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Shooting portraits during golden hour

edited June 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
I have the Nikon D7200, and I am really trying to capture the beautiful light flares or sunset colors in my portraits. I have the cheat sheets from my old camera, and thought I would try a couple different settings, but I'm still getting too bright and not sharp or sharper, but dark. Also lacks the colors from the sunset or the pretty sky or even the bokeh from the sun flares. What should I do? Should I use manual or aperture, and what should I try doing that I'm not?


  • Also should I have my focus and metering set to something specific to help?
  • You're almost always going to have a problem with dynamic range, even on the D7200, though less perhaps on that than most. If you get the exposure right for the sunset and sky, it will likely underexpose the portrait. If you get the exposure right for the portrait, the sky will likely be washed out. You can compensate some by using active D-lighting (which is not a default on the D7200, I think - it has a variety of settings, so you may have to experiment), and perhaps by post processing to open up shadows. You might also try fill flash to brighten up the portraits without overexposing the sky.

    Pros who do this stuff routinely usually have reflectors and light boxes and flashes and whatnot to narrow the dynamic range between a face and the sky and to avoid the shadows a simple on-camera flash can produce.

    For sharp focus on a portrait your best bet is probably single servo single point, aimed at the eyes. If you want the background blurry, use a large aperture, and if you want the background detailed, use a smaller aperture.

    I tend to use Aperture priority most of the time, and that allows you to determine your aperture, while the camera's meter handles shutter speed. Keep an eye on the shutter speed and if it goes too low, raise the ISO. The D7200 should be capable of getting nice clear shots even at fairly high ISO.

    If you get dark faces, either compensate in the + direction, or change the metering to center weighted or spot. In the latter case, the meter will ignore the background completely, and almost certainly blow out the sky.

    For the rest, you may find that there are color adjustments you can make to liven up a sunset, either in the camera or in post processing. This is an art, and an area where many people (in my humble opinion) overdo, but it can be done.

    It's easier to recover shadow detail from dark areas than it is to recover highlight detail, so if you cannot get the exposure you want at first, err on the side of underexposure. The D7200 allows bracketing, which might be worth a try. I think you can also do a two-shot HDR, which might help some.
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