Monday, October 1, 2007
Best Techniques For Digital Exposures
Setting everything on full auto isn't always the ideal solution. Try these tips to get your best shots every time.
You can override the metered exposure with the camera’s exposure-compensation control. Generally, this is done by pressing the +/- button and rotating the control dial until the desired degree of compensation is set (most cameras offer +/- two to three stops of compensation, settable in 1/3- or ½- stop increments). Exposure compensation is primarily useful when you encounter an exposure situation you’ve previously found to be problematic for your metering system. For example, when I’m photographing a bird against greenery, I dial in some minus compensation because my meter (like most meters built into SLRs) tends to overexpose green tones. I also dial in plus-exposure compensation when photographing birds against bright skies and minus-exposure comp when photographing white birds against deep blue skies.
AE lock lets you lock in an exposure setting, then recompose a scene without affecting the exposure. If you have a subject or scene that you expect will present problems to your metering system, you can point the camera at a middle-toned subject, lock in that exposure by activating the camera’s automatic-exposure lock (AE-L), then compose your scene and shoot. Some cameras lock focus with exposure; in this case, you must aim the camera at a medium-toned subject that’s the same distance away as your real subject or focus manually.
Digital photographers have a tremendous exposure aid in the camera’s LCD monitor. It allows you to check the image right after shooting it to make sure it’s what you expected. Every D-SLR I’ve used has occasionally completely blown out an image for no apparent reason. I’d much rather discover this while I can reshoot than not find out until I get home and it’s too late.
Most D-SLRs (and some compact digital cameras) can display histograms on their LCD monitors. A histogram is a graph of the tones in the image, with dark tones on the left and bright tones on the right. The exact shape of the histogram depends on the scene—a mostly dark scene will result in a histogram lumped to the left; a bright scene, a histogram lumped to the right. Ideally, the histogram should go all the way from the left to the right.
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