Here is the first picture with 0 ev, f/2.8 and exposure time of 1/80.

enter image description here

Here is second pic with -1.33 ev, f/3.2 and exposure time of 1/150.

enter image description here

I think there are several problems with them:

1) It is nothing like what I saw with my eyes: The water is like mirror in the photo and hence it is very hard to make out where the river boundary ends and the river bank starts.

2) The sun came down from the top and create a very high contrast. If I lowered the ev (as in 2nd picture), then the area around the river became too dark.

I don't think bracketing will help in this situation because trees and water flow always change slightly between frames.

I think the first problem is caused by the polarised filter on my len.

In general, what are the good techniques to improve these photo?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I reckon that the biggest issue with this scene is the stark contrast between the highlights (upper centre extremities) and the shadows (mainly the river banks). A sensor or film with a better DR would certainly help. Another option would be to use a speedlight or strobe to the dark areas, with softboxes to soften the shadows. I have only limited knowledge on the latter, hence why I am not putting this in an answer \$\endgroup\$
    – timvrhn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 6:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem. Like I said, the high dynamic range of the scene is overpowering the capabilities of your sensor. Also, a polarising filter would, if positioned correctly in relation to the reflection, decrease the reflection of the water instead of strengthen it. \$\endgroup\$
    – timvrhn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 7:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd have bracketed it even wider than you did, 0EV & +/- 2EV, then HDR afterwards - see photo.stackexchange.com/a/107929/57929 \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 7:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gradual ND will help but it is not practical. As above point out, simply use exposure bracketing and merge the image. I bet future camera will incorporate this features when most phone camera make use of the HDR merge and hurting the camera sales : theverge.com/2018/10/25/18021944/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mootmoot
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Tim. Your comment is a decent answer. If you make it answer, it can be voted on, and more importantly, edited in the future if you need to add information, etc. Please see: Please put your answers in the answers section, even if they're short \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


There is only so much you can do in the middle of the day when the sun is so bright and the shadows so deep.

Go back just before sunrise and watch the place as the sun comes up, return just before twilight and watch as the lighting changes as the sun sets. You may need to visit it several times as atmospheric conditions can be vastly different form day to day.

Also you may need visit at different times of the year as the direction of the sun may be better in different seasons.

Try to learn how cameras see and record light, they are not nearly as good as your brain so you need to understand that and compensate with Manual adjustments to the settings of the camera.

I can imagine this place with rays of golden sun light piercing the canopy of the trees and tuning it into a magical looking forest glen.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. They are very good advices! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 1, 2019 at 0:10

If you have a polariser on your lens, you need to adjust (namely turn) it for the desired effect. That's why you can rotate it in the first place, as opposed to other filters. It can be used to block the polarisation of the reflection (making it able to look into the water without reflection) but it also can be used to only admit the polarisation of the reflection which keeps the reflection as-is but reduces everything else in the picture by one stop, in effect bringing the brightness of the reflection up to that of the unreflected image.

Note that polarisation occurs mostly at certain angles but a typical water surface is a good candidate. A polariser does not help against reflections from a flash (unless you put a polarising filter on the flash itself) since the problematic reflection direction is not causing polarisation.

Apropos flash: with contrasts such as the one shown here, a fillin flash at a decent level (-2EV or so) may do a lot of good for shadow detail without spoiling the character of the scene.

You can also do "exposure bracketing", creating 3 photographs at different exposure and then combining them to a "high dynamic range" image. Your camera may offer some help with that kind of job or even the complete job (typically at the cost of not producing a RAW image). Personally, I prefer getting the lighting such that I can make do with a single shot.

Shadow detail by fill-in is one instance where an on-camera flash close to the axis (built-in or even ring flash) makes sense: the usual problem of a lack of perspective since you don't see the shadows is exactly what you want for fill-in flashes in order not to get shadows competing with those of the main lighting.


Check these contrast filters, personally never used them, so don't have any first hand experience:

From Tiffen's website:

"Controlling contrast is difficult in bright sunlit exteriors. Exposing for either highlights or shadows will leave the other severely under-or over-exposed. Tiffen was recognized with a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for the innovative design of this popular Motion Picture and TV filter. It uses the surrounding ambient light, not just light in the image area, to evenly lighten shadows throughout. Use it where contrast control is needed without any other effect on sharpness or highlight flare being apparent."


  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review \$\endgroup\$
    – Viv
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the negative votes, I'm sure you've found my link useful ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – The August
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 2:39

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