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Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot.
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Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 10:42:53 MDT Print View

Can anyone give me any tips on taking pictures of the sky?

Specifically, if I'm trying to take a picture of nice cloud formations and/or sky colors at dawn or dusk, one of two things happens. If I get the sky color correct, the foreground is very underexposed. If I get the foreground correct, the sky becomes very overexposed. In some instances this is ok or even desired, but what if I want to preserve the color of both sky and foreground, like what my naked eye sees?

I'm using a Canon SX210 IS. I guess I should be asking if this camera is even capable of taking such a photo! Thanks for your help.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 10:54:54 MDT Print View

I don't know it its the 'right' way to do it, but I shoot it dark and brighten it on the computer.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 10:55:41 MDT Print View

Hi Travis,

You're running into the camera's dynamic range limit. Our eyes have vastly greater ability to make out bright and shadow detail simultaneously than even the best digicams, so we're stuck with their pesky limits.

In any single exposure you have a choice: expose for the bright areas, expose for the shadows, expose somewhere in the middle.

But, using a process called HDR (high dynamic range) you can take a set of three exposures of a single scene and combine them in post processing software (like Photoshop) to get the image you're envisioning. It's best take the shots using a tripod so the pictures are framed identically and combine more easily. If you use a tripod you can also force the camera to stay at the lowest ISO setting, which should provide the greatest dynamic range and keeps noise low.

Happy experimenting!


omar M
(kashmir) - F

Locale: New York
Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot on 07/11/2010 11:46:58 MDT Print View

Hey Travis,

I am not sure if three composite pictures or HDR is even in your tool box, but I suppose that would be ideal or even shooting RAW if the camera has the capacity to do so, which I doubt. RAW files have a broader dynamic range and while you cannot rescue blown out highlights, you can certainly pull a ton of information out of the shadows if you underexpose as Jeff suggests.

People are also often quite surprised by how much information they can pull from a jpeg.

Another quick suggestion if you have a program like Adobe Photoshop then bring the information out with a 'curves adjustment' not the 'levels' as some suggest. You retain more information with curves and keep a smoother transition from the shadows to high lights by using the curves tool.

Hope that helps.

With digital, it is almost always better to underexpose to save the highlights and then pull information from the shadows...

...the opposite of what you might have done with film, but that is for another post ;)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 12:25:09 MDT Print View

The standard technique for this is to use a graduated neutral density filter. This is a piece of clear plastic that changes tone from dark at the top through clear at the bottom. With this held in front of the camera lens, the sky will be darkened to better match the foreground.

Big cameras can use a filter holder to position this, but small cameras make it difficult. Some small camera owners simply hold the ND filter in front of the camera and shoot it.


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 20:29:55 MDT Print View

Hey all, thanks for the feedback. I figured most of it was the limitations of point and shoot cameras, but its good to know I have some options to overcome my camera's inherent shortcomings.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: Taking pictures of the sky with Point and Shoot. on 07/11/2010 20:48:58 MDT Print View

Dynamic range is pretty much a limitation of all cameras. As suggested, you need either a graduated neutral density filter (a hardware solution and hopefully it graduates the way you need) or use HDR (a software solution). Both can give good or bad results depending upon how well you use it.

Your camera isn't supported yet, but keep checking for some great firmware hacks for many Powershots, including scripts to do HDR shots automatically.