OWEN DAWSON's picture

how to create sharper signage on a building

So I recently did shoot for an architect company as a trial run. A great learning experience. One of their complaints was that the signage wasn't sharp. I agree.  The entire image although is very sharp including the brick wall.
My question is: is there a way to shoot this to create sharper signage? 
I'd like to re-shoot, but not sure what i'd do differently?

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Edward Porter's picture

This light bloom is the result of taking the photo too late after dusk. Those interiors are heavily nuked and that massive starburst below the 'ALTH' lettering is a good indicator you are too late.

Couple of solutions:

Start earlier and take several photos over time. One of those photos should be timed right to where the interior lighting and exterior lighting should be close in luminance and won't bloom. Realistically in this scenario, each zone of your photo has extremely different light values and it's likely not all of them will line up at the same moment. So you may have to composite.

Secondly, flash. Since that sign is way way up there, you'll probably have to use fill lighting from the camera's position. Zoom your fresnel all the way in and aim at the parts of the image that are bleeding out. Then mask in the flash to help reduce the bloom and increase definition. Setting the flash layer to Multiply Blend mode might improve the masking as well.

Surely this is trivial to care of in post? If it's not your thing, just go to fiverr and give some guy in India $5 to do it.

(Layer, tweak curve and sharpen to make a mask, multiplier blend.)

Hope it's ok to post this - tell me if you want it gone.

You can blend the glow in and out with the blend slider.

(Posts came out in wrong order.)

Or with an extra step (duplicate layer, grain merge, mask, brush in) this

I shoot images like this with a series of exposures over time.

The lighting on the exterior will be optimal earlier than the lights through the windows.
Window lights only start registering in balance with the exterior when things get quite dark. It gets worse with tinted windows.

When the large BRIGHT marquee sign comes on it will be well out of balance with the others. One needs to do a series of exposures of this to capture the needed detail in the sign.

I also have issues with the sky at times with overcast or fog. In these cases I drop in a dramatic sky of my choosing.
The images are then blended in PS with annoying bit cloned out etc.

My motto in these situations is "Can't have too many images."