Shooting a White dress
I took a few shots of my daughter in her haloween costume and they came out pretty bad. I didn't put too much effort into it, but I still expected better than what I got. I have turned out some decent photos in similar settings in the past..

Anyway, she was in a long white dress and had a wig on that was very dark brown. The white was blown out and the wig had no detail (near black). This was in the late afternoon just after the sun was down. I had enough light, but not sure if it was the right kind of light..

If the hair came out exposed decently, then the white was blown... if the white was exposed ok, then the hair was underexposed..

I'm new to this, so any tips on how to get these pictures to turn out better would be much appreciated..

I was using a Rebel XTi in Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, O Expossure Compensation (I don't even really know what this means - this may be what I need to adjust), and I was in auto white balance mode..

Thanks for the help..

Comments (6)

The dynamic range of the camera sensor is limited. sometimes you have to choose whether to blow highlights or block up shadows. you can use exposure compensation to over-ride the built-in metering (another option is to switch to manual mode); I use exposure compensation constantly. you can try to reduce contrast in a scene by getting light into the shadows (perhaps with reflectors) or moving the subject out of really bright light..

If you shoot raw, you can develop the same raw file two different ways (once for highlights and once for the shadows) and then paint the two together in photoshop..

You can expose to preserve highlights and then apply a tone curve to brighten the picture which may be a bit on the dark side (but this can bring out noise in shadows)..

So be aware of scenes that have too much dynamic range for the poor camera sensor...

Comment #1

See the following post re metering and hard tocapture large dynamic range scenes.


You can meter the green grass in the same light that is illuminating the dress and this will give you an accurate 18% grey card reading of the scene. this will more acurately record the darks and lights in the dress and hair........

Bill,Jr'I kind of like the Earth, it's where I keep all my Stuff.'Website; Lake Wylie, SC..

Comment #2

You are trying to shoot a scene that has more dynamic range than the camera's sensor can record..

You can solve this in one of two ways-.

First; you decide what is important in the scene, the white dress or the hair and shoot/meter the one that means the most to you. the other would be incorrectly exposed..

Second; you change the dynamic range to a smaller amount something that the camera's sensor can deal with. the way to do that is try fill flash. or use a reflector, of some kind to add light to the hair but meter for the dress. this would give the dress the right exposure but the hair would have more light and be brighter and not so dark. or use a key flash on the hair only and meter for the dress. some experimenting would be needed to determine th position of the flash to get the right amount of light on the hair without making it look like someone had searchlight on it...

Comment #3

So you took pictures after the sun went down, and they turned out badly..

Sometimes, taking pictures in good light is the first step toward taking decent pictures..

If it is dark, add flash..

Did you use flash?.

There's lots of things that could have beend one wrong, but let's just look at how to do it right..

Step one; put the girl is decent light..

We'll assume outdoor daylight BEFORE the sun goes down..

Step two: set the camera to M for manual exposure, at 1/125th of a second, at ISO 200. Take a medium colored pice of cloth, say a grey sweater, or a medium blue towel, and place it in the same light as the girl and her dress, and set the aperture according to what the camera meter reads off the medium cloth..

You'll have to press in the aperture control button and turn the wheel to get the aperture set, according to the center point of the exposure scale on the back of the camera..

Move the medium cloth away, and take your photos. The whites will be fine and the wig will be fine and her skin will be fine..

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW what went wrong last time, post a picture, or give us every detail of camer setting and situation that you possibily can..


Comment #4

Thanks for all of the advice. I will try to get a pic posted later on. When I say the sun was down, I mean that it was daylight still but the entire yard was shaded since the sun was at the horizon. For example, the aperture priority mode was giving me about 1/120 at f/4 with ISO200...

Comment #5

Did you use flash? That can wipe things out..

Did you turn up the color or contrast? That will make dark things darker and bright things brighter..

I hate to say it but some cameras wipe out subtle texture detail and this was a major part in my final camera purchasing decision...

Comment #6

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.


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