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Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on both
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Mitch Chesney
(MChesney) - F
Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on both on 04/02/2014 15:49:15 MDT Print View

It seems whenever I take a photograph of the landscape (perhaps landscape in shade) and include the sky, either the sky turns out white and the landscape is beautiful, or the sky is vivid blue and the landscape is too dark. I have an Olympus EPL5 with near-DSLR capabilities so this should even be an issue. Can anyone help me with my settings?

Sharon J.
(squark) - F

Locale: SF Bay area
Re: Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on both on 04/02/2014 16:14:51 MDT Print View

The problem is your camera's limited subject brightness range. The best fix (that I know of) is a graduated neutral density filter. The second best (TIKO) is to "bracket" your shot, that is, take two or more shots at different exposures and merge them later. This will be extremely difficult without a tripod. Another workaround is to matrix meter, then brighten the foreground and darken the sky in post-processing.

Good luck. I am confident that B.G. will chime in with more detailed instructions post-haste.

edit to add article:

Edited by squark on 04/02/2014 16:43:42 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on both on 04/02/2014 16:53:31 MDT Print View

What Sharon suggested is good. Note that you will get best results with exposure bracketing if you use a tripod to get the camera stable. If you wiggle it between shots, not so nice. This is important also if you are trying to do HDR.

I've had trouble like this a couple of times. In each case, I was using a camera lens without any lens hood. If the least amount of sunlight gets on that lens from the wrong direction, it tends to leave your image affected.

I don't know that specific camera, but some cameras are a bit limited since they shoot only JPEG images. A camera that can shoot RAW images will open up whole new horizons and allow you to correct a multitude of sins. I've been shooting almost exclusively RAW images for about twelve years now. Also, I keep a polarizer on my lens about 90% of the time.


jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on on 04/02/2014 21:42:02 MDT Print View

Galen Rowell used to sell a graduated filter that worked pretty well. But remember he was only shooting slides; nothing digital. When I used to shoot photos I got to know my film and light meter pretty well; I could compensate somewhat for better balance even without a graduated filter. But like Bob I almost always had a polarized filter on my camera.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on on 04/02/2014 21:46:21 MDT Print View

Be one with the histogram!


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re: Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on on 04/02/2014 22:06:15 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/21/2015 11:48:40 MDT.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Re: Re: Re: Balancing the sky and landscape for vivid colors on on 04/07/2014 10:34:41 MDT Print View

Hey Mitch. This is probably one of the most common problems that people will face taking photos outdoors. Since the sensor can't capture all of the range in the scene, some areas will either be "blown out" (your sky) or "blocked" (shadows). Even the best sensors can't capture detail across the dynamic range of a typical sunny day scene. This is also one of the reasons why photographers typically get up early or wait around all day for good light.

There are a couple of things which affect the outcome of the exposure. You may be aware of some/most/all of this, but others who are reading may not, so I'll ramble on for a minute... When using any auto-exposure mode (auto, aperture priority, shutter priority, etc...) the camera is going to meter the scene and decide how to expose it. There are a few metering modes in most cameras; usually something like "matrix", "scene", or "averaged" will be the default mode. This means the camera takes several readings around the frame and uses its brain to determine the exposure.

If you stick with the "averaged" metering, you'll probably see a trend where your camera is either over-exposing or under-exposing - this is where you can set the exposure compensation (a feature that every modern camera has) to correct the camera back in the direction of your preference.

Another way to approach it (and this can be combined with exposure compensation too) is to change the metering mode to either "center weighted" or "point". Point is essentially just that - metering is based off one point at the center of the frame. Now you have a lot of control over what the camera is basing it's exposure on. By using point metering, pointing at whatever you want to be neutrally exposed, *locking exposure* (sometimes called "AEL"), then re-composing the shot, you regain control over what's going on. I realize this may sound like a lot to do if it's not something you're familiar with, but it's pretty standard practice and not difficult once you familiarize yourself with with your camera.

In most cases, I find it's easier to simply use manual exposure which is the only way I shoot when I want the best results. This doesn't require any exposure compensation or exposure locking - just set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed needed to expose the scene the way you want it. Learning how to read a histogram is a big help (if your camera offers live histogram display). Generally speaking, tweak the exposure until the histogram is just short of touching the right edge. This will give up some detail in the shadows (you should be able to bring some back with post processing) but due to the way digital sensors work, you'll capture much more detail in the rest of the scene.

All of this is sort of for the benefit of anyone who's interested in understanding a little more about how their camera works and how to be more in control of it, although I realize that's not everyone.

What Rick M. offered regarding in-camera HDR is probably the best way to go if you're a "point and shoot" type. It's also a good way to go any time there is just way too much dynamic range for the sensor. I have a pretty good sense of when that is with my cameras and I also use in-camera HDR at those times. Probably a very satisfactory solution for most people.