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To take this off another thread where it was diverting from the subject (see "is Alamy turning into a microstock" for background)

I have had a problem with underexposing.  It was pointed out early on and I took steps and made changes to try and improve - and believed I had for the most part succeeded.  When the new categories came in I put in for a portfolio critique and was told my snow pictures were still underexposed.  With the advice given I had a play around and saw what people meant.  I had been working with histograms towards the middle to avoid blowing highlights - thanks to @Matt Ashmore for the video on that.  I will point out in mitigation I see snow about 2 days every 3 or 4 years and have not taken it before.

So onto the "is Alamy" thread where I managed to inadvertently seem to upset several people and it was implied that a lot more than just the snow shots from my latest uploads were still underexposed.

I am starting this thread to reply to and thank @Marianne for her advice.  To expand I do not have a "proper" monitor I am working off an old flatscreen TV which I have as calibrated as I get it regards brightness etc.  Getting a new decent monitor of the IPS type is about the top of my "major purchase" list - however, the point at which funds will be available is not set.

So I was looking back through my last upload excluding snow shots - and here is the rub.   I do not see the shots as underexposed.   The histos are central actually already to the right on most - the couple that isn't are actually dull dark situations and are not supposed to be bright.    The appearance of the shots is as I would submit to photoclub competitions and I have not been told I have a problem with underexposing there.    So is there a need with stock to actually increase exposure beyond a normal amount?  Am I suffering from Brit syndrome where I am so used to everything looking dull at this time of year?  How much of exposure is opinion and how much is solid fact?  And are my latest photos really as bad as my first ones?

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Notwithstanding the snow ones, and you've had advice about that, it's a fact that quite a few of your images are underexposed.

I've occasionally had this problem. Calibrating the monitor solved it. It's very easy to have it set too bright,  but until you have a proper one you're just going to have to take our word for it.

Meanwhile you could try the display settings tool in Windows. It's a good start- in fact, I still use it. Just setting brightness on a greyscale wedge should help.

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I wouldn't say that every image is under exposed.. but some are.. like this one:

 

Classic police 3 liter vauxhall senator car on display for public in Trowbridge park at the armed forces celebration weekend Stock Photo

 

Others are fine like this:

J. and H. McLaren: No 1295 traction engine "Mr Tweedie" on display at the Dorset Steam fair 2018 Stock Photo

 

Sometimes it might be that you just need to lift the shadows, possibly like in this one (although I would increase exposure of the whole shot by half a stop or so):

Lacock, Wiltshire, UK. 26th December, 2018. Joint masters and crowd with hounds credit Estelle Bowden/Alamy Live News Stock Photo

 

It's worth comparing with other people's photos too... by way of comparison. Here's a similar subject to your one above by someone else:

TENTERDEN, KENT, ENGLAND, UK- DEC 26TH 2015: Annual controversial Boxing day meet of fox hunt gathering on High Stock Photo

 

 

 

I wonder if in some cases it's worth raising the vibrance a little.. the steam engine above could really pop with a bit more vibrance.

 

... just my immediate thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Matt Ashmore
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Just now, spacecadet said:

Notwithstanding the snow ones, and you've had advice about that, it's a fact that quite a few of your images are underexposed.

I've occasionally had this problem. Calibrating the monitor solved it. It's very easy to have it set too bright,  but until you have a proper one you're just going to have to take our word for it.

Meanwhile you could try the display settings tool in Windows. It's a good start- in fact, I still use it. Just setting brightness on a greyscale wedge should help.

Honestly I have done that as best I am able - I admit I cannot get it to go where I want it or where it is supposed to be because it hits the buffers as it were.  I know the colours and temperatures on this thing are totally out of whack.

Since I first started and was told I have been trying to work more from the histograms - difficult when the monitor is telling me something different - and I am generally looking to get it so the peak of the curve is in the middle or slightly to the right without blowing highlights (which the video mentioned about is a huge help with).  However it seems that middle just to the right is still underexposed - so how far to the right do the histograms need to be?

I am currently working on a new batch - I have on these,  pushed things much further to the right (or tried to) and many look totally wrong to me, false as it were (probably I am just a moody moo seeing everything as dull lol) and I will give a shout when I have uploaded - but I am now jittery with if the histogram is not supposed to be central what is it supposed to be.

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1 minute ago, Matt Ashmore said:

I wouldn't say that every image is under exposed.. but some are.. like this one:

 

Classic police 3 liter vauxhall senator car on display for public in Trowbridge park at the armed forces celebration weekend Stock Photo

 

Others are fine like this:

J. and H. McLaren: No 1295 traction engine "Mr Tweedie" on display at the Dorset Steam fair 2018 Stock Photo

 

Sometimes it might be that you just need to lift the shadows, possibly like in this one (although I would increase exposure of the whole shot by half a stop or so):

Lacock, Wiltshire, UK. 26th December, 2018. Joint masters and crowd with hounds credit Estelle Bowden/Alamy Live News Stock Photo

 

I wonder if in some cases it's worth raising the vibrance a little.. the steam engine above could really pop with a bit more vibrance.

 

... just my immediate thoughts.

 

 

 

 

For what it is worth the first 2 are from before I made changes and the hunt one is being deleted - I got far too over excited on the live news thing and uploaded a load of horrendous ones that should all be being deleted.  It is more the likes of this one I am worried about.  RRW2H1.jpg

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4 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

For what it is worth the first 2 are from before I made changes and the hunt one is being deleted - I got far too over excited on the live news thing and uploaded a load of horrendous ones that should all be being deleted.  It is more the likes of this one I am worried about.  RRW2H1.jpg

 

To me, this one looks OK for exposure. I might be tempted to lift shadows a bit to bring  a bit of detail back into the far bank though and stop my eye being drawn to it quite so much.

 

I find Live News tricky too. If I submit quickly via my phone, I often find I have the same kind of problem. In this case, I will often go back, edit and re-upload once I have improved images on my computer. If I submit news via my PC, I will make quick adjustments to exposure, highlights and shadows to turn the image captured in the camera back to the scene that my eyes saw before submitting.

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I normally try to be more careful - I was just too overexcited that day.  Not to mention uploading involved my car in the middle of nowhere and a laptop trying to use my mobile for internet connection.   Trust me it is almost impossible to work on a 15.6 laptop from the driver's seat lol.

I may have to crop the bank out - its actually a smoothish slope with a rubber/plastic membrane thingy and not an actual lip as such but I see what you mean about pulling the eye.  

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5 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

For what it is worth the first 2 are from before I made changes and the hunt one is being deleted - I got far too over excited on the live news thing and uploaded a load of horrendous ones that should all be being deleted.  It is more the likes of this one I am worried about.  RRW2H1.jpg

That looks OK to me.

 

Have you tried checking/adjusting the Gamma of your monitor? Take a look at the picture below.  Screw your eyes up so it goes a bit blurry and check which vertical bar disappears or is least visible. I believe you should be aiming for a Gamma of 2.2. I think Windows software allows gamma to be adjusted.

 

g_patches_22.gif 

 

If your monitor is way off and can't be adjusted, then it's very difficult to offer advice (other than go and buy a monitor, and/or calibration device). The histogram will allow you to ensure your peak highlights and deepest shadows are sensible levels but, depending on the subject, the highlights, shadows and mid tones may need a tweak so they look "good" (i.e. the subject of the image has sensible lightness and contrast). Looking "good" is hard to assess if the monitor is way off. Some images (e.g.a snow scene) will have a histogram that shows a broad peak that is well to the right. But a bright yellow flower with darker foliage behind is likely to have a small narrow peak towards the right and a broader bump to the left.

 

Mark

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I'm afraid they are rather dull. They need to be brighter and they need more "pop" which means they also could use some contrast, and maybe a little clarity, a levels adjustment, and maybe dehaze. 

 

What settings are you using in your camera for the light meter? If you are exposing for the entire photo, the camera will be picking up those white winter skies,  thinking there is much more light than you imagine on a dull winter day. You should spot meter for the buildings. Read your camera's manual about exposure. I would guess that is where you went wrong. You might also need to hit +1 to get a lighter photo. Do you bracket your shots? Try bracketing and see the difference. You can only learn by doing. Go out and take some bracketed shots and that will help you learn how to set your camera's light meter in different situations.   If you are using automatic settings, then learn about shooting using aperture or speed priority (which I'd guess you use  when shooting sports, but aperture is usually preferable for landscapes and architecture). 

 

Since we can't connect via the forum anymore, if you want to follow me back on twitter (@campyphotos - I followed you some days ago) then send me a PM, I'll give you my email and maybe you can send me a couple of the RAW files, tell me what your settings are, and I can do a quick edit, and give you a sense of how much punch they need. I wouldn't normally take this on, but I'd like to help you out. However, you really need to learn to get it right in the camera. Image ID: RRW2FE (snow) and Image ID: RNCA7E would be good choices.    I've been shooting for many years now and I can still end up with a shot that needs the shadows raised or even an entire exposure adjustment, but most shots should look good when you shoot them. Learn to check the shots .

 

How is the screen on your camera set? Maybe it's too light giving you a false sense of how the shot looks. That's why learning how to read a histogram is essential for you.

 

Honestly, I rarely glance at mine because I learned to set exposure and aperture on a Yashica rangefinder camera with film in the late 1970's as a high school senior. It was my dad's old camera and the light meter did not work. I read all I could about exposure and looked at the info on the different films I was using, and set my aperture and speed accordingly.  I mostly shoot in manual mode to this day because I studied and learned to get my exposure right. Prints don't lie. And film was expensive for a 17-year-old, since I went through a lot of it. 

 

Today, you have a histogram and you can see what you've shot, but don't let the fact that you can correct so much in Lightroom or Photoshop make you forget that getting it right in the camera is always the best practice. Concentrate on learning your craft rather than uploading hundreds of photos for a month and you'll be surprised at how much better you feel about your work. 

 

Maybe an experienced friend from those club competitions can sit down with you and go over the images on their computer to help you see the difference between what you are uploading and how they should look. What computer are you using that you can't calibrate the screen? Laptop screens are tough to calibrate, but your colors look okay. The laptop should still give you a sense of how the photos look even if it's not perfect. I can't imagine trying to check them out on a flat screen tv although it's a great way to show clients images and it gets them to buy more. (If you've got a Retina Screen see the new topic I just started). 

 

Seriously though, go out and shoot and learn to make photos that pop, then start up loading again. Spring weather should be coming soon, it's a great time to learn. Good luck! 

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My camera settings tend to change from shoot to shoot - I almost always use either spot metering or centre weighted.

I tend to actively select for underexposure because  I have had problems with blown highlights.  I am probably so busy trying to avoid one problem  I am running into the opposite one.   I am the same processing - I strongly dislike over processing and don't like stuff looking "false" or "altered" - with the problem that I know how my own originals looked so am far more aware of the degree of change than I would be with other peoples.

I will have a play around with my camera settings -  I know way more now about sorting highlights than I did when I changed the settings to avoid them.

I have been playing about with HDR recently (hint do not do trees in even the tiniest breeze because your computer will hate you and lock up solid trying to beat the ghosting) so am getting used to bracketing.

I am going to sign off for the night as my head is now chasing in circles and I cannot make sense of what I am trying to think (apologies to everyone if they cannot make sense of what I am writing)

I will come back and see if I can make more sense - hopefully tomorrow lol

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11 hours ago, Starsphinx said:

My camera settings tend to change from shoot to shoot - I almost always use either spot metering or centre weighted.

I tend to actively select for underexposure because  I have had problems with blown highlights.  I am probably so busy trying to avoid one problem  I am running into the opposite one.   I am the same processing - I strongly dislike over processing and don't like stuff looking "false" or "altered" - with the problem that I know how my own originals looked so am far more aware of the degree of change than I would be with other peoples.

I will have a play around with my camera settings -  I know way more now about sorting highlights than I did when I changed the settings to avoid them.

I have been playing about with HDR recently (hint do not do trees in even the tiniest breeze because your computer will hate you and lock up solid trying to beat the ghosting) so am getting used to bracketing.

I am going to sign off for the night as my head is now chasing in circles and I cannot make sense of what I am trying to think (apologies to everyone if they cannot make sense of what I am writing)

I will come back and see if I can make more sense - hopefully tomorrow lol


Spot Metering or Center Weighted readings can give dodgy exposures as they are easily tricked by overly bright areas of a subject in the middle of the frame, like the police cars reflective paint. The meter thinks the whole scene is that bright and stops down to compensate, and gives you dark pictures. Use an exposure setting that looks at the whole scene and then look for burnt out highlights using the histogram/flashing highlights features while viewing on the back of the camera.

Edited by York Photographer
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8 hours ago, Starsphinx said:

I strongly dislike over processing and don't like stuff looking "false" or "altered" - with the problem that I know how my own originals looked so am far more aware of the degree of change than I would be with other peoples.

 

I have a lot of sympathy with what you have said but I must admit that many of your images do look underexposed to me and I am using a bog standard Dell monitor. Everyone who has commented is looking at your images on their screen and most have said the same thing. A good question is how do other peoples images look on your monitor. If they look much the same as yours in terms of brightness, vibrance and saturation  it would be reasonable to assume that your monitor settings are out and giving you a false view of images. If however they look much brighter, more vibrant and saturated etc then it is reasonable to assume that the issue is with your own personal processing criteria.

 

We are on Alamy to try to sell our images and in that we try to give what buyers want for magazines, brochures and web pages etc etc. Few want dull winter's days in the UK unless they are emphasising that particular issue. i should qualify that by saying that i too have recently uploaded a number of such images following a mid winter trip to Newcastle County Down in Dec 18.

 

I struggle with colour blindness so I keep comparing my work with others on Alamy to try and maintain a valid point of reference so to speak. By the way i cant sell much on Alamy. Its hard going but I keep trying.

Edited by Futterwithtrees
Clarification
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You can't rely on the camera's meter for accurate exposure, using manual focus lenses without an electrical connection, very few of my shots use the proposed exposure without my dialling in some change.

 

Not sure if I am teaching gran how to suck eggs here, but the meter, however sophisticated,  aims to produce a mean grey scale exposure. It works well for a an "average" scene, but you often need to compensate to achieve the results that you require. So a predominantly light scene, the meter will underexpose and you need to increase the exposure, dark scene with a lot of light sky, again you need to increase the exposure etc. Dark scene the meter will generally overexpose. Read Ansell Adams.

 

However some of these meters are too clever by half and you always need to look at the exposed histogram in camera and, if possible,  take another shot or two if necessary. 

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In post processing one of the first things I often do is to set white and black points to ensure I use the full brightness range. That then gives a full width centred histogram. I may move the mid-point (readjust the b& w points as necessary) to brighten or darken the mid-tones to give the image a lift.

 

In camera I work by exposing to the right and just avoid clipping the highlights (the very brightest specular highlights do clip) so I then usually have to open up the shadows., especially on bright day. I usually use the evaluative metering on auto, with a touch of exposure compensation based on experience (can be +1-2 stops for snow scene), unless liughting is particularly difficult. As Bryan says, check and take another if possible, and practice, practice, practice when you get the chance - and analyse the results carefulloy and crically, make notes to help internalise the thinking and decision making. It is possible to get it right in camera, in the days of film we had to, especially if we were shooting transparencies.

 

I work with 16bit in post-prod and do the adjustment in curves/histogram adjust or whatever it is called in your raw converter. I ALWAYS start with a raw file as that has maximum information, with jpgs you can end up with banding/posterisation. I may use shadow/highlight sliders to tweak things.

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I'm not sure if you are in fact shooting RAW, but hopefully you are, particularly if exposure is a problem. Does your camera offer a highlight warning on the rear screen? If this is switched on then highlight areas flash if they are overblown with no detail. That can be a useful guide against under exposure, if you are shooting RAW then a small amount of 'flashing' is OK because the flashing indicates no highlight detail in what is effectively a jpeg, the RAW file will have detail. You can experiment of course but it will mean that you will be getting the maximum exposure in the shadows so making detail easier to recover.

Edited by Harry Harrison
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It is helpful to have a selection of LR settings as an import default if you are not already doing this. I usually increase brightness, contrast and saturation a little, pull down the highlights a little, and increase shadows a little. Then, of course you need to look at each individual photo and adjust appropriately and select areas that need working on. There some good blogs from another Alamy contributor here

https://edinburghphotographyworkshop.com/expose-to-the-right/

https://edinburghphotographyworkshop.com/edit-twenty-seconds/

 

 

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13 hours ago, Starsphinx said:

To take this off another thread where it was diverting from the subject (see "is Alamy turning into a microstock" for background)

I have had a problem with underexposing.  It was pointed out early on and I took steps and made changes to try and improve - and believed I had for the most part succeeded.  When the new categories came in I put in for a portfolio critique and was told my snow pictures were still underexposed.  With the advice given I had a play around and saw what people meant.  I had been working with histograms towards the middle to avoid blowing highlights - thanks to @Matt Ashmore for the video on that.  I will point out in mitigation I see snow about 2 days every 3 or 4 years and have not taken it before.

So onto the "is Alamy" thread where I managed to inadvertently seem to upset several people and it was implied that a lot more than just the snow shots from my latest uploads were still underexposed.

I am starting this thread to reply to and thank @Marianne for her advice.  To expand I do not have a "proper" monitor I am working off an old flatscreen TV which I have as calibrated as I get it regards brightness etc.  Getting a new decent monitor of the IPS type is about the top of my "major purchase" list - however, the point at which funds will be available is not set.

So I was looking back through my last upload excluding snow shots - and here is the rub.   I do not see the shots as underexposed.   The histos are central actually already to the right on most - the couple that isn't are actually dull dark situations and are not supposed to be bright.    The appearance of the shots is as I would submit to photoclub competitions and I have not been told I have a problem with underexposing there.    So is there a need with stock to actually increase exposure beyond a normal amount?  Am I suffering from Brit syndrome where I am so used to everything looking dull at this time of year?  How much of exposure is opinion and how much is solid fact?  And are my latest photos really as bad as my first ones?

Where are you based Starsphinx? I have a Dell Ultra 24 inch monitor which you can have (I have changed over to a Mac) if you want it - nothing wrong with the monitor though it is 6-7 years old - You can have it for free but you will need to collect it!

 

Kumar

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I switch between matrix light metering and spot light metering. When spot metering though, I purposely pick an appropriate part of the scene to meter from and then lock the meter reading in, recompose to focus and then potentially recompose again for composition. This is one of the reasons I won't be switching to back button focusing as the back button is th elock metering button which I already use!

 

Particularly when using spot metering, I do tend to check the image taken on the back of the camera and exposure is the main thing I am looking for. If I got it wrong, assuming the scene is still there, I will try again.

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13 minutes ago, Matt Ashmore said:

I switch between matrix light metering and spot light metering. When spot metering though, I purposely pick an appropriate part of the scene to meter from and then lock the meter reading in, recompose to focus and then potentially recompose again for composition. This is one of the reasons I won't be switching to back button focusing as the back button is th elock metering button which I already use!

 

Particularly when using spot metering, I do tend to check the image taken on the back of the camera and exposure is the main thing I am looking for. If I got it wrong, assuming the scene is still there, I will try again.

 

Why not use manual mode when spot metering (with back button focusing on)? 

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11 minutes ago, MDM said:

 

Why not use manual mode when spot metering (with back button focusing on)? 

 

I tend to use aperture priority mode 90% of the time.  If I shoot manual, I tend to find that all I am going to do most of the time is choose my aperture and then dial in a shutter speed that zeros the exposure chart (is that what you'd call it?) that I see in my viewfinder. The camera can do this quicker than I can so I tend to think I might as well let it. There are times that I take over full control and switch to manual mode however like if I want to over/under expose (rather than dialing in exposure compensation) for example.

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Firstly can I say a massive thank you to everyone who has posted.  The help has been incredible and I am humbled by the effort gone to.  I hope this thread does help others as well.  Please excuse me not rushing back to alter and fix stuff - I am having to rest (again).

 

1 hour ago, Doc said:

Where are you based Starsphinx? I have a Dell Ultra 24 inch monitor which you can have (I have changed over to a Mac) if you want it - nothing wrong with the monitor though it is 6-7 years old - You can have it for free but you will need to collect it!

 

Kumar


That is incredibly generous Kumar - unfortunately, I am a seriously long way from - near Bath.  It is a seriously long days travel - one of my bucket list is to visit Newmarket for the stables, sales, and racing so I have looked into travel and it is not going to be a day trip lol.

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14 minutes ago, Matt Ashmore said:

 

I tend to use aperture priority mode 90% of the time.  If I shoot manual, I tend to find that all I am going to do most of the time is choose my aperture and then dial in a shutter speed that zeros the exposure chart (is that what you'd call it?) that I see in my viewfinder. The camera can do this quicker than I can so I tend to think I might as well let it. There are times that I take over full control and switch to manual mode however like if I want to over/under expose (rather than dialing in exposure compensation) for example.

 

I understand but, unless you are shooting in changing light or dappled light, then you will only need to set the exposure once for all the shots of a particular spot meter reading as that won't change. I find it is a lot faster than having to adapt my exposure for whereever the camera is pointed. Choose an area with an approximate mid-tone, spot meter that and leave it alone unless the light changes. 

 

Your pictures look properly exposed anyway with a good tonal range so whatever works is best. Just that backbutton focusing is so much worth having. 

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1 hour ago, Starsphinx said:

Firstly can I say a massive thank you to everyone who has posted.  The help has been incredible and I am humbled by the effort gone to.  I hope this thread does help others as well.  Please excuse me not rushing back to alter and fix stuff - I am having to rest (again).

 


That is incredibly generous Kumar - unfortunately, I am a seriously long way from - near Bath.  It is a seriously long days travel - one of my bucket list is to visit Newmarket for the stables, sales, and racing so I have looked into travel and it is not going to be a day trip lol.

I am staying with a friend in Chippenham, near Bath in June - I could bring it and leave it with him if you still want it at that stage?

 

Kumar

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I expose all the way to the right and Lightroom can be incredible at bringing back detail if I have blown it out.

 

Paulette

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