PhotoZAP 82: The Shadow Blows

Our Panel of Perfectionists Picks Apart Your Pictures.

"Despite the aforementioned exposure issue, causing too much shadowing on the kids' faces, I'd say this photo is a winner!" -Jena Ardell

©  Richard Thomas, Whalehead, N.C. Gear: Nikon D60 with Nikon AF-S NIKKON 55-200mm lens with Quantaray Circular Polarizer filter, taken at 82mm, f/9. Shot in AUTO Mode. Handheld, No Flash. 1/320 at ISO 100.


Photographer’s statement:
"I was on the second level of the deck looking at the Atlantic Ocean and i walked over to look at the kid's in the pool. All four kid's were in an inflatable baby pool that was in the big pool, so i ran over to the table and grabbed my camera to get the picture. (Good thing it was on auto because i was laughing so hard)."

Our critics say...

Mason Resnick: This photo successfully conveys pure joy, but the lighting conveys too much contrast. Great angle, wonderful expressions, a fun moment caught right, and you rightfully exposed this for the highlights. However, the high-contrast sunlight creates shadows that interfere with the image. In the moment, I would have added a fill flash to even things out. After the fact, you can use Photoshop Element's Shadows/Highlights tool to bring out the shadow detail. See how this simple tool can improve the image, below.



Brandon Partridge: I agree completely with Mason's assessment and attached image fix. The subjects' faces are cast in too much darkness and something needs to be done to even out the highlights between them and the water. If you don't have access to a flash like Mason suggested, you could use a combination of hard and soft reflectors (with an emphasis on soft). Or as is illustrated in Mason's attachment; you can fix this quickly in post with very little if any artifacts. With these adjustments in place I could see this image included in marketing collateral for a water park or in this case a beach city. Last thing; you mentioned shooting this photograph in auto-mode. If you want to know how to properly expose a picture you need to pretend auto-mode doesn't exist and start experimenting with manual to see how each setting affects the output of your image.


Jena Ardell: Despite the aforementioned exposure issue, causing too much shadowing on the kids' faces, I'd say this photo is a winner! You've captured the moment perfectly and composed the shot well. Great, quick thinking on your behalf, since this was such an impromptu moment. I think that the main issue here was the fact that you didn't have time to adjust your polarizing filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare/reflections on water and enhance color on gloomy days, but they don't do much for people's faces in bright sunlight. In fact, they're almost useless in direct, overhead sun. Using a polarizing filter also forces you to adjust your exposure to compensate for the loss of light entering the lens. Whenever you use your polarizing filter, your camera needs to be on manual mode so that you can properly expose the image. Just a few things to keep in mind for next time.

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