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Over-exposed sky

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1. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3603 posts) 5y

I've just been looking at my photos from my stopover in Seoul and lots of them have an over-exposed sky, ie bright white. I know one of the solutions is to focus on the sky to 'tell' the camera about it, and then move the camera to the correct position for the photo, but although this results in the sky being the correct colour it means the rest of the shot is under - exposed. Does anyone know any other ways round this? Are filters the option?

2. Posted by Clarabell (Travel Guru 1696 posts) 5y

I usually fix it later on photoshop- I won't go into how cos I am mostly self taught at photoshop and I may not be doing it the best way ! There are usually a few ways different to do everything on photoshop.

If you want to stop th problem however...I just asked my boyfriend who knows a lot about photography. He says at the camera, filters are the main answer. Or if the sky is bright and its the ground you want, trying to compose your photos so there is not to much sky in. Different times of day will be better than others.

3. Posted by Q' (Moderator 1987 posts) 5y

bex, you've basically described the reason for being for what's known as a "graduated neutral density" filter. In short form it's called a ND grad or graduated ND filter. There are several "strengths", with the middle strength one being the most useful. Basically it's a piece of clear plastic that's half gray and half clear. It decreases the brightness (that is the exposure) of one part of the image while leaving the other part untouched.

Sorry, Clara, but over exposure is one thing you can't fix with photoshop. You can usually pull detail from an underexposed section, but over exposure basically saturates all the pixels in that area and leaves no detail.

One other trick to try, if you can't get a ND grad, is try locking your exposure on something that's a middle brightness. I like to measure exposures by pointing the camera at my hand or a piece of sidewalk. They're usually of a middle brightness. But if you're using a point and shoot camera and pushing the shutter release half way, you'll also probably lock the focus as well. So you'll have to find something of middle brightness (tone) close to where you want to focus on and lock your exposure using that. Don't know if a way around it. Hope that helps.

4. Posted by Ardy (Full Member 62 posts) 5y

I agree with Q, your best bet is a filter, I almost always have my polarized filter on... it was great for cutting glare and reducing an over exposed sky.

5. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 5y

Photoshop might make the sky darker, but it wont bring back the clarity of what it actually looked like. Of course with some programmes you can make the sky any colour you like and even double expose a funny face on it if you want. However, once the over exposed sky has gone, its usually gone forever.
Both polariser and UV filters will eliminate a lot of the glare of a bright sky and of course you can buy filters that screw together so you can use them both at once. Its good to experiment with filters before you go off snapping away. Also a graduating indigo filter will make the sky look more blue than it actually is and if you have a UV or Polariser on as well, or both you can mess around with the sky no end.

6. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3603 posts) 5y

Thanks very much everyone. I will look into getting a filter for my camera.

A friend of mine has the Canon G10 which has a feature called 'i'contrast' on it that tells the camera how to expose a bright sky at the same time as darker objects, and it can be used before or after the photo is taken.

7. Posted by Ebonhawke (Budding Member 5 posts) 5y

Some cameras also have the option to shoot in 'RAW' file type. If you shoot RAW, then you can simply change the exposure in whatever photo editing software you use and recover the detail in the sky.

(A very simplified explanation is that when you shoot in JPEG mode, the processor takes all the information from the sensor and figures out what the image should look like and saves that image - in a RAW shot, all of the information from the sensor is saved - so RAW files are much larger than JPEGs)

If you don't have the option to shoot RAW, then check your user manual to see if you can overlay a 'histogram' on the LCD screen before you take the picture - the histogram shows the distribution of black and white tones in the composition (remember, you haven't pressed the shutter yet). If you have a solid line on the far right side of the histogram, then you've over-exposed a portion of the image, so you may need to adjust settings.

8. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4420 posts) 5y

Quoting Ebonhawke

Some cameras also have the option to shoot in 'RAW' file type. If you shoot RAW, then you can simply change the exposure in whatever photo editing software you use and recover the detail in the sky.

Not really, though. You can usually recover half a stop to maybe a full stop of extra headroom from the raw file, but this is rarely enough when the sky appears as all white. If the sky is so over-exposed that the sensor has recorded every pixel as pure white, there's really nothing much you can do about it after the fact.

(Agreed on the rest of what you wrote.)


bex: as for you original question: camera sensors simply have much less "dynamic range" than the combination of your eye and mind can provide. Answers so far have outlined ways in which you can kinda maybe get around the limitation, but in practice what things for me tend to mostly come down to is to accept that this is the way things are with current technology, and to work with it. Take the photos you most care about around sunrise and sunset, when the light isn't yet bright enough to have this problem. (Oncoming and receding storms with dark clouds covering the sky are also great.) And beyond that be aware of the difference in brightness between the sky and the subjects you want to photograph. Position yourself carefully to not have bright sky directly behind the subject (hard to do with large buildings, but mostly possible most of the rest of the time), crop things well, and sometimes simply accept that the bits of sky which are there will show up as white.

9. Posted by EaLaSpada (Budding Member 78 posts) 5y

All good answers. Like a previous post mentioned, if you can, shoot RAW and fix later. Also, if your subject is not too far away, meter to the sky and use your flash for your subject (most cameras allow you to "tune down" your flash a bit so it's not too harsh).

10. Posted by Q' (Moderator 1987 posts) 5y

Going back to this topic. I've been dying to try the Fuji EXR sensor system. Basically it's a two pass sensor, one at high sensitivity for the shadows and one at lower sensitivity for the highlights. It sounds really interesting. Might give you more dynamic range to pick out the details in the bright sky and deep shadow.

[ Edit: Added one more sentence. ]