

Steph, it was about 4 p.m. We were just walking around, waiting for our husbands to finish some meetings and didn't have a lot of choice of time. It definitely wouldn't have been my preference to shoot then and there! Having said that, I'm trying to learn how to take decent pictures regardless of the circumstances and lighting, so this is a little baby step for me. Smile

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

When I say bits...I do so loosely. Here is an example of totally acceptable blown highlights in the hair.


9 IMG_1545-Edit WEB by amberbella, on Flickr

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324

OK, cool, thanks, Amber. That's a gorgeous photo!

marymoonu's picture
Joined: 03/15/08
Posts: 2183

I struggle a bit with back-lighting... I always feel like I don't properly expose the face in an attempt to minimize blowing the highlights. I agree with Amber, when it's some of the hair blown, that looks nice.. I think it adds to the "glowing" feel of back-lit images. But for me, I'll try to do it with my kids who are very fair skinned with very light hair (actually, my youngest is still 99% bald at nearly 15 months)... And rather than just blowing a bit of hair, it's like I'm truly blowing a portion of their skin... And I'm just not sure how to work it out....

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324

"marymoonu" wrote:

But for me, I'll try to do it with my kids who are very fair skinned with very light hair (actually, my youngest is still 99% bald at nearly 15 months)... And rather than just blowing a bit of hair, it's like I'm truly blowing a portion of their skin... And I'm just not sure how to work it out....

I don't know either. Yesterday I did some backlit shots in our yard. Here is one SOOC:

I spot-metered off his face, then underexposed it another 2/3rds, and his shoulders and parts of his arm are still blown. I have another SOOC image where there are only very, very tiny blown bits on his arms/shoulders, underexposed 1-1/3, but as you can see, he's very dark.

It seems with my fair-skinned kids that if there's strong sun, backlighting always blows a portion of their arms... and in this case, shoulders, since he didn't have a shirt on. But I know Steph's kids are very fair and she makes backlighting work! Perhaps it's just a matter of the time of day. These shots were taken at 3:30 p.m. Sunset here is about 8:50 p.m. right now, so they're very much mid-day lighting.

Joined: 03/18/06
Posts: 391

The time of day ABSOLUTELY has a huge impact on doing backlighting correctly. Tracy, in the picture above, the sun is still very much overhead at 3:30pm, which means a large part of him is getting that sun..whereas later in the day, the sun would have been positioned more behind him, blowing only the parts that are facing the sun (hair, back, etc.)
In the case above, I think the only way you could have taken a properly exposed picture is either by using fill flash, or a reflector. I probably would have chosen fill flash.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2975

Yeah, that time of day is still a little harsh for no shade. Definitely try it sometime more around 6pm, and I think you'll like the results much better, and have an easier time exposing. Because the sun is still higher in your pictures of Micah, you're going to get those blown spots on the shoulders and get more of that rim lighting that I think you're after. The shoulders won't get all that sun later in the day. Of course, you could try earlier in the morning, too, but I know how hard it is to get out of bed sometimes Wink

TracyF's picture
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2324

"Ladybugsteph" wrote:

Yeah, that time of day is still a little harsh for no shade. Definitely try it sometime more around 6pm, and I think you'll like the results much better, and have an easier time exposing. Because the sun is still higher in your pictures of Micah, you're going to get those blown spots on the shoulders and get more of that rim lighting that I think you're after. The shoulders won't get all that sun later in the day. Of course, you could try earlier in the morning, too, but I know how hard it is to get out of bed sometimes Wink

We're so often indoors with DH, getting supper ready and doing baths, at the best time of day for backlighting. But I will try again some evening when we take a family walk or something.