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| Re: Is this believable? |
Mostly, I separate my pp into the different portions that the light is giving me ... dialing each to taste independently and then blending/balancing by eye.
Even though we have one image, I treat it as two different images because the different portions of the scene are really being lit by two very different sets of lighting. With the exposure DR variance between the portions of the scene, it is really impossible to make global adjustments.
If you have an incident exposure meter, take a couple of readings at say 3 PM.
Stand facing the sun and place the meter flat on your chest (using dome).
Turn 180 degrees and take the meter reading from the same position on your chest.
What you'll notice from reading 1 is that it is a combination of 1/2 the sky + the sun vs. reading 2 is only 1/2 the sky. If you were to try and take an exposure that was in the middle of these two readings ... the one side would be overexposed by 1/2 that difference, (if we were shooting from an orientation that includes both key and shadow). Working from that exposure, an adjustment to the overexposed side would be necessary to bring it to proper exposure.
Without pulling that area of overexposure down independently, the additional adjustments you would make globally to bring up the shadow side would further overexpose the key side. As you mentioned, brush work is a pain, but if you study your channels, you can create channel masks that correspond to the difference between red vs. blue that will many times make a clean distinction (or minimal brush work to augment) between the two different lighting scenarios. This can then enable you to address the contrast, luminance, saturation, color balance, etc. separately.