I'm attempting to take pictures with the sky in sunset as background. I would like to capture the dramatic orange tint of the sky and the vivid colors of the subject as well. However, long exposures captures the color of the subject but the sky is white and short exposures captures the orange tint but the subject is almost at silhouette.

Will it be possible to capture both at the same time? Also, can this be done without any flash? I'm trying to do street photography so I would like to turn to that as a last resort.

  • can you find an image similar to what you have in mind? Post it as an example here then, please – aaaaa says reinstate Monica May 6 '17 at 1:37
  • Can you explain why you don't want to use flash? – jrista May 6 '17 at 15:08

You are up against the dynamic range - the difference between brightest highlights with visible detail and darkest shadows with visible detail.

No camera currently available can cover as big a range as human eye. That is a fact you have to work around.

There are a few good options. You can:

  • pull the brightness of the sky with a ND grad filter (not really an option with street)
  • increase the brightness of foreground with a flash or a reflector
  • level the difference in postprocess. This means HDR in digital and dodging & burning in film
  • consider dynamic range as a factor when purchasing your next camera. It is extensively debated in reviews.
  • learn to live with it and turn it into artistic advantage. This is up to you, but many street shooter chose this one, and it is the one I recommend.

That's a tough one. The difference in brightness between the sun (a very bright light source) and someone facing away from the sun at sunset is pretty big, and cameras, whether film or digital, can only capture so much dynamic range. But there are some options:

  • Reflectors - these can be things you buy and bring with you, but they don't have to be. They can also be white walls, white rocks, mirrored glass on an office building, etc.
  • Artificial light sources - again, you can bring them with you in the form of flashes, speedlights, etc., but you can also use existing ones if they are nearby and on. Many street photographers have snapped photos of people under street lights. There are also neon lights, stadium lights, porch lights, etc.
  • Reversing the positions - if you have a reflective surface, such as a store window, you could put the people in front of it with the sun behind you and capture both. Just make sure you're not in the shot!

Another thing that hasn't been mentioned here is "grad filter". This will create sort of physical HDR image for you.

Grad (gradual) neutral density filter usually has horizontal split of optical density: transparent on one side, opaque on the other. The transition usually is smooth.

What this filter allows you to do is to match light intensity that comes to sensor from the bright object (sunset) and the dim object (not sunset). You expose (ISO, shutter, aperture) for the dim object and pick appropriate filter that renders sunset well-exposed under these parameteres.


For the best image flash is the way to go. HDR will work as well, but it requires that extra processing on the computer. A reflector may work, but if you are doing street photography the reflector will be more cumbersome than just a small flash. All you need is an inexpensive small flash. You may try experimenting with the popup flash on your camera if it has one.


This can be achieved using a tripod. You need to shoot multiple exposures, minimum 3 clicks. First a normal exposure, second one to be a under exposed image (bring the light meter 2 f stops low.), 3rd one over exposure the image (increase the meter to 2 f stops up). If you check these 3 images you will see, one will be neutral, 1 will orange sky, one with the subject bright. Now merge these 3 images using image editing tools like Lightroom or Photoshop. This technique is also known as HDR imaging. There are HDR softwares available online, where you can upload these 3 images and they will give you a combined version. Hope this help


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