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Some points on luminance contrast

May 27, 2011 10:00 am HKT

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 1&2

I have always looked for interesting photo subjects. I think many people do the same. But in fact what matters most is the “light.” Without good light, your subjects won’t be as interesting as you hope they’ll be, to say the least.

Photo1 here is one example of “good lighting,” which has nothing to do with me except that I spotted the scene by accident and chose the right setting for my picture. I really don’t know how these things are “put together. : ) Yet the way they are positioned in relation to the setting sun is just so good that you can’t resist shooting it right away. But as I said, the respective positions of these elements in this photo are not as important as the light shed on them, which created different light zones and color zones, as well as the eye-catching contrasts, factors that made the picture so compelling. I guess it’s not just a coincidence that this is a good site for photography. The area is actually located at a blossoming arts district called M50 Art Community in Shanghai. I am not really sure if people here scientifically calculate the angle of sunlight before they finalize their environmental design, but this scene is really one of a kind.

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 1

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 2

Photo 2 was taken in the same arts district as Photo 1. Frankly speaking, I seldom make adjustments to my photos for reasons like heightening the saturation or whatever. In this blog, what you see here are just mostly the results of settings. But for these four photos, I even stuck to the “normal” setting — daylight or cloudy, instead of tungsten for a bluer sky. Well, that means the weather was just fine for shooting. But one thing to note is that abundant sunlight and a clear blue sky do not necessarily result in a good photo. As you can see, Photo 2 here shows you a sky darker than the one shown in Photo 1. This is because I have deliberately marked a faster shutter speed (less light coming through) to create the darker sky, so that the white wall will come out less prominently than when it is normally exposed, and that is a step that depends on your own judgment and taste. Speaking of taste, I have a special liking for the shadow shown here, which produced added interest in the photo.

20110527 Some points on luminance contrast - 3&4

Photo 3 and Photo 4 were taken on the same day as the previous two. So I was lucky to have more or less the same clear sky as the background. The only difference is that Photo 3 was shot at around 3:00 PM while Photo 4 was taken at 6:00 PM. The buildings in the former photo were nicely lit by the sun, while the factory in the latter photo was not. The sun is hidden behind the factory, literally, so there was a big luminance contrast between the sky and the factory. That means I had to decide if I wanted a normally exposed factory and an overexposed sky, or a blue sky with an underexposed factory. And I guess you have figured out what choice I made: right, the first one. And that explains why the shades of blueness of the sky in these two photos are different even when they were taken on the same day. After all, I think it is a pretty good lesson when you are working on architecture photography to always consider the effects of sunlight on your subjects.

Equipment Setup

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
Camera Canon EOS 5D 1 1 1 1
Lens EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM 1 1 1 1
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