How do you expose a scene correctly at night

Soldato
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when you have a number of bright lights over-exposing parts of the rest of your image?

I was recently doing a canal scene at night with a house reflecting perfectly on the canal. Next to the house was an illuminated sign with writing on it that smudges due to the brilliance of the sign. If I under expose to compensate then the rest of the image will be too dark.

I had a similar problem with another image where everything was exposed correctly including the street lamps-but an illuminated clock on a building would not expose correctly to reveal its hands and numbers
 
Associate
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You would need to take a number of different images at different exposure levels, one exposing for the sign and another exposing for the rest of the image. Depending on the camera you use, you can set-up exposure bracketing so the camera takes a number of images at differetn exposure levels, such as +2, +1, 0, -1, -2 stops. You then combine these afterwards using Lightroom, photoshop or HDR software.

If you simply expose for the bright sign, then the rest of the image turns out too dark, and lifting the exposure afterwards will introduce a lot of unwanted noise.
 
Soldato
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Can you adjust the light metering in your camera?

My Panasonic G85 allows you to set for centre weighted and spot metering where you can move the measuring point around as you like.
 
Soldato
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Depends also on the camera some would require you to take multiple exposures. Let's that have high dynamic range you should be able to expose for the highlights and pull the shadows back in processing. Though multiple exposures is a better way of doing it but not always possible, such as for moving subjects.
 
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As said above, you'd need to stack multiple exposures and blend. Your camera won't handle the dynamic range in a single image.
 
Soldato
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Initially I was thinking of spot metering-as suggested by Terminal Boy. However, it appears more practical to take multiple exposures and blend for static images in this instance. Thanks for the help.
 
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