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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

digital exposure
10 Expose to the right. Generally, recovering highlight detail is easier than pulling out detail in dark, shadow areas. For that reason, most of my histograms are weighted to the right side. I’ve found the Recovery tool in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to be useful at pulling information back into slightly overexposed highlights. When shadows are underexposed, it’s not too hard to lighten them up, for example, by using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment in Photoshop or the Fill Light slider in Lightroom. But often, the penalty for this is noise in the dark tones. In this photograph, I had very high values in the water along with deep shadows. I decided that the water detail was more important, so I made sure that the histogram fully contained all the highlights within the right edge of the graph.
—William Neill

11 Flower exposure. Backlight is great for flower close-ups—it makes the flowers glow and the details pop. There are a few considerations, however: If there’s a lot of dark area around a bright flower, the camera tends to give too much exposure, washing out detail. If a flower takes up quite a bit of the image area, the meter might be overinfluenced by the brightness of the flower, giving too little exposure. That’s a problem because dark colors, especially rich dark colors, will be exposed improperly and can’t be “fixed” to look their best in Photoshop.
—Rob Sheppard

12 High dynamic range.
In some situations, you can increase your dynamic range by double-processing the same RAW file. First, process the original capture to bring out the shadows. Then go back to the original RAW file and process it a second time to control the highlight values. Blend the two files into one image, and you’ll end up with a dramatically higher dynamic range. While in the field, it’s better to expose for the highlights in one capture and the shadows in the next and process those together, but a great deal of contrast problems can be solved even if bracketing isn’t done during capture.
—William Neill

13 Spot-on metering.
In a scene of many contrasts, how do you guide your camera’s metering features to concentrate on the most important subject? Without spot metering, the camera takes an average of the overall scene to determine the exposure. The result, for example, might be that your moose in a bright meadow is underexposed. Your camera’s spot-metering or center-weighted metering function can considerably narrow the exposure sampling to key on the subject and the area around it, offering a better reading for the subject. But for a truly precise reading similar to the handheld 1° spot meters of the past, use a zoom lens at its greatest magnification to spot-meter on a very small area of the subject. Lock the exposure and reframe the scene, and you’ll have perfect exposure where it counts the most. A note of caution, however: If the exposure for your subject is significantly different from the surrounding area, you risk dramatically under- or overexposing the overall image.
—George Lepp

14 Capturing the twilight hour. Twilight is a magical time to photograph. No matter the weather, the sky opposite where the sun was or will be turns a wonderful cobalt blue. But the light is changing every second—before sunrise, it’s ever increasing, and after sunset, it’s ever decreasing. The best way to meter in this confounding light is to let your camera do all the thinking. I use matrix metering and aperture-priority mode. This lets me concentrate on the composition and lets the camera figure out the exposure based on the ƒ-stop I’ve selected. Just to make sure I don’t get too many blown-out highlights, I also dial in a -0.7 of exposure compensation. This creates a little fudge factor and minimizes most of the blown highlights.
—David Middleton


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