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Shadows and Dynamic Range



I shot this the other day with a T6 and tried to pull as much detail out of the shadows as I could with Lightroom. Mainly I twiddled with the shadow slider. I remain dissatisfied.Would a camera with better DR have made much of a difference in this case?



Image may contain: outdoor



I assume that you are saving files as RAW.  Without seeing the “before” shot, it is next to impossible to judge how well you may have recovered dynamic range in the shadows.  I can say that LR does a really good job of it, though.  Overall, I think the shot looks pretty good.  Try giving it a little more contrast. 


As for the dynamic range in a T6, its’ predecessor was rated in the bottom tier of cameras when it was still being sold as new.  But, that sounds far more harsh than what the camera is capable of doing.  For some shots, how you meter the scene and set exposure can make those small differences in getting the most DR out of a given shot.  


I have found evaluative metering to be sufficient for 99.99% of the static shots that I take.  Evaluative metering keeps highlights from being blown out, and shadows from being completely lost.  However, it does tend to seek a middle ground when it comes to exposure.  It wants to set exposure at the center of Ansel Adams zone system.


While that link is not the best explanation, it is also a fairly concise and compact explanation of the concept.  Going from one square to the next represents a full stop of light.  While the human eye is capable of seeing a dynamic range of 20 stops of light, most digital cameras are capable of capturing only 10-12 stops of light,


Furthermore, digital cameras cannot capture the full 10-12 stops of DR in one shot.  Most cameras are capable of only capturing 5-6 stops of light, of 5-6 zones on the zone system.  Evaluative metering will try to center the exposure at the V, or Zone 5.  It wants to capture images ranging between Zones 3-7.  Notice how this discards content in highlights and shadows.


If you want to capture content nearer to the endpoints of the scale, you need to introduce exposure compensation, or to dial in exposure manually.  You could also change from Evaluative metering mode to Center Weighted or Spot metering.  Use those metering modes to put your subject at the center of the zone system’s exposure scale.




As for Lightroom, there are a few things that you can do to expand dynamic range in your shots.  Of course, it begins with shooting as RAW.  It continues with histogram display, which you want to see evenly distributed in the center.  If the histogram content is mainly on the far left or right, the shot is over or under exposed.  


Lightroom has tools that help to pull the histogram back to the center.  These would be the Whites, Blacks, Highlights, and Shadows sliders.  You can enable the histogram to display clipping in the boxes in the upper right and left corners.  On Windows machines, you can hold down the [ALT] key while you adjust Whites or Blacks, and see where in the shot highlights are being blown out, or shadows being lost to noise.


Try this!  Make a virtual copy fo the shot, so that you can more easily compare two combinations of settings, yours and what i am about to tell you.  This is one way to maximize the dynamic range in a shot.


Begin with the Whites slider.  Hold down the [ALT] key, and you will see a completely white screen.  As you increase it, you will see dark spots on the screen begin to appear.  This is saturation.  Adjust the slider to just before saturation appears.  Do the same with the Blacks slider.  Hold down the [ALT] key, and as you decrease the value, you will see saturation spots appear.  Adjust the slider to just before saturation appears.


With an ideal exposure, the Whites and Blacks sliders to be set to plus or minus the same value: i.e +10 and -10.  Sometimes you will have to adjust Highlights and Shadows a little to achieve tha balance of Whites and Blacks.  Once you have set White and Blacks, you can adjust Highlights and Shadows to fine tune the dynamic range.  Finally, I like to add up to 10 points of contrast.  Done!



"The right mouse button is your friend."

Thank you for those tips, Waddizzle! Yes, I do shoot in RAW mode. I will definitely try out your suggestion for the Whites and Blacks sliders. I didn't even think of that!  Also, I've neglected the Histogram except on rare occasions, and that would be another valuable tool to start using regularly. It will no doubt help here with the posted image. As for Lightroom, I do like it. I decided to let myself get ripped off by Adobe for a year, and determine at the end of the rental period if I wanted to get jerked around financially for a second year. In the meantime, I will try out other products in earnest, such as ON1, which seems similar to LR. You pay once and you own it. Thanks again for the tips. 





"Would a camera with better DR have made much of a difference in this case?"


A better camera and a better lens will always make a better picture. Now that said, would it be better in this instance.  All camera/lens have their limits. A better understanding on how to do edits in LR will make a better pcture, too. Before you mess with the shadows slider you should set the B&W points. One way  to do this is, Shift key and double-click on the word “Whites” and the word “Blacks” at the left side of the slider.  Lightroom will automatically set the white and black points for you. Then tweak with the shadows slider.


Better, go directly to the white and black point sliders first especially when shooting Raw file format.  Watch your histogram. Looking at the histogram, you can see if the image has a limited range between the white and black points. You  can expand the range by keeping an eye on the histogram while moving the sliders.



EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Thanks, Ernie. I will try your tips and will take my time. I definitely want to get better with LR beyond importing the images, hitting AUTO and tweaking the contrast. 


I defintely want a better camera, though.That D500 looks pretty great to me, but it's APS-C and N*kon. I still want FF. 


I was traveling north on Section A of the Pacific Crest Trail. If that snake had been headed southbound instead of to the west, I would have got on my belly and shot it eye-to-eye (relatively speaking). That orientation is better. 

"...I will try out other products in earnest, ..."


Go ahead and try but in the end there is nothing else like Lightroom and Photoshop. These are the industry standards and what everybody else compares to. There is nothing better or even as good.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Why don't you try brightening the whole picture? The highlights are nowhere near blown, and a brighter picture might actually look more realistic. The snake knows how hot and bright the sun is; look at how he's trying to stay in the shadow.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


This is after some edits with the black/white/contrast/exposure sliders. Still not where I want it, but this is more an exercise in trying to get better with Lightroom. Thanks for all the tips, gents!



If you have PS, do you know how to use masks and layers? LR has its limits and that is when you go tp PS.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

@ebiggs1 wrote:

If you have PS, do you know how to use masks and layers? LR has its limits and that is when you go tp PS.

No, I don't have the subscription that includes PS, but I can cange my subscription to include it. I may do so at some point. For nature and wildlife I can see that I might need it. But for now, I'll likely stick with LR, despite some limits, until I become more fluent in its use.