I took this picture the other day and of course not satisfied with the subject being so underexposed.

If I used flash (off-camera with bounce card, perhaps), I imagine, that poster would reflect a lot of light. This will lead to still lack of balance in light between person under hat and poster/surroundings.

Is there way to balance light in this situation using flash, or post-processing (some form of high dynamic ratio, I guess) using masks is the only way to go here?

How to fill shadow here?


2 Answers 2


A flash with a very narrow snoot should do the job, assuming you can get a proper exposure of the ambient light at the camera's flash sync speed.

A reflector would also help. Adding the same amount of light to the dark face and the bright poster will not increase the brightness of each by the same proportion.

Imagine that the face and the poster are 60 inch deep water barrels. The face has 2 inches of water at the bottom. The poster has 50 inches of water in it. If you add 5 inches of water to each barrel, you'll increase the one with 2 inches to 7 inches, a gain of 250%. That's two and one-half stops brighter than before! Adding 5 inches on top of the 50 inches in the other barrel is only a 10% increase in brightness, which is less than one-sixth stop.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a different take on the old water barrel analogy. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Apr 24, 2017 at 1:06

When shooting under tightly controlled circumstances - studio, staged outdoor photoshoot - you would use a fill light. I suggest a big reflector, lightly curved to avoid flooding the white sign. If I had any control over the shot I would stage it in a different time of the day - it looks like mid-day and the sun is very harsh.

When shooting as live action in the field (which I suppose is how this photo originated) I would just ask the guy to take his hat off...

  • \$\begingroup\$ ok, i should admit that "ask guy to take hat off" is something that didn't come to my mind! \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did not mean to be a wisecrack - but the light is harsh, there was no time nor space to set up "proper" lightning - and people on a demonstration are usually pretty cooperative. Getting the message heard is the whole point of them being there. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant that in a good way :) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am glad you do! :) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you were shooting for a professional news organization and submitted as spot news an image you took after asking the guy to take off his hat it would very likely cost you your job if your editors found out. Any direction of people or manipulation of the scene is considered staging a photo and is strictly prohibited in the realm of spot news. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jun 10, 2017 at 10:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.