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In tricky lighting situations expose for the highlights

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Images straight from the camera made during Kd and Dan's engagement sitting at the Colorado State Fair followed by the images after editing in photoshop As night fell and the lighting got tricky, I exposed each image for the highlights and then adjusted them in post. Try this technique the next time you find yourself in difficult lighting conditions. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Images straight from the camera made during Kd and Dan's engagement sitting at the Colorado State Fair followed by the images after editing in photoshop As night fell and the lighting got tricky, I exposed each image for the highlights and then adjusted them in post. Try this technique the next time you find yourself in difficult lighting conditions.
SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Last week I talked about nailing your exposures using the program modes on your camera. Now I want to share a super-secret formula for making dramatic pictures in tricky lighting situations.

This technique has been around for while, though some digital cameras worked better than others. For a long time, Nikon was the go-to camera brand for this kind of shooting, but now most camera manufacturers have caught up and virtually every new digital camera will work.

If you expose your images for the highlights and adjust images in “post” — a photographers way of talking about image editing in photoshop — you can tackle tricky lighting situations with ease.

To illustrate, I want to share Kd and Dan’s engagement sitting. They liked the idea of photographing their engagement at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. We decided to shoot at sunset and then take advantage of the dramatic and colorful lights on the carnival rides. 
Before adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Before adjustments.
After adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • After adjustments.
The lighting was tricky and things became even more challenging as it got darker. I exposed these images for the highlights, either for the sunset or the lights from the carnival rides. 
Before adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Before adjustments.

After adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • After adjustments.
Looking at the image straight from the camera you might think I really screwed up. But check out the images after I adjusted them. Quite a difference, don’t you think? 
Before adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Before adjustments.

After adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • After adjustments.
Next time you find yourself in a place where the lighting is dark or the skies are dramatically lit, try exposing for the highlights and adjusting the images later to create better pictures. 
Before adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Before adjustments.

After adjustments. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • After adjustments.
All in all, their engagement sitting was a super fun shoot and I really like the results.

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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