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I'm an amateur photographer learning to take good shots. I need some advise for shooting landscapes in bright daylight. Here's a picture that I've taken from my camera:

own image

I took this picture from my canon eos 1200D using a 55-250mm ef-s zoom lens and the parameters are:

  • F-Stop: f/8
  • Exposure Time: 1/500 sec.
  • ISO-Speed: 200

As you can see in the picture top part of the picture looks bright because of over-exposure. I wanted the landscape to be bright and colorful but the top part came out too bright. how can I avoid this?

How can I make my shots look like this one?

enter image description here

I'm not so fluent in the photography jargons, please forgive my ignorance. Please let me know the ways in which I can improve.

  • One obvious advice: make sure your lens is clean. If it's not, you'll lose contrast, and it may be the case with your first picture. – Matthieu Moy Jul 27 '17 at 12:25
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How can I make my shots look like this one?

I added an emphasis to the question you asked, which is pretty much the answer: You make an image like that.

There's no way your camera will produce an image like that directly. No matter what settings you dial in. You have to apply some heavy post processing to get an image like that, the steps are usually:

  1. The image you are showing is very likely an image, which is a blend of multiple different exposures.
  2. Add saturation
  3. Add contrast
  4. Add more saturation
  5. Add more contrast.
  6. Add even more contrast so parts of the clouds turn very dark or even black. If your image looks as unrealistic as the one posted, you're done

As you only have a single image, you can still add more and more saturation and contrast, which will bring you closer to other image. However, there are a few other things to consider, too:

  • Pick more interesting scenery. Your image shows some green hills whereas the other image shows distinguished peaks, with different vegetation (and even lack thereof) and a lot of sky. Besides the post processing, the other image simply has a more interesting subject matter, which improves the image.
  • Pick more interesting weather. The other image was shot at a very sunny day. The clouds throw shadows with hard edges onto the land, which results in brighter and darker patches of land in the image. The clouds are individual entities in the image. Your image was taken at a more overcast day. The shadows on the land do not have as hard edges as in the other image. The single cloud in your image is more of a curtain, which is less interesting. That's because texture is usually perceived to be more interesting than a solid color. If you compare the skies: yours is pretty a single color, whereas the other shows many patches of white and blue.

  • A polarizer might help cutting through the mist of the clouds to get a less dull image.


I thought I give it a shot, threw the image into Lightroom to play around with it and see what works and what does not work.

original

original

Nothing new here =)

exposure -1

exposure -1

Oh look, there's detail in the sky! The landscape didn't take the edit too badly either. What the meter considered "right" might not have been the best choice for exposure.

highlights -50

highlights -50

Even more detail in the sky. You cannot see it in the low resolution jpeg, but reducing the highlights by that much introduced some artefacts in the clouds. This is where shooting RAW helps or the aforementioned HDR. Both give you more room to work around the limited dynamic range of your camera.

shadows +50

shadows +50

This helps getting the landscape back to a good brightness level.

blacks -40

blacks -40

Reducing the exposure at the beginning helped to stop the whites from clipping. But even after that, there are still no true blacks in the picture. For this shot, I'd say there should be some darkness between the trees of the forest. That mostly went missing due to the mist.

clarity +40

clarity +40

This contrast brings out the details. Look at the trees in the foreground (around the patches of grassland).

vibrance +30

vibrance +30

this adds saturation and intensifies the colors.

hue: green +20

hue: green +20

The grassland now looks greener than before.

hue: aqua -30

hue: aqua -30

This was an attempt to reduce the blue color cast of the mist even more. The results are very subtle if at all visible. Changing the white balance would probably have been the better tool to get rid of the blue color cast.

disclaimer This is in no way saying this image should be edited this way. As some of the annotations point out, some of the modifications are too much (because the jpeg image material doesn't take them well or they are just generally over the top) while others are very subtle. Personally, I wouldn't necessarily edit this file this way. This is meant to be a starting point. Most of the edits were motivated by the overall dullness of the original image due to mist, which is why the result is quite punchy.

If you cannot spot the differences between two steps, download both files and toggle between them in an image viewer

I'd rather keep my image original than adding some effects

As pointed out in the comments, instead of dismissing all edits, try to find your edits (which of course might be no edits). In general, no image is complete when it comes out of the camera. This was true in the film days and remains true in digital. You aren't doing photojournalism or product photography. If I were travelling to some remote place and all I could get were some dull images I'd give more severe editing a try, because it's not the weather that I was trying to photograph, but the scenery.

  • I'd rather keep my image original than adding some effects, Thanks for your advice – Aditya Cherla Oct 13 '16 at 19:02
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    @AdityaCherla you will find that this is pretty much impossible. If you take a raw image, it will always look dull (even more than your own image that you posted). The conversion to jpeg (even in camera) involves "adding some effects". So to some extent, the purist idea of creating "original" images is somewhat pretentious and unrealistic. Instead of generally dismissing any addition of effects as undesirable, I suggest you come up with your own threshold of what is allowed and what is not (and what amount of that). Adding contrast is not bad itself, it's the dose that makes the poison. – null Oct 13 '16 at 19:17
  • The conversion to jpeg (even in camera) involves "adding some effects" -I did'nt know that thanks for the info – Aditya Cherla Oct 13 '16 at 19:21
  • @AdityaCherla speaking of effects, I tried some on the image and edited my answer to include the results. I think the problem is that the other image you included in your question is way too different to compare it to yours. Making yours look the same would require very heavy editing. That doesn't mean that you cannot/shouldn't edit your image at all. – null Oct 13 '16 at 21:23
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    @AdityaCherla To add to the point - seriously, no professional photographer of any sort who is shooting digital ever ships a single photo that hasn't has some sort of post processing done on the RAW image. If you want to think of it like film, you'd do something similar in a darkroom when turning a negative into a print - there's not really a default that works for every shot. Also, because the digital format is natively linear, there's a certain need to subjectively bring out the non-linearities that we, as humans, experience when viewing a scene. – J... Oct 14 '16 at 10:54
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I absolutely agree with null's suggestions to a) pick more interesting scenery and b) pick more interesting weather. You may also want to look at neutral density filters and at HDR techniques to help you deal with bright skies.

But that said, the contrast in this image is really low. With the exception of the blown-out sky, which is kind of an unsalvageable mess, the farms nestled among the trees are kind of nice, and I don't think that needs to be In! Your! Face! Bam! like the other sample you posted. However, if you do want to increase contrast to see what that looks like, you can use the Curves tool in any good editing application.

A standard contrast-enhancing S-curve looks like this:

enter image description here

Hmmm; looking at that, though, this balanced curve is bringing up the farther trees too much, dropping too much detail in the middle, and maybe not adding enough oomph at the low end. So, shifting it down a bit:

enter image description here

That gives this result:

enter image description here

You might like it more than your original. I'm not at all happy with those clouds, though, and there's not much to be done. (You might be able to salvage some from a RAW file, but I think it's probably not going to be worth it.) I do like that asymmetrical tree in the lower center, and, again, the farm nestled in the trees is nice. What if we crop out the sky and just focus on that?

enter image description here

Maybe not a masterpiece, but there's actually a lot to play around with!

  • The cropped image looks better that the original Image though. Thanks for your advice – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 4:09
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The second image might have been created as such in camera or edited to look like this using post-processing.

The main difference between two images is tonal contrast - the darker parts of second image are darker and lighter parts of it are even lighter. You may adjust your camera settings to increase contrast.

Next difference is the gradual darkening of the top of the photograph (as Kamen Minkov noted already) which can only make the photograph darker but this is probably something what you talk about. This can be achieved either in editor or using GND filter.

Another difference which contributes to the difference is the tonality of clouds (the clouds on your photograph have smaller luminance variance) and the tonality of the scene itself: the sun light the scene from different angles and the examplary photo has deep shadows (created by opaque objects - hills and mountains) while your photo only has shadows from clouds (only partially opaque).

These are differences which you cannot easily compensate using camera settings or post processing.

The secondary difference is white balance: the second image could be created with WB set up for cloudy weather and the photo looks warm because of that.

Here are two photos of clouds with identical settings: enter image description here enter image description here

Sure you can make the second one look like first one given that you spend enough time in editor - at the cost of the second photo loosing natural apperance.

  • I totally understand what your saying. Today I learned that even the best photographs are in some way "Edited". Appreciate your advice – Aditya Cherla Oct 13 '16 at 19:25
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There are multiple possible approaches to this. Here are two:

  1. Exposure bracketing. You take at least two exposures - one properly exposed for the sky and one properly exposed for the land, then merge them in post processing. The idea is to keep the properly exposed part of each shot and merge the usable information in one shot. Each shot by itself will not be very useful - exposing for the sky will have the land severely underexposed, exposing for the land will have the sky blown out.
  2. Using graduated filters: these are physical filters that you can place in front of the lens; they have one part gradually darkened while the other part is transparent. They work by evening out the sky (by darkening it) so that it's more close in brightness to the other part of the frame.

Both of these can be done to a certain extent entirely in software with only one shot (if shooting in RAW), but the success rate will depend on how much dynamic range your camera is able to retain in the specific case.

  • Thanks for your reply. I've heard about ND Filters but how should I decide which one's the best for me? – Aditya Cherla Oct 13 '16 at 18:54
  • I'm talking about graduated ND filters. "ND filter" by itself usually means a filter that is uniformly dark along the whole frame; such a filter is used to allow you to use lower shutter speeds than with no filter, e.g. exposing for several seconds in daylight - useful for showing motion in water, clouds and so on. As for a grad filter - you can take a shot like the first one that you showed, but expose for the sky, then push up the shadows until they are properly exposed; you'd want a filter with as much stops of darkening as the stops you pushed the shadows up. – K. Minkov Oct 13 '16 at 19:09
  • "you'd want a filter with as much stops of darkening as the stops you pushed the shadows up"-That makes sense – Aditya Cherla Oct 13 '16 at 19:17
  • That's an estimate, of course. But since you can shoot RAW, you can have the flexibility to push shadows and highlights up and down. The filter is there to help what would normally fall out of the camera's dynamic range back in it. – K. Minkov Oct 13 '16 at 19:37
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"As you can see in the picture top part of the picture looks bright because of over-exposure. I wanted the landscape to be bright and colorful but the top part came bright. how can I avoid this?

How can I make my shots look like this one?"

You could use a graduated neutral density filter or blend multiple images. There's no other way. By the way, the photo you want to emulate is way over processed and looks awful to me.

If you follow the advice of most photographers you shoot in RAW mode. Shooting in RAW almost guarantees that you MUST do post processing work on a computer. If you don't want to do that you MUST use a graduated filter to darken the sky while keeping the foreground intact. Then shoot in JPG. The BEST way, although not always possible, is to find the right light which means finding the right time of day/year to shoot your photo. Creating (rather than making) a great photo is not necessarily easy.

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The look of your second image is described with one word: HDR tonemapping. To achieve it, though, you don't always need multiple exposures, as there are tools that do a HDR tonemapping effect from a single photo. I'll show you the results of using one such tool - ReDynamix, a Photoshop plugin.

Your source image for reference: source image

First I downscaled the image to 1700x1133px, to keep processing time down and because tonemapping tools' results depend on the image scale.

Then, in Photoshop I selected Image -> Auto tone which automatically balances the colors and gives contrast. This is optional as a pre-step to using ReDynamix. Result:

autotoned

Then I run ReDynamix on it, taking care to adjust the settings. In particular, note the "saturation", "vivid colors" controls. In ReDynamix I also adjusted gamma to make it less washed out, and selectively reduced the saturation on yellows and greens, because the overall increased saturation I had chosen was making them burn out.

redynamixed

I'd say the result is pretty good overall :)

  • The Auto Tone did balance the color of the foliage, but still the clouds were too bright. – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 11:57
  • @AdityaCherla: That's why I do the ReDynamix step afterwards :) – Stefan Monov Oct 14 '16 at 12:21
  • The thing is I'm not familiar with HDR Tone Mapping technique. Need to do some research on that – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 12:25
  • You're gonna have to, if you want to achieve the result you posted :) But note that standard HDR tonemapping tools like Photomatix will make your highlights (sky, clouds) too dull if used with a LDR image like yours. You're either going to have to use something like ReDynamix which handles LDR highlights pretty well, or shoot HDR/RAW images. – Stefan Monov Oct 14 '16 at 12:29
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It is difficult to make " good " photos in bright daylight because the dynamic range of light is greater than your cameras ability to capture that light and because the bright mid day light is very harsh, strong and contrasty. Graduated neutral density filters will help to bring the sky's light closer to the foreground's light but it will not help with the contrast of shadows in bright sunlight. Very early morning first light and late evening last light will be much softer ( less dynamic range ), it will be more filtered by the earths atmosphere. ( the light will be traveling through more of the atmosphere because of the oblique angle of the sun to the earth)

Do a test: find a landscape you can photograph all through out the day. a tripod would be helpful. Take photos ( the same composition ) starting at first light and then at intervals through out the day and then at sunset though last light. (twilight) and then compare them. you will see the difference in the QUALITY (and quantity, you will need to change your exposure setting acordingly) of the light at each stage of the day.

And please do not make your photos look like the example you posted. It is heavily manipulated and looks terribly unnatural. IMO

  • Frankly I was expecting an answer where someone would say change this parameter and change that, But I still learned a lot. I would surely do your test to get a better Idea. – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 4:03
  • Light is a parameter, you have no control over the sunlight but if you recognize how it affects what you are photographing your photographs will be great. – Alaska Man Oct 15 '16 at 8:40
  • True That!!! That's one of the best advice that I got on photography – Aditya Cherla Oct 15 '16 at 19:52
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As @null and @mattdm pointed out, this all a matter of post production.

You might be surprised, but your camera is doing an awesome job at acquiring a enormous quantity of light! that is what you want!

The image you posted is a classy HDR image, wich always looks pretty on low-res or super-hi-res, but there's many more than that...

What you've got to do is take those picture in RAW format, and either directly upload them to some service that has inbound editor like Flickr, or edit them through Lightroom / similars.

Why? because you've got a ton of light, and a ton of pixels, ready to interact with you and your desires! want it greyscale? check. want it HDR? check. want a blu-er sky? check. and none of that would be faking the photography's soul, because you'll be tweaking values that are already there to give it a feeling!

these photos had almost the same mild whitey as yours (although the histogram showed not a single over-exposed zone) , because you're taking all the possible light and then, it's your turn to make that light do some magic.

enter image description here

enter image description here

and a professional's example on how much you can get out of any RAW photo:

enter image description here

  • The second photo has a brilliant color balance. both the foliage and the blue sky are properly illuminated. – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 6:31
  • If you're refering to yours, that's because i'm 90% sure it has atleast two fake High Dynamic Range effects applied plus some coldness increase and peak white decrease (like in my 2nd pic). if you're refering to mine, thanks! :P Fake HDR is a easy to learn photoshop / photo editing technique that will provide you the results. That, or you'll have to take a High dinamic range pic, a low dynamic range pic, and merge both on a raw editing software. – CptEric Oct 14 '16 at 6:35
  • I was referring to your second pic. – Aditya Cherla Oct 14 '16 at 6:39
  • The original was far from pretty, it was a very bright day and the camera took most of the sky as grey-ish. had to rescue all the blue out of it. – CptEric Oct 14 '16 at 6:41
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For an in camera solution 1. Using Aperture priority mode set to F11 and base ISO like 100

  1. Put your metering mode onto spot meter

  2. Take a meter reading of the brightest part of the sky note the shutter speed

  3. Take a meter reading of the darkest part of the ground note the shutter speed

  4. Work out the difference in stops between 3 and 4 and selected a graduated ND filter to balance them out - likely around 3 stops of light. A hard GND is better but need a straight horizon for this. Line up your filter with the horizon.

  5. Dont forget this - put your metering mode back onto evaluative

  6. Using your histogram you should have a more balanced distribution now, you may now be able to expose to the right or ETTR using exposure compensation - adding exposure bunching up to the right without clipping the highlights.

  7. Using a tripod, 2 sec timer and image stabilisation off - take your shot.

  8. You will then need to post process to adjust the exposure to bring out all the tones.

I do this all the time as love to go for walks in the sunshine. alternatives are bracketing and post processing.enter image description here

  • I'll surely tryout your steps. Thanks for the advice on the spot meters, just read some literature on it. I think I totally missed out on that – Aditya Cherla Oct 15 '16 at 19:47
  • Your welcome, in the particular shot above I not use a polariser, often a polariser can help really bring out the blue in the sky, but in this case not help as sun was almost directly in front rather than at a 45 degree angle approx. you can overdue it with polarisers and filters so need to be careful and its time consuming so need to be patient too, but i was enjoying the moment and not going anywhere – herby Oct 16 '16 at 10:43

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