I took an inhouse photo in which the sun was entering through the window.

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I'm guessing that due to the contrast, the flowers are really bright but the background is more dark than what it was actually looking.

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I took the first photo with a D3500 DSLR Nikon camera, an iso of 100, shutter speed of 1/400 and an aperture of f5.6. What could I have played with to achieve a less dark background? Or should I address this with some kind of post processing? I'm guessing the phone does some software magic behind the scenes.


You need to manipulate the camera tools to achieve the look you want for your subject.

The exposure of an image applies across the entire image frame. It isn't selective. If you expose the image for something that is really bright (the flowers, which have high illumination) then the rest of the image (in this case the background) will appear dark.

By adjusting your camera controls (iso, shutter, and aperture) to be more sensitive for the background's lighting to make it more visible (also known as "better exposed") then the flowers will appear to be blown out or extremely bright or white, appearing to lose all detail.

This is a balancing act due to the nature of the setting's conditions. You have a very bright light source on the flowers, and comparatively little lighting upon your background.

The simple solution here is to balance the lighting of the scene more appropriately. Add lighting on the background. Of course, that is easier said than done. You have to get one or more lights of the same (or similar) color temperature and proper power to compete with the sun (which is hard to do), and not add that light to the subject. Or you can try bouncing some sunlight onto the background with a reflector. Or you can cut down the sunlight's power by diffusing it with something like a sheet. Or you can move the subject (the flowers) out of the sunlight and use a reflector to bounce light onto the flowers and background at the same time. And you can use multiple bounce reflectors to provide multiple angles of illumination. This is part of the art of photography - the manipulation of light, and the planning of your scene.

You are correct in assuming your phone camera can be doing "magic" behind the scenes. It can be blending exposures for the bright subject and dark background to create a single image where more of the image is exposed. Sometimes this can meet a standard called HDR. You can do this too. If you mount your camera on a stable surface (like a tripod), you can take multiple photos at different exposure settings and use an image editing software to manually blend the brightness of two photos together to create a more balanced single image.

I've provided you with a lot of ideas. But that may not be easy to go through. Here is what I suggest doing to start:

Your primary light source is the window and the sunlight. Change the direction you are photographing, from facing the window and outer wall to photographing towards the inside of the room, or in other words, you stand near the window and point your camera in toward the room. Put the flowers on a table. This will probably illuminate the background a little better. For your camera settings, the lower the ISO the better the image quality can be. Then you can adjust your aperture and your shutter so that the highlights or bright areas of the flowers are not oversaturated and blown out. Now, in an image editng software like photoshop/lightroom or gimp/darktable/rawtherapee, you can try to adjust your contrast, darks and brights to balance it a little more.

From here, you can go through other options and techniques to learn how to control light and scenes.

  • There's obviously already some kind of hard reflector (a mirror?) in the room to project the bright lines on the wall directly below the window. This even though the floor and wall beneath the window are in the shadow of the light coming directly in the window.
    – Michael C
    Oct 20 '21 at 9:45
  • That reflection you mention was the light passing through the glass of the window, putting a white panel behind the camera would probably have helped to make it less dark
    – ffigari
    Oct 20 '21 at 21:19

The first thing to try is more exposure. You have lost the background and haven't (yet) blown out the subject. The camera's exposure probably got fooled by the bright subject in the area the meter is most sensitive to. You can also shoot RAW (if you didn't) and use what I think is a standard recipe n Lightroom-highlights to -100, shadows to +100, raise whites until something clips, lower blacks until something clips.

If that isn't enough, you are probably in for HDR (high dynamic range). Shoot frames with varied exposures, say +2, 0, -2 stops. Stack them in Lightroom, Photoshop, or specific software. I suspect your phone is doing this in the background. You do seem to have a huge range of light in the frame, so you probably need either this or to add some light to the background. Many would probably emphasize the last phrase more that all that went before.


Too contrasting scene, when changing the values, the overall background will be lighter, but the flowers will be overexposed. You can put a light reflector (white paper, cardboard, etc.) at an angle of 45 degrees to the incident light to illuminate the background with reflected light and diffuse the incident light. Or take advantage of the flash. You can also remove flowers from under the rays, and illuminate them with reflected light. Then the scene will be flooded with softer light and the camera's automation will more adequately recognize the scene.

  • There's obviously already some kind of hard reflector (a mirror?) in the room to project the bright lines on the wall directly below the window. This even though the floor and wall beneath the window are in the shadow of the light coming directly in the window.
    – Michael C
    Oct 20 '21 at 9:45

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