Photography Studio and Lighting Forum

Hosted by fabulous Florida-based professional fashion photographer, Asylum Steve, this forum is for discussing studio photography and anything related to lighting.
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Bend, Oregon

    Some studio shooting advice please...

    I SHOULD be able to figure this out by myself, but I'm a little miffed- and hopefully one of you nice folks can give me a quick slap upside the head.

    Taking decent photos hasn't been a problem thus far. But I'm just beginning to dive into using the RAW format. Of course, nearly all of my shots are taken outside.
    But things have been a little too calm lately, and I thought I'd add some stress to my life.

    I've recently purchased a couple of 750w hotlights (w silver umbrellas) to practice taking some low-end product photography studio shots. When I shoot in RAW mode (Canon Digital Rebel) the resulting pic looks fine on the camera LCD screen, however, when later opened in Photoshop, it's dramatically underexposed. (The shutter speed, aperture, etc. reads correct in the viewfinder when first shooting.) Messing with the exposure settings, etc., takes care of this, and the photos turn out fine in the end with little or no grain, but I'd like to get it a lot closer to a properly exposed photo when I shoot the photo.

    My question is this: Is it normal for the intial RAW preview to be a little underexposed so as to let you fine tune it afterwards? Or should I just overcompensate with the f-stop and assume that it will turn out alright in the end?

    I have the typical white paper background, and I'm assuming that's throwing me off.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thanks much,

  2. #2
    don't tase me, bro! Asylum Steve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Middle Florida

    What do you consider "dramatically" underexposed?...

    Quote Originally Posted by chuckmoser
    When I shoot in RAW mode (Canon Digital Rebel) the resulting pic looks fine on the camera LCD screen, however, when later opened in Photoshop, it's dramatically underexposed.
    Yes, RAW files are generally darker than what we would consider "proper" exposure with film. You expose with a digital camera much as you would with slide film: for the highlights. This gets the most visual information possible in the image.

    Adjusting brightness and contrast (usually through Curves or Levels) in PS is pretty much standard operating procedure.

    Still, you want your brightest highlight JUST this side of blowing out, NOT way underexposed.

    If you're having trouble getting good detail in both highlight and shadow areas, the standard digital "trick" is to make two exposures, one for each, then combining the shots in PS. You might consider trying this to get white whites, yet good detail in your subject.
    "Riding along on a carousel...tryin' to catch up to you..."

    Studio & Lighting - Photography As Art Forum Moderator

    Running the Photo Asylum, Asylum Steve's blogged brain pipes...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Crystal Lake, IL

    Re: Some studio shooting advice please...

    Hiya, lots of thngs could be contributing to your problem but there's one fact you should know: You absolutely cannot rely on the preview in the LCD to judge exposure.

    It's best to learn how to use the histogram feature and to read the histogram. You should trust your meter (camera or handheld...whichever you like to use).

    Additional thoughts come to mind that could all be part of the problem:

    1. The application you're viewing and/or converting the RAW image with isn't using the same profile as what the camera was set at (Adobe RFB or sRGB).

    2. The application you're using to view the photo doesn't handle profiles.

    3. You have your viewing application incorrectly configured for color management.

    4. The brightness of your monitor is significantly darker than it should be.

    The list goes on and on. What happens when you shoot JPEG instead of RAW? Roughly how many stops underexposed are they?

    One last note, this is potentially more of a digital camera/imaging problem than studio lighting.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    Re: Some studio shooting advice please...


    There is no post processing in the RAW image at all, yes it does look good on the viewfinder but not when taking into your programs like Photoshop.

    What program are you using to convert the RAW image after transfering to your computer. I use Capture One DSLR SE as do a lot of others around the world. If you don't have Capture One, got to you can download the trial version of the LE and PRO versions, don't worry about the SE, it is being discontinued after version 3.6 which should be released in the next week or so. The LE version will support all cameras from version 3.6 but has not got some of the features of the PRO version, but for $99 it would be a good investment over the PRO version which is $499.

    You might find that easier to use and do batch conversions, although the batching is limited in the LE version to about 20 I think, but you can add to the batch as they are being processed, like topping it up.

    With the white background, move in to the object you are taking a picture of, so it fills the frame, meter the camera on that then FEL lock the setting and then recompose it. Try that and see.

    Also you need to have something that you can use to set the white balance so the exposure is correct as well. Don't forget that.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Bend, Oregon

    Re: Some studio shooting advice please...

    Hello all. Thank you soooooo much for the responses. You saved me a few hours at Barnes & Nobles. Intitially, when I checked the histogram on the LCD, it showed it was pretty dark, but the screen of course lied to me- and what do I do? Believe the #@%$! screen. I know better. Safe to say I've learned a bit of a lesson.

    Flash-forward to today: I think I've just about got it where I want it. Getting a bit too much DOF, so I decided to go with Aperture-Priority as it made my life a little easier... with a tripod, anyway.
    And... a little fiddling with the custom white balance made a hell of a difference. (duh) Thanks, Flashram. I'm now realizing what a different animal studio lighting is compared to outdoor... it sure is fun, though.

    All in all, it is a lot closer to what I was after. I've attached a couple of screenshots showing the difference I got in jpeg vs. RAW- not much.
    The brown one is my first attempt earlier this week. Pretty bad- but nothing some curve adjusting couldn't handle- although it was fast approaching unusable due to the noise factor. Amazingly, it was still clean enough to use. (Thank god they weren't printing large)
    The jpeg at first glance has the better constrasts, but the shadows are starting fill in a bit. The RAW leaves a lot more detail in the shadows and highlights... thus giving me the room I need to adjust correctly in Photoshop. Just what I wanted.

    Also, in answer to a question: I'm feeding to the computer using Remote Capture (Canon), set at Adobe RGB, then opening in PhotoshopCS for processing.

    Once again, I can't thank you guys enough for the much needed advice! It's much appreciated. Someday I'll move onto to strobe lighting... you could heat a three bedroom house with these lights...

    Thanks again,
    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

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