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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Digital Exposure Tips From The Pros


Don’t rely on setting the camera to auto or fixing a photo after capture. Check out what the pros have to say about exposure.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

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3 Spot-metering wildlife. Whenever I photograph wildlife, I try to meter directly on the animal to make sure my subject is properly exposed. In this case, I spot-metered on the side of the fox and, in manual-metering mode, made my meter read one stop overexposed (or +1). I did this because the white fur of the fox is one stop lighter than medium in this light. In hard sunlight, I’d overexpose by a stop and a half or maybe even two stops. This was a tough situation for matrix or evaluative metering because of the extremes in tonalities—black background, white foreground and white fox. It might have worked, but with spot metering I knew it would work. I’ll take a sure thing every time. —David Middleton

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4 Shooting against light. There has been a lot of haze in the mountains of California this year because of many forest fires. This haze can translate into interesting images when you shoot against the light—it actually gives more color to the air at sunset and helps define the planes of a scene. The challenge is that the camera sees all of this brightness and tries to underexpose the picture. This makes the scene look rather muddy in its tonalities, and increases noise and causes color problems. Expose to keep the bright areas bright without turning them white through overexposure.
—Rob Sheppard

5 Shadows and highlights. The biggest exposure problems can occur in the shadows and highlights, just as with film. Fortunately, digital sensors capture a wide latitude of contrast. Still, you must guard against blowing out highlights so that no detail is recorded or underexposing shadow areas. When you take your initial exposure, carefully note where the tonal values fall, especially the far left and right sides. With this image of surf in motion, I watched the right side of my histogram very carefully, so I was able to record a great deal of nuance in the highlight water values.
—William Neill

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6 White on white. All meters want to make the subject a middle tone, so no matter how beautiful, bright and fresh the snow you photograph, your camera, left to itself, will render it dingy, middle-tone gray. To outsmart the camera’s automated metering, switch the exposure-metering setting to “manual.” Fill the frame completely with a snowy area of the scene and modify the camera’s reading to +11⁄2. Because you’re on manual, that reading will be locked in. Reframe your scene and shoot. The resulting image should render white all of the snow within your image, but still retain detail in the bright areas. If lighting changes during your shooting session, reframe a snowy area and modify the new exposure again to +11⁄2. With a digital camera, you can check to make sure you have detail in the whitest areas of the scene by assuring that there’s a small amount of space between the right edge of the histogram and the right axis of the graph.
—George Lepp

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