backlight issue for weddings, any suggestions?

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backlight issue for weddings, any suggestions?

Postby HitchcockVideo » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:54 am

I have two XF100 Canon cameras. Great little camera I use for weddings.
One issue I have yet to over come is a room with normal or low light and open spaces or large windows with bright light.
This happens a lot in weddings: example this last weekend - under a large tent so it was ambient lit and shadowy. The back and sides of the tent are open and it was bright outside.
This is what the camera does, it closed the iris to around F stop 5 or so to compensate for the light. The background is then exposed correctly.
Problem is you can't see the bride and groom now, they are too dark.

Solutions I've tried:
My in camera ND filter helps some but not near enough.
There is a backlight function in my camera that I can use. It does brighten up the subjects a little more but they look milky and grainy to me.
If I turn the Iris down and turn the gain up to where I can see the subjects better but the outside background is just blown out white...

Nothing seems to hit a happy medium for me. :roll: Any suggestions please would be greatly appreciated! :D

John Hitchcock
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Re: backlight issue for weddings, any suggestions?

Postby CKNewman » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:26 am

Sometimes you can shoot in auto mode, and sometimes you can't. Just like a photographer, the videographer has to control the exposure in order to obtain good video.

The camera can only work with around 5 f-stops of exposure latitude. For comparison, the human eye can perceive over 22 f-stops (from the brightest to the darkest part of a scene). That's why your eyes can process both the people under a tent and the area outside the tent while the camera cannot.

You must choose the proper exposure. I always expose for the face. If the subject is a cake against a bright background I still expose for the cake. I might try to go around the cake to the sunlit side, as long as there is nothing to distinguish the front from the back (like a figurine). Yes, getting proper exposure for the face may mean that the background will be "blown out". That's the way it is. There are some higher priced cameras that can stretch the exposure latitude a bit, but the videographer still probably wants to expose for the face and be happy when some added detail comes out of the shadows and the bright places in the image.

Another place the videographer has to deal with this limitation is when taping events on a stage. I've seen backdrops made of highly reflective silvery material lit by spotlights. In automatic mode the iris may want to close down, underexposing the face. Conversely, a stage may be very dark and if the camera is set in the automatic mode the iris will open up - and overexpose the face turning it into a white blob.

Learning manual control of the iris will take some practice. You will want to read the camera manual and learn what your options are. You may want to go back and forth between manual and automatic iris control, because if you leave the iris opened up for back lighting, it may let in too much light for other scenes - especially with "run-and-gun" videography. With the camera in auto mode, you can pan the area you want to record, zoom into the subject and read the iris setting, then use that number or even open up or close down a bit for your manual exposure. You must learn how accurate your viewfinder is too, so I would suggest a bit of experimenting by recording in various lighting conditions and making some notes and then playing the footage back on a tv in your home to see if you can trust the viewfinder or have to make allowances for it.

Very Important! If the iris is in manual mode, the camera's metering may tell it to use the gain and shutter speed to control the exposure if they are still in the automatic mode. Therefore you will have to set the shutter speed and gain manually as well. It's not difficult, but it may be necessary. Remember, once you've chosen to use the camera in manual mode, you must remain aware of lighting conditions and be ready to change settings quickly - in the manual mode the camera will not do this by itself.

You may not have to use manual through an entire event - you can shoot in automatic and switch to manual when the need arises. Good luck!
Last edited by CKNewman on Thu May 02, 2013 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: backlight issue for weddings, any suggestions?

Postby HitchcockVideo » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:19 am

Good stuff Craig, thanks for all the comments. Thank goodness my camera does have the gain, shutter, white balance, and iris right there at my finger tips for easy and quick access. I definitely will play with that before my next wedding! Thanks again!
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