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Matthew Pitts's picture

High contrast lighting issues

Hi Guys,

I would appreciate some input from other experienced photographers. I do quite a lot of event photography. At the weekend I was taking photos of cyclists on an event during the middle of the day in full sun. In these situations I often struggle to get a decent exposure on people's faces. I have been trying to use spot metering, with limited success. So at the weekend I also thought I could use flash as fill light to lighten the faces.

Here are a couple of examples. In the first the camera is just using normal metering, which obviously under exposes the face, due the bright light behind. These can be pulled back in Lightroom, but there's still often harsh shadows.

This second one is using exposure comp, and can be pulled back in lightroom, and it's obviously possible to lighten the face in lightroom with the radial filter, but its very tedious and time consuming. I generally find that everything happens very quickly and the flash was a bit hit and miss and I always struggles to get it close enough to the subject to be very useful.

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6 Comments

Matthew Carter's picture

Depending on the shot you are looking to get... When I'm shooting to sell to the racers I'll spot meter on the racers faces since the light and dark jerseys will confuse my camera. I'll also use a flash on 1/4 power to light the faces under the helmets. Sometimes I even bring another flash and set it off remotely to light up the riders. A good thing about shooting racers, you get lots of chances to get it right. Once I do get the settings I might switch to full manual (normally I shoot events on aperture priority and flash on manual (so I don't overheat it with preflashes)).

Matthew Pitts's picture

Thanks Matthew, these are awesome photos. What lens and flash did you use to get the above photos? I normally use a 70-200mm. Also what flash and is it off camera flash? Thanks

Matthew Carter's picture

I use the 24-70 and 70-200 depending on when shot I want. I normally have another photographer stationed on course shooting the bread and butter shots and I mess around and shoot wider shots. Most of the time I use my trusty old SB900 flashes on those tiny little tripod stands with High Speed Sync triggers. I would love to take a bigger light, but since we have to hike so much on challenging terrain, it's a no go with a bigger light.

Campbell Sinclair's picture

do you have a deal with the MTB associations for taking and selling shots or is it all welcome ?
In Western Australia for equestrian eventing 2 dayers its all welcome most of the time , just fill a form out.

Matthew Carter's picture

No official agreements. I come to races when I can and sell to the racers from my website and give a few shots to the race organizer and plaster social media with shots of a couple of the pros that race. That way the promoter gets some extra visibility and I get a few sales. It's not much of a money making enterprise since our races have only 100-150 participants and only 6-8% buy photos. Every now and then a manufacturer will license an image and I'll make a little extra. My secret is to edit and get the photos uploaded before the end of the day, that way I beat the out-of-town photographers to the market since they have to go eat and party in Vegas before they get to editing the photos and uploading them. Still, payed jobs come first before I shoot a mountain bike race.

Campbell Sinclair's picture

Im pretty much like you with equestrian.its a hobby and I contend with other togs but its all pretty friendly . One tog who though he was the only one allowed to do it gave up becasue we ignored his tantrums. With eventing its all about the jumps you pick on cross country and how the horse looks..