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Photo shoot picturesque Thorn in hard light

Hard light problems

A fun challenge to take black and white photos in the hardest light in a village with predominantly white houses. The village Thorn in Limburg (NL) lends itself well to this.

It's June 2, around 1:00 PM. The sun is at its highest and the weather is almost clear. In order to photograph in black and white, we have to take a number of things into account. For example, normally in the snow I would overexpose my photos to avoid getting gray snow. But today in this harsh sunlight I'll still underexpose half a stop so as not to break the highlights. I'll open the shadows later in post-processing.

The human eye finds it less problematic to see the shadows completely back than the highlights are overexposed. This is because we are used to also living in the dark (at night) but not in a completely overexposed environment. That is why I illuminate on the highlights and ensure that detail remains visible.

But then you will still have problems. These problems differ and also have to do with the camera you are using. If your camera has a high dynamic range, you can at least make a lot of corrections afterwards (when you shoot in RAW). But a camera can really only adjust to one exposure per photo. That is why many cameras now also have an HDR mode. As a result, the camera takes multiple photos at different exposures and then combines them into one photo with a more evenly distributed exposure. You can also achieve this by using bracketing and then merging the photos later via software.

Nowadays there are also cameras that actually approach this differently. You can then ensure with a setting that the shadows are less dark and your highlights less high. This makes your photo less 'hard'. This gives very nice results, especially in daylight and during the day in hard sun.

Our eye simply sees so much better than the best camera of the moment. Your camera has to make a compromise with exposure and will therefore have to make a choice. Your eye sees detail in both shadows and highlights at the same time. That's why I always advocate post-processing, if only to correct the exposure to what you've actually seen.
In the end it's possible to keep the contrast low in the photo.

By editing the photo you can still lead the viewer to the subject. See photo below before (left) and after (right) processing (slide the arrows to see the differences). By using vignetting, the church also stands out more. The photo was eventually already taken with an improved dynamic setting that avoided clogging of highlights and shadows.


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