DSC_1824, originally uploaded by robert photo.

When I first got the D80 I didn’t spend much time looking at the different things that popped up on the LCD after taking a picture. There are a bunch of them, from just the image, an image with flashing highlights, and the RGB histogram, among others. When I am out taking pictures (more recently the Manassas shots of the cannons and downtown area), I’ve spent a lot of time using the histogram view to show me what I captured, and more importantly what I missed, with that exposure. In some cases, such as in this shot of the train station, the camera metered the way it thought and displayed the picture. By viewing the histogram, I was able to see that the camera saw the bright sun and made the station itself dark — thus underexposing the building. In this case the histogram was too far to the left. I adjusted the exposure compensation and took a second shot, overexposing the scene until the histogram showed more to the right, thus overexposing the sky, but properly exposing the building. Both images were shot on a tripod to make post-processing this particular shot much easier since they would be identical in composition and perspective.

Back home, I opened both RAW files up in Photoshop Elements 6 and looked at them. In one case, the building was underexposed but the sky was quite nice. I actually touched this up a bit by underexposing using the exposure slider, which brought out the deep blue in the image. It darkened the building even more, but that’s okay, since I have another image of the building that I had taken. When I got it to the blue I wanted, I moved on to the second image. With that one I had a washed out sky, but the building was more properly exposed. Shooting in RAW I have more options with exposure, so I adjusted the slider a bit to get the building the way I wanted.

By this point I have 2 images — one with a nice looking sky, but dark building, the other with a washed out sky but a properly exposed building. Using the selection tool in Photoshop, I selected the nice blue sky in picture 1, then went to image 2 and selected the same area, and pasted in the nice blue sky, resulting in the final image shown above.  I could have also just taken one RAW image and saved them as two different images (one with a nice sky, the other with a properly exposed building), but I wanted to practice using the histogram as well as be sure I got enough a good exposure for both scenes as the difference in light between the sky and the building was quite a bit — RAW only gives you so much flexibility!

So when you’re out taking photos of something you plan to print later, and the scene just isn’t cooperating, a bit of patience and some careful use of the histogram, you can save a shot that would otherwise be ruined by harsh lighting. Using RAW makes the job a lot easier.