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finnbay

Rosebud

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Birdsong,

I've been playing most of this week with bird on a stick shots, as most of you well know. My set up isn't perfect, but I'm adjusting as best I can. My background is a stand of balsam fir, which in itself would be good, but they're too close to my perch so I can't get the best buttery BG as I should. Also, there are a few open spots with the snowy lake behind that so I end up with a few hotspots. Finally, my feeder and perches are in a place where the sun sometimes lights the background and not the perch, sometimes both and sometimes the perch and not the background. So, I'm shooting with a bigger aperture than I'd like - usually about f/3.5 to increase the bokah of the background. It narrows my depth of field, but for now I'm willing to take that tradeoff. As to hotspots, they are small enough that Photoshop easily clones them out. Finally, I limit most of my shooting to when the light covers the perch but the background is shaded. With the background shaded and the subject lighted, I compensate a bit depending on how bright the light is - anywhere from -2/3 to -2. Photoshop exposure controls can fine tune from there. Use of flash could increase my shooting time, but I haven't played with that for awhile. Anyway, experimentation will allow you to find the best combo that works for you. A few from the last couple of days:

Rosebud-1.jpg

Rosebud-2.jpg

Cedar-2.jpg

Cedar-1.jpg

Cedar-3.jpg

Just one other thought. I don't know what editing software you have, but if you expose your histogram as far to the right without blowing out any whites, in Photoshop, when I decrease the exposure, not only does it bring a little more detail to my subject, but it really darkens the background as well.

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Thank you for this post, finnbay. I hope to find time to try it out in the morning. I'll also see if I can soften some of the branchy backgrounds, as Steve mentioned. I'm afraid there won't be many birds if it is as nice as they say it will be. They'll all be busy singing and mating I'm afraid. I can still work on F-stops, exposure compensation and distances. But to be clear, I am exposing my histogram as far to the right as I can in camera not post process, correct? And you are decreasing exposure with levels I assume. I use Photoshop Elements but have not been shooting RAW.

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Correct. Camera histogram to the right. Also, I'm using "exposure" sliders with Photoshop, as of now, CS4. I'm not sure which controls Elements has, but Levels could probably achieve a similar effect but it's probably going to take a bit more fiddling.

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I finally got to work on this today. I ended up with the same problem you had--background lighted up. I came back to it later thinking I might have the right timing. X-T's blind was casting a shadow on the perch. But the BG was pretty good. Anyway, I thought I was understanding until I pulled up your thread again. When you are trying to bring your histogram slightly to the right, are you doing that with ISO and aperture? I was doing so with exposure compensation, which gave a really washed out result in-camera and adjusted it with levels. However, I read your original message and realized I had done it exactly the opposite. I had compensated a -2/3 for a couple shots, it did give me a much richer photo in-camera but also moved my histogram back to the left, I assume losing some detail in the process? So--I bring my histo to the right with ISO and aperture, compensate for the light on the branch with a negative exposure compensation, correct? Sorry, very slow learner! I have a lot of neat pictures of an empty perch with an evergreen bg. The birds were having none of it. In fact, I took down all the feeders except the one. One is too hard to remove so I threw a towel over it. Didn't stop the chickadees for a minute. They just ducked under the towel. Thanks!!!!

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Shooting in Av, changing the the ISO or aperture, will not change the exposure, therefore not changing the histogram. Sometimes, if there is a lot of contrast, you just have to decide what's more important - the highlights or shadows. As long as nothing is touching either edge of the histogram, you won't be losing any detail.

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I obviously have never understood the concept of exposure. Back to the books. Maybe it will be clearer this time through. Thanks.

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All cameras are calibrated to treat all exposures based on an 18% gray card. It's considered a midtone. This is why, in the majority of cases, even a person with a simple P & S camera will get most of their pictures exposed properly. If you set your cam to ISO 400 and an aperture of f8, the shutter speed may be 1/250 sec. If you change your ISO to 200, the only thing that will change is your shutter speed, which will now be 1/125 sec. Or instead, you can change your aperture to 5.6 and you will also get the ss of 1/125 sec. When shooting in Av, no matter what you change, the camera will still compensate by automatically changing the shutter speed to get to the 18% average. This is why EC is so important, for us who prefer to get a more perfect exposure on every shot. Therefore, changing the EC will move the histo, but any other changes will keep the exposure constant, unless you are shooting in manual mode. I have included a shot of an 18% gray card. There are many things that are very similar to the same density, such as medium green grass and northern blue sky.

3285508588_53079b465e_o.jpg

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Excellent explanation, Mike.

I'll put it another way, Birdsong. Only underexposing or overexposing move the histogram left or right, and you use exposure compensation (EC) or manual settings to do that. Underexposing moves the histogram to the left, overexposing to the right.

It's also worth remembering that "under" and "over," while they seem to imply a "wrong" exposure, sometimes are better options than letting the meter do the job on its own.

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Mike and Steve,

Thanks for taking this thread and running with it. Between getting back to work and a lot of catching up to do, I haven't been checking the forum much lately. Great info.

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Underexposing moves the histogram to the left, overexposing to the right.

Also, underexposing renders the image darker and overexposing makes it brighter. This is why, you sometimes need to underexpose to keep detail in the highlights.

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