Help with HEAVY shadows

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Fred S, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Fred S
    I do a fair amount of small bird pictures in the trees or bush
    I noticed this is where they like to hang out ( LOL )
    Lots of heavy shadows on sunny days
    I am using Photoshop Elements 8 and the shadows highlights can only do so much
    Any suggestions on how this can be fixed ?
    Thanks in advance VERY much

    EM-10 and 75-300 lens
    Sooc .jpg I am a jpg shooter
    iso 200 f 7.1 shutter 800 metering mode matrix

  2. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    The picture looks good, so I'm not sure what the concern is. Are the tree branches dark and in shadow? Sure. Only way around that is to do HDR I think, but that would be entirely too difficult I would think.
  3. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    What is the problem?
  4. TNcasual

    TNcasual Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Dec 2, 2014
    Knoxville, TN

    If that example was my image, I would simply crop the left out of the image, removing the branches covered in shadow. I might then add a little dodging to bring up the tail.
  5. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    In general I'd say there's nothing wrong with shadows. Expose for your subject and let the shadows be.

    If you don't like the shadow of the branch going across the bird then the solution is to shoot when there is some cloud cover.

    • Like Like x 1
  6. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    I think the shadows look good, they add some depth to the image...
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Fred S
    Thank you for all the reply's
    The Tail is almost black and the dark branch shadows on the bird IMO is distracting.
    Cropping would be OK for the black left branches
    I will try a little dodging to bring up the tail.
  8. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    If you wanted to soften those harsh shadows a little you could try bringing the tone curve up


    You are also about 1 stop underexposed and have clipping in the shadows which you cant recover.
  9. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I'd agree with siftu that the shot was underexposed in camera. With digital you're better off giving as much exposure as you can without clipping highlights that you want to keep detail in, and not only isn't there much in the way of highlights in that image but the highest point in the histogram appears to be well to the left of the right edge of the histogram display. That's the sort of situation which is ideal for giving a little more exposure at the time you capture the image.

    The other thing you need to ask yourself is whether there's any detail in those dark shadows that you really want or need to get in order to improve the overall image. I don't think there is and if it were my shot I might even be darkening some of those dark shadow areas a little more.

    Final point: your best option here is more exposure when you take the shot, especially if you're going to shoot JPEG. You will get much better results in shadow areas if you're shooting JPEG if you give more exposure and darken the shadows in processing than you will if you give less exposure and try to lighten shadows in processing. The big point to remember is not to clip highlights that you want to keep detail in, so keep a close eye on the right edge of your histogram display or use the highlight and shadow clipping warnings in your viewfinder/on your screen when taking the photo. You will get more flexibility with what you can do in shadow areas, and in highlight areas, if you shoot RAW but shooting RAW or JPEG is your choice. You can capture a considerably wider range of brightness levels if you shoot RAW, and recover more detail in highlights and shadows as well so it's worth considering shooting RAW+JPEG in situations like this so if you can't get a result you're happy with from the JPEG file, you can always get a bit more from the RAW file. You don't have to use the RAW file if you don't want to but you may find it worthwhile having it there for use in situations where you aren't satisfied with what you can get from your JPEG.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I would set a function button to RAW+JPG and in these situations, use that so you'll have more latitude in post to bring up the shadow areas.
  11. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I would also advocate saving both JPEG & RAW so that you can use the OOC JPEGs if you want to but definitely save RAW if any adjustment is needed (or just to get the best from the image) & in this case more exposure would have been better. If an image has been pushed a little (to the right) then I am amazed at how much detail can be retrieved from overexposed shots (within limits) & also how much detail can be pulled out of the shadows with the right RAW converter, but there are limits in doing so without looking like a second rate image. I use Capture One Pro 9 for extracting the best from my RAW files.
  12. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I just tried some adjustments to the reduced web JPEG in CO9 with the following results.
    Adjusted up the Brightness & Shadow plus added a little Clarity (Natural & structure)

    And then cropped & with a little vignetting.

    From RAW it would have been even better. I hope that helps.
  13. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Fred S
    Thanks again every one for the help
    I will try RAW+JPG and push a little to the right .
    Another thing I noticed , my images are a little lighter than what the vie finder shows when I take a picture.
    Time to calibrate my view finder
  14. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Do you view histograms while in the field? Especially if shooting JPG, since histograms represent what the JPG generation will be, it is better to trust the histogram as to where you exposure is and if you are clipping either end than it is to trust how it looks on the LCD screen of your camera. The closer to the actual image the LCD screen displays is always nice, but the histogram can give you a better idea if your image is going to lose details in the highlights and the shadows or if the over all exposure might benefit from pushing it a bit one way or the other.

    Shooting in RAW does often allow you to recover a bit more out of the shadows and highlights than you usually can trying to correct a JPG.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2016
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I hate to say this but whether you shoot RAW or JPEG, it pays you to run a few tests on your camera and light meter and how they work.

    Set the camera up as you use it with whatever you use as an exposure guide showing, whether that be the histogram or the highlights/shadows warning indication, and put something white with some texture like a white bath towel out in the sun.

    Start taking shots of the white subject starting with the meter's recommended exposure. If the histogram or warnings are showing highlight clipping, start dialling in negative amounts of exposure compensation a third of a stop at a time and watching the clipping indication. Take a note of when the clipping indication disappears but keep taking a few more shots with more negative compensation. If the histogram or warning indication does not show clipping at the recommended exposure, start dealing in positive amounts of exposure compensation while watching for the start of the clipping indication and continue adding more exposure compensation for a few more shots.

    Now import the files into your preferred processing software and start working your way through them. Do not make any adjustments to the images but note the first image where you can no longer see texture and detail in the towel or whatever your subject is. Note at what exposure that occurs and compare that to the meter's point where it indicates clipping, then try to recover detail in the subject with highlight recovery. If you can recover detail, go on with the subsequent exposures and discover at what exposure you are no longer capable of recovering highlight detail. The exposure compensation amount for the last image in which you could recover highlight detail from apparent clipping tells you how much leeway you really have in relation to the meter, and you now know how much you can adjust your exposure while preserving highlight detail.

    If you use different metering modes at different times, say normal averaging mode in some cases, spot mode in other cases, and spot highlight mode in some cases as well, you may wish to run the same test in each meter mode so you know how to treat the clipping indication the camera gives you in each of those modes.

    Note that you cannot recover detail in all highlights and you should just let some highlights clip. Highlight areas like light sources, or reflections off metal and glass, don't contain any detail so you shouldn't try to avoid clipping with those highlights if it is going to lead to underexposure of areas of the scene that you want detail in. On the other hand, if the highlight area is something like white clothing with detail you want revealed, or subtle tonal gradations in clouds or detail in a sunlit part of a face, then you do not want to clip those areas or you won't be able to recover the detail you want.

    It doesn't take long to run this sort of test and learning what it shows you can really make a difference to your exposure.

    Don't worry about the shadow areas when you're running the tests. Yes, there is a limit to how much you can recover from shadows but if you give the maximum exposure you can give without clipping the highlights you want to keep, you're also giving the maximum exposure you can give to your shadow areas without losing important parts of the brighter areas of the image, and if you're giving the maximum exposure you can to your shadow areas then you can recover the maximum amount of detail which can be recovered from them without damaging the rest of the image. The thing to watch is the need to avoid clipping the highlights you want because if you do that you simply cannot get them back, they're lost forever. If you give the maximum exposure you can give without clipping highlights, then that exposure is going to give you the best result in other areas of the image as well that you are going to be able to get without resorting to multiple exposures and merging the images using HDR techniques.

    I shoot clouds at sunrise using this approach and get files that look like beautifully exposed skies and clouds with the brightest cloud areas just short of clipping and everything else can look drastically underexposed but it is quite surprising how much detail you can bring up out of those shadow areas if you start with a RAW file. You won't be able to capture the same range if you're shooting JPEG but you will still capture the maximum range your camera can capture in its JPEG files.

    Just be aware that some scenes have a really large brightness range from brightest highlight to deepest shadow and you may not be able to recover all of the shadow detail you want if you avoid clipping the highlights. If the shadow areas are more important to you than the highlights then you should also take a few shots where you do clip highlights and see how the image that gives you the best result in the shadow areas works overall. Sometimes the brightness range in the scene is simply so large that you have no choice but to clip highlights to preserve shadow detail or to give up shadow detail in order to preserve highlights.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  16. eolake

    eolake Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 21, 2009
    Lancashire, England
    The picture is beautiful as it is. In fact, to my tast, the black branches add drama and tension to the image.

    I spendt years as a teen, with books and photoclubs, being taught that all photos must have detail in
    I spendt years as a teen, with books and photoclubs, being taught that all photos must have detail in all parts. (Ansel Adams' Zone System ect.)
    It's just an arbitrary idea. Did God step down and proclaim that it had to be so?
    Do people ask painters "why are there no details in that area or in that area?"

    It took me years to unlearn it.

    I now have found out that artistically, actually some of my pictures have much stronger and better effect if I sink the shadows into blackness.

    One datum I learned too late: The Zone System was a TEACHING AID for students, and was never meant to be a tool for an educated photographer!

    I would like to put this on my blog, may I use your picture (with link and source of course)?
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Try spot focus and metering on a darker element such as the twig. That should balance the light light and dark areas.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2016
  18. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Fred S
    Thank you every one for the good tips
    very much appreciated
    With any luck tomorrow I will do so experimenting
  19. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Fred S
    I did some test shooting yesterday. Shooting in RAW + JPG
    Most shots the histogram was to the left and I avoided clipping. First shot squirrel
    and a couple with histogram in the middle . The bird shot's. The originals were a little over exposed
    I got better results when shooting left. Less processing . The squirrel is almost a SOOC jpg

    So..... Shoot to the left and avoid clipping



    • Like Like x 4
  20. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Those are great!
    • Like Like x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.