I’ve written many times about high key lighting techniques and how to achieve them. The term “high key” is a bit misleading. As I’ve often said, high key has nothing to do with overexposure of the subject (though a photographer can opt to take that approach if it suits the subject); it merely means the vast majority of tones are above middle gray and that the background is almost always white but may show some detail. Continue reading High Key Lighting Techniques for Professional Photographers
Your camera provides a function that can automatically make your pictures look better: Active D-Lighting. It works this way: The camera evaluates the tones in your image and then underexposes for the highlight areas while lightening any areas that it believes are too dark or lacking in contrast (Figures 11.12 and 11.13). Active D-Lighting is automatically applied to images that are shot in any of the automatic scene modes except for High Key, Low Key, and Silhouette.
You can choose from six levels: Off, Low (L), Normal (N), High (H), Extra High (H*), and Auto (A). You will need to evaluate the strength of the effect on your images and change it accordingly. I typically leave it set to Normal so that I have brighter, more detailed shadow areas in my photographs while still maintaining good exposure in my skies. You should know that Active D-Lighting can only be adjusted when using one of the professional modes. Also, you will want to turn it off if you are using flash exposure compensation since it will work against you when you alter the flash strength.
Setting up Active D-Lighting
- Press the Info button twice to activate the cursor in the information screen, then navigate to the Active D-Lighting setting by using the Multi-selector (A).
- Press the OK button and then move the Multi-selector up or down to select the level of Active D-Lighting that you desire (B).
- Press the OK button to lock in your changes and resume shooting.
The Active D-Lighting setting can also be changed in the Shooting menu.
Photographing children can be tough. Those little stinkers are fast and if you’ve ever tried to photograph a two-year-old, you know the challenge of getting him or her to sit still. Child mode tries to solve this problem by blending the Sports and Portrait modes (Figures 3.16 and 3.17). Understanding that children are seldom still, the camera will try to use a slightly faster shutter speed to freeze any movement. The picture control feature has also been optimized to render bright, vivid colors that one normally associates with pictures of children. It’s a great mode to use for those kids on the go, or to capture a very brief moment that you don’t want to miss.
There are some great photo opportunities that take place both before the sun rises and after it sets. The only problem is that the typical camera settings don’t truly capture the vibrancy of the colors. The Dusk/Dawn camera setting is optimized for low-light photography and helps boost colors and eliminate noise from longer exposures (Figure 3.18).
Use this setting to help expose the background of your subject. For instance, if I’m taking a night portrait of a friend in front of Christmas lights, then I would use this setting. It tells your camera to use a slower than normal shutter speed so that the background has more time to be properly exposed (Figure 3.19).
Shooting in a bright environment like the beach or a ski resort can have a bad effect on your images. The problem is that beaches and snow often reflect a lot of light and can fool the camera’s light meter into underexposing. This means that the snow would come out looking darker than it should. To solve this problem, you can use the Beach/Snow scene mode (Figure 3.20), which will overexpose slightly, giving you much more accurate tones.
This mode is very much like the Night Portrait mode except it is optimized for indoor use (Figure 3.21). The flash is automatically set to Auto-redeye and will use the redeye reduction lamp to help eliminate the redeye problem that often occurs when using the flash indoors.
A tripod or stable shooting surface is definitely recommended for Night Landscape mode (Figure 3.22). By using low ISOs, longer shutter speeds, and noise reduction, you can capture great cityscapes with more accurate colors. The flash and focus-assist functions are turned off for this mode, so focusing might be a little difficult. If so, try moving your focus point to a different location.
Low-key photos are typically meant to have an overall dark look. Much like the beach/snow scenario in reverse, your camera’s light meter will usually try to add some exposure when shooting a low-key scene to make everything brighter. If you want to keep things on the dark side, use Low Key mode (Figure 3.23), which will keep the flash turned off and underexpose things just a little bit.
If Low Key mode means dark, then it’s probably pretty easy to guess what High Key is for (Figure 3.24). Images that are bright throughout can present a different sort of challenge, with the bright environment tending to fool the camera into making an image that is darker than desired. Using the High Key setting forces the camera to overexpose a little and really lighten up those bright objects in your image.
Using the Silhouette mode (Figure 3.25) does things like adjust the exposure for the brightest area of the scene as well as turn off the D-Lighting feature. This is necessary, since D-Lighting tries to boost exposure in shadow areas, which is the opposite effect you want when trying to get a nice silhouette.
Food photography is very popular of late, and Nikon has provided you with a scene mode that is perfect for this type of work (Figure 3.26). When you select this mode, the camera will use large apertures for fairly narrow depth of field, slightly overexposed settings to keep things bright, and a picture control that makes colors slightly more vivid.
If you live in an area that has great fall color (like I do), you will want to give this mode a try (Figure 3.27). The big advantage to this scene mode is that it is optimized for the red and yellow hues that are present in autumn, and it really makes them pop. It also turns off the flash, since the light from a flash can wash out the color in the leaves. Try using this mode when the leaves have turned and the skies are overcast. You will get some amazing color in your images.
This mode is very similar to the Landscape setting but with a few slight adjustments. The color settings for Blossom have been optimized for use outdoors where there are many flowers in full bloom (Figure 3.28).
Sometimes it’s pretty easy to know when to use a particular mode. This mode is similar to the Flash Off mode, but it is tweaked for the color of candlelight and will give you much more pleasing results (Figure 3.29). If you are photographing people in candlelight, try using a tripod and have them hold fairly still to reduce image blur.
This mode is similar to the Portrait mode in that it uses larger apertures and faster shutter speeds (Figure 3.30). The difference is that Portrait mode is optimized for human skin, with adjustments to the hues and color values. Pets don’t normally have any skin showing, so the sharpness and hues are adjusted accordingly.