a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Here We Are! A Photographic Adventure

Monday, January 03, 2011

Here We Are! A Photographic Adventure

SUMMARY: Another challenging photo shoot--how we got to the final gorgeous photo.
I adjusted my SLR for what I thought would be the appropriate setting, handed the camera to my friend with pretty much no instructions, and tried to get Boost and Tika to sit cheerfully beside me. But could it be so simple? Nooooo!

Just as my friend started to snap the photo--That's when another hiker appeared in the distance with his own dogs, which greatly distracted mine. Plus the exposure setting I picked works best if the correct part of the image is in the focus area--first attempt, other dogs just sighted by the Merle Girls and I quickly grabbed Tika's collar. And it's a bit over-exposed:

Second attempt: I'm doing my part in looking at the camera, plus there are 2 people trying to get my dogs' attention. Boost was willing, but so was one of their border collies. Plus Tika still wants to take off--and now WAY over-exposed.

More explanation: Jan 17, 2011: Here's the thing: I had the camera on Program mode, but because most of my shots included large fields of snow, I had set the exposure compensation to plus 1 and 2/3 stops, so whatever f and time the Program mode picked, it would make it 1.67 stops slower. (Because by default it will try to make all that white into middle gray, and I want all that white to be white.) It was also overcast, so not bright light, but a lot of reflected light everywhere, from sky and snow. Rough conditions to try to get a good reading!

So the f & tv that the camera picked would depend on where its metering point was. I was using centered spot metering, which makes it more sensitive to the exact center of the image. I didn't think about that when I handed my friend the camera. So, naturally, she started with me and dogs in the very center, so we were pretty large as a percentage of the spot metering area, so really there shouldn't have been *any* exposure compensation because our colors are kind of midrange, and that compensation I set meant that, yeah, we were overexposed.

The ones were we *weren't* overexposed are the ones where we are off-center, so the spot metering was metering off of a mostly reflective white snowy area in the middle of the frame, so the exposure compensation worked the way I had intended. I just got lucky that she started aiming off-center (not even sure whether intentional or not, and I didn't think about it until after we were done).

So if I'd been shooting in manual, if I had spot metered at the center where it was mostly snow, I'd have picked, say, the f I wanted, adjusted the time so that the camera thought it was metered correctly, and then made it 2 stops slower to accommodate the bright white. If I had spot metered at where I and the merle girls were, I'd have set the f I wanted, adjusted so that the camera thought it was metered correctly, and then just used that.

Third attempt: Boost is still cooperating, but now *I'm" looking at the other dogs and hanging tight to both of my girls. Still badly overexposed.

Fourth attempt: Got me and Boost, although it's kind of obvious I'm hanging onto them both, and STILL overexposed--

Fifth attempt: Other dogs are out of range, I'm trying to get the dogs to just stay in place, but apparently the focus area is now on the right thing, because the exposure for the 3 of us isn't nearly so bad:

Sixth attempt: OMG, it's almost perfect! Everyone's looking at the camera! We're not terribly overexposed! (Just a little.) The background and snow are over-exposed still, but not completely burned out, and that's expected because the difference in reflected light is so large.

So now it's up to photoshop (Elements)! First, I let the Raw Editor pick what it thinks is the correct exposure and saved the following copy of the same file. The snow and background now come out clearly (thank goodness I shot in RAW), but now the Merle Girls and I are a little too dark.

Used Photoshop's Photomerge Exposure tool to create a better-exposed photo by combining the two preceding photos--all I had to do here was to select those two versions of the photo and tell it to Merge. Amazing!

And now just a tweak--the background is nice but all those additional trees on the right don't really add anything, and we're supposed to be the primary subjects anyway. A quick crop--

And then auto-color correct to remove some of the extreme bluish tint, and voila!

Any of you photographers out there have any comments on the process or results?


  1. Very cool!!! What version of elements do you have?

  2. Thanks for the photography lesson. It's amazing what computers can do (I sound like an old lady). I don't have photoshop but now I'm inspired to try to figure out my editing software beyond the auto fix options.

  3. I have elements 8 but I think I saw that 9 was out. I'm getting to where there are some things in the full photoshop that I might want, but mostly elements does SOOOOO much at a fraction of the cost.

    This book helped me tremendously in moving away from simple auto corrections:

    Digital Photography (All You need to Know) by Michael Wright - the version i have (and the one I've linked to here) tells how to do things in Elements 7, which applies also to 8 although there are new features in 8. After a quick search, I can't figure out whether he's done an updated version. Also, there's a great web site for Elements with all kinds of tutorial videos and articles: http://www.photoshopelementsuser.com/

  4. Thanks for this mini tutorial and the story behind the lovely family photo -- informative and entertaining all at the same time. I inherited PSE 4 from my dad a few months ago and am only just starting to learn some of the features -- there's sooooo much to it but it's fun to learn in teeny tiny bits at a time. Never even knew about the merge feature, will have to check that out (if my oldie version 4 has it).

    It's amazing the detail in the snow that was brought out. Maybe one last thing, depending on one's taste and preference and all that, would be to clone out the sign on the left? On the one hand I like it because it looks old and rustic, and with the cap of snow on it; on the other hand if it were removed the overall scene might look more wild. I'm not sure how easy it would be to clone it out though?

    Anyway I do love this photo -- definitely a keeper!

  5. Elements 4 doesn't have that feature or a whole lot of others that I now can't live without!

    Cloning out that sign would be alittle challenging because of the complicated texture behind it (snowy tree branches). Not impossible, though. I had actually thought about adding onto the side from one of the photos that had the complete sign so it looked more intentional.

  6. Oh boy, I'm tempted to ask what other features but won't because I know just what that will lead to: another hole in my pocket! ;-)

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