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Keep Shooting! Photography Assignments (04 Feb 2013)
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Blown Out Skies
If you are a lightroom user, check out the HSL develop module. By selecting your blue tones with the colour picker, you could bring down the luminance a bit. Typically, I would then increase the saturation of these blue tones.
Additionally, you can always use the gradient-tool and easily darken the sky by just dropping down the exposure of the selected area
If you don't use lightroom, you can easily use gradient tools in programs such as GIMP (freeee!!) and experiment using layers (one under/the other properly exposed) and layer masks.
I slightly underexpose my foreground if i have no subject in there, fill light always works to a certain degree.
this one was made with gimp (...no raw-file unfortunately) and the sky was extremely bright and not blue before
010028_edited by f i n n t r o l l , on Flickr
I think greg has put up a video on how to create beautiful skies some time ago??
Do you use what is called "active d-lighting" in nikon cams?
Getting a nice blue sky in a high contrast scene will mean that you will probably have less detail in your foreground. Getting detail in both the foreground and the sky is not really possible in one single exposure. That is because the sky and foreground will require two different exposures. If you expose for the foreground, you will get a blown out sky and if you expose for the sky, you will typically get a dark foreground.
There are a couple of things you can do to rectify this however. Firstly, as you said, you can always expose for the foreground and use an ND grad filter over the sky to keep the detail there. A good and not too expensive option that we have here in Europe is from Hi Tech filters. This is also probably the easiest option.
You could take two or three exposures of the same scene with your camera on a tripod - one for the sky, one for the foreground or one metered, one underexposed and one overexposed and blend them in Photoshop. This will take a bit of extra time and will require you to not only have PS or Gimp, but also sit in front of a computer for a while after you take the images. This is best for very high contrast scenes.
You could also shoot slightly to the right and blend just one exposure using Lightroom or Camera Raw. This is similar to the above option but there is only one exposure used here. If you shoot to the right a little, you will hopefully preserve enough detail in the shadows and highlights in the image that can be easily recovered later in post. This is quicker to option two but not always possible if the scene is very high contrast. Shooting to the right is advised as it is generally easier to get detail from highlights rather than shadows. If shadows are very dark, trying to get detail from them will create noise.
There are the three choices; I usually use a mix of the three. There is no one perfect solution as filters are not always practical etc etc. As Greg is always saying, photography is about making compromises.
It is not a solution to the problem really though, just part of the solution in my opinion. If you are getting blown out skies in a shot without it, turning on active d lighting will help a bit but it will not suddenly fix all your exposure issues. The best solution would be to use one or all three of the options above.
Like others have suggested on this post is to shoot in RAW. I also shoot with Canon and light optimizer is called "Auto Light Optimizer" which will only work if your shooting in JPEGs, but you will still need to get the exposure right so you don't blow out the sky. My suggestion is that you use the spot meter on your camera and find the brightest point in your sky, like white areas on the clouds or at the horizon on a cloudless day. Use exposure compensation of +2. If your scene has a large dynamic range you will have to shoot 1 image for the sky and 1 for the foreground and blend them in PS. This is how I shoot most landscapes an they turn out just fine. Also remember when shooting in RAW, RAW data is what you get when you look at images on screen. All picture styles you have set, such as sharpening, contrast, saturation, auto light optimizer, etc will not show in RAW, only in JPEG images.
Hope this may help getting it done in camera.
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