Mind your background exposure

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Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! That’s what I said after seeing the images on my camera when I didn’t pay attention to my background exposure. The primary issue is dynamic range. A background with an extreme exposure range usually looks bad. Blown highlights next to dark shadows usually = EPIC FAIL.

Model: Kate, Location: The Grotto

The above image of Kate was tremendously balanced in-post to be presentable. In its original state, I almost deleted it. Hell, if it weren’t for the fact I captioned it “The Grotto,” this image might not even make sense. As I mentioned, the issue is usually dynamic range. To our eyeballs, a sun-soaked ocean in the same frame as a shaded piece of rock looks just fine.

To the Nikon D3 sensor, it’s basically a blown-out patch of white next to a lost patch of black. So, if you only watch your subject’s exposure (in this case Kate, who has been properly exposed), you’re going to wind up with an epic fail on your hands when you get home and find a large blown highlight next to a large black patch of shadow. Mind your background exposure in capture, so you don’t wind up cussing yourself out in post.



Charles Lucima is a photographer/retoucher based in Los Angeles specializing in fashion, editorial, and beauty. His clients include designers, apparel brands, and modeling agencies around the world.

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