A recent wedding I posted on my NJ wedding photography blog, elicited this interesting comment from a reader of the Tangents blog:
One thing I always loved (actually awed) from your photos in the blogs are how effectively you use flash (among various other ways) to balance the bright backgrounds with the subjects to catch the details and colors in both. However the images above seems to been blowing out the details from the sky. I am sure you would have had a reason for doing so. But would you mind sharing it to your readers?
I thought I would rather answer the question here. But taking it a step back …
Where I can, I really take care about how I frame my subject or what my background looks like. And this would be typical of what I like to do, where I have a background that really pops, and adds a lot to the impact of the image.
I specifically chose the background and the position of the sun shining through the trees .. giving that warm tint to everything.
Here is another example of how I let the background blow out to an extent, giving a softer romantic feel to the image.
With this image there are more bold highlights in the background, but they don’t bother me, since the background here just acts as a frame for my subject – the bride. The reason why it doesn’t bother me to lose highlights like this in the background, is that I am a portrait and wedding photographer, not a landscape photographer. Not this time any way. So my concerns for the various elements that make up the final image are different than it would be for a landscape photographer who might try to retain detail throughout the image.
Back to the image at the top, which was one of several on that blog entry where the sky was a bland white because of how bright the overcast sky was.
There are a number of reasons why I let the sky remain over-bright and blown-out like that.
If I had decided to expose for the sky, and then used on-camera flash to balance the exposure for the subject (the bridesmaids), the results would’ve looked very flat, and “flashy”. That isn’t ideal.
The ideal would’ve been one or preferably two lights being held aloft by assistants walking behind me as the bridesmaids advanced towards the camera. Keep in mind that I’m not in a static position, but that I am moving backwards as well as the bridesmaids are walking towards me. Their pace is faster than mine, so they do overtake me during the sequence of images.
So to get perfect studio-style lighting on them on-location here, would’ve meant a whole production with one or two assistants.
This just isn’t practical.
The third alternative, would be to process the image and bring back detail in the sky … and this certainly has potential:
Here I went back to the RAW file, and pulled down the exposure by 2 stops, created a JPG from it … and then combined both exposures as layers. This definitely looks better and adds some drama to the sky which didn’t exist before. However, this does take time.
So in there somewhere one has to find the balance between what looks great, what takes time .. and what is practical.