Better pictures at noon

edited October 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum

in some situations I cannot avoid taking pictures at around noon. The obvious result as a matter of the non optimal light are "pale" pictures.

To avoid this effect and to improve the quality of the picture, I always try to take the picture with the sun in my back and with ISO 100. Also, I set the picture mode to "Vivid" and set an underexposure of -1/3. However the pictures are still to bright and far from optimal. Here is an example:

In particular, the grass and the status in the foreground are too bright.

What can I do to improve the quality of pictures taken at noon time? Can I use different setting or even use a specific lens filter?

Thank you.


  • That's a tricky one, because the picture you show looks very well exposed, and if you open it in an editing program and look at the histogram, the histogram suggests it's well exposed, with a slight underexposure, just as you would expect. If you decreased the exposure any more, I think you'd lose detail in the shadows, and have to brighten it up in post.

    The dynamic range is very good, and there is no apparent blowing out. If you want more vibrant color, you can up the saturation but I tend not to like oversaturated color, and many people tend to overdo it. If you start in Raw mode, you can change the picture control and the white balance experimentally, and then set it back if it comes out wrong. Landscape picture control will give you slightly greater contrast and greener greens. A warmer white balance will give your colors a little more pop.

    You might be able to make it a little better by changing contrast or brightness.

    Also, if you have "Active D-lighting" turned on, try with it off. This feature will open up shadows and decrease overall contrast slightly, increasing dynamic range, but it can make shadows look a little muddy.

    If you are using a lens other than the older kit lens whose front element rotates, you might try a polarizer, which can sometimes give more juicy color, and reduce reflection if there is any from the directly lit grass. If you have a lens with a rotating front element, you can still use a polarizer, but must prefocus and lock the AF off, so that the rotated position of the polarizer is not changed.

    If you're using the kit zoom, it may be a little less contrasty than a prime lens, and a better lens might give you a better image, though this one looks sharp enough, and most of the difference can be made up in post.

    Some of this may be a matter of taste. I thought the picture you linked to looked pretty good, at least on my laptop.
  • edited October 2016
    Adding to the above, I saw a little more information on polarizers, and I've also been using one a bit more recently, having been traveling at the seaside. It looks as if that might well be the best way to get richer color out of the grass. A polarizer will reduce reflected light, and can often give both sky and grass a richer color without affecting the main subjects.

    If you are using auto focus and the internal meter, make sure you get a "circular" polarizer. This is the common sort these days. The circular part refers only to the invisible method in which polarizing is done, not to the shape or the way it is used. But a "linear" polarizer, which is the older type that was used for manual cameras, and turns up often, and quite cheaply in used bins, will not function properly with AF, and may not function with TTL meters either.

    A polarizer's action is changed by rotating the filter, and for this reason if you are using a lens with a rotating front element, it is somewhat clumsy to use, since the AF rotates the lens. It is still quite possible to use, but you must make sure that AF does not operate after you've adjusted the filter. A stable and stationary subject is probably all right. Shifting to manual focus is foolproof, and back button AF also works fine.

    A polarizer will reduce light some, so must be compensated when shooting manually, but the meter will compensate automatically in any automatic mode. The effect is not much, but it's enough to remember to take the polarizer off at night, or when you're in the shadows, etc.
  • edited October 2016
    Thank you very much for your answer.

    I think that I will first try a polarization filter. Currently I am on a longer trip and can only find a circular "non-variable" filter here in the shops (i.e. I cannot modify the degress). Is such a filter sufficient or would you highly recommend a variable one?

  • Don't confuse neutral density filters with polarizing filters. Any polarizing filter should have a rotating front element that allows you to align its polarizing effect with the reflected light. Glare reduction and associated change of color will vary as it is rotated. If you cannot rotate the front of the filter after it's mounted, it's not right.

    It is also possible to produce a variable neutral density filter by mounting two polarizing filters on top of each other, and such filters are made specifically for the purpose. You don't really need that variable darkening.

    If it is designated "CPL" it should be correct.

  • edited October 2016

    I have now bought a circular polarization filter. As I already have an UV filter, I have two questions on that:

    1) Should I use both filters (e.g. attach the polarization filter on top of the UV filter), or is the use of both filters not recommended and I should only use the new filter?
    2) Based on my first experience the polarization filter does a good job, or at least does not reduce the quality of the pictures. To avoid a frequent removal and attachment of the new filter, I thought about keeping the filter on all the time. Is this a good idea or are there situations where the use of the polarization filter will significantly reduce the picture quality?

    Thank you.
  • I would not bother to use the UV filter at all, since a digital camera benefits little, if any, from it. Film could suffer from UV haze, but digital sensors are usually UV filtered anyway. The only real use for such a filter is lens protection, which is minimal to non-existent for impact anyway, but helpful for scratching, sand, and water. There are few instances where the polarizing filter will reduce picture quality, except perhaps for oblique light where any filter might increase lens flare. The main reason not to leave it on all the time is that it does reduce light through the lens somewhat. With full polarization it's a couple of stops, and pretty noticeable. In low light that can be enough to require slower shutter speeds or higher ISO which might indirectly reduce quality. You also probably will want to remove the polarizer when you are purposely seeking to put reflections in your image. Reflections in a pond, or in droplets of water, etc. Sometimes the very thing the polarizer is made to remove is what you want.

    Stacking filters can lead to vignetting (darkened corners), although that's not very likely on the DX format. Generally the fewer filters the better, though.

    For myself, I generally leave all the filters off, unless I'm going out for an excursion in daylight, and then I will likely put the Polarizer on. On my kit lens, I find I can put the polarizer and still use a lens hood, and this has the double benefit of shading the lens and giving me a better grip to rotate the polarizer.
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