Dealing with Flat Light

Image EXIF Data

  • Date Taken: 07 Feb 2015, 10:54:37
  • Camera: M Monochrom
  • Focal Length: 0
  • Aperture: f/8
  • ISO: 320
  • Shutter Speed: 1/500 second

Flat light can make photography a very tricky thing, specially when shooting black and white. On a first glance, you might think you have only very little contrast and you’ll end with a very boring picture. I think you can imagine how disapointed I was, when I went into the hills, hoping for some sunshine on fresh snow and then found myself stuck in the clouds. It was a very frustrating experience, finding the world look like this:

The world was just white shades on white background with very little grey

The world was just white shades on white background with very little grey

 

Snow Queen Raw Histogram

 

So I put the yellow filter on the lens, remembering that this helps with ski goggles to get a bit better visitbility and contrast. As you see with the histogram, I moved the exposure to the right as always to get as much detail to work with later. The histogram tells us what we already know – the image is very flat, not much more than two stops of dynamic range.

 

 

Snow Queen Lightroom Settings (1 of 1)

 

Time go get the sliders in Lightroom a good workout. I wanted to go for a high key look in he final image, so I didn’t pull the black slider all the way to the back, I wanted some dark grey, but not pure black.

The one thing worth noticing is the exposure slider. As the Leica Monochrom is not storing any color information, you can move the exposure slider freely without worrying about changing colors into something unnatural, as you might have with a normal sensor. Using this slider, I darkened the overall exposure until the darker parts of the fog had the shade I was looking for.

Just remember, decreasing the exposure usually is easier than brighten the image, depending on the ISO you shot the picture with, increasing the exposure might produce noise in the shadows.

After this it was pretty standard, resulting in a histogram that is now wider spread but still concentrated on the upper third, resulting in the high key shot I had been looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got a better looking picture now after the changes, but there is still only very little detail in the foregrond.  Silver Efex to the rescue!

I got a better looking picture now after the changes, but there is still only very little detail in the foregrond.
Silver Efex to the rescue!

For the final version I took it to Silver Efex where I added a few control point to add structure to the foreground and the trees. Back in Lightroom it was the usual spot removal and then painting in local adjustments, mainly to reduce a faint halo effect I got on the edges of the trees and enhanced the faint shadows in the foreground.

As always, it helps if you know how you want your final image to look like, and then expose accordingly for the final result 🙂

Final version after spending some time painting in local adjustments to increase contrast to the tree branches

Final version after spending some time painting in local adjustments to increase contrast to the tree branches

 

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