I've recently shot the following photo (f/8, 4.0 s., ISO 100):

enter image description here

In post-processing, it appeared that:

  • The magenta channel was practically blown out, and I had a choice to either reduce/desaturate the purple and magenta parts (which is not the intention of the shot), or lose the details,

  • The details of the “light trees” are completely lost. Here's a zoom on a relevant part of the photo:

    enter image description here

I imagine that in order to get the trees right, I should set a faster shutter speed, but then, the overall scene will be too dark. The current histogram (after post-processing) looks like this:

enter image description here

and on the original image, there are even more dark zones.

As I understand it, using bracketing in order to darken the trees only won't work either, since it will produce dark borders around the trees.

What are my options if I have an opportunity to redo the shot?


I had no opportunity to redo the shot, but I reproduced a similar lighting situation at home with a LED emitter. Indeed, the suggestion by MirekE gives if not an ideal, at least much better result than a single photo. Those are the three photos produced through bracketing:

  • 1/5 s.: the whites are blown out, and dark zones are barely visible.

    enter image description here

  • 1/20 s.: the whites are nearly correct, but practically everything else is invisible.

    enter image description here

  • 1 s.: the details in the dark are visible, but the lights are appearing just as a glowing white zone.

    enter image description here

An HDR of those images in Photoshop gives this the following image. It doesn't look very natural, but is still much better than any of the three previous photos taken individually.

Of course, an HDR of a scene where people are constantly moving in front of the light sources could provide additional difficulties, but probably multiple series of HDR shots could produce a decent result.

enter image description here


You are trying to capture more dynamic range than the camera is capable of capturing in a single exposure.

You could make range of exposures from properly exposed shadows to properly exposed highlights and combine them in HDR. Programs like Lightroom can do it easily and with naturally looking results. Shoot the images at the native camera ISO with fixed aperture and variable exposure time, ideally from a tripod.

You could make the shot while some of the natural light is still available. If you shoot a series several minutes apart, you may find a shot that gives bright enough purples, but with enough light to bring detail to the shadows and keep the light bulbs from being blown out. I have seen impressive results when before and after dark images were combined together to bring the best of both worlds.


You can use a green filter on the lens.

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