Tuesday, June 8, 2010
In his decades running a premier photo retailer in Southern California, Mark Comon has been a counselor, an advisor and chief troubleshooter for customers. He shares two of the most common problems he has heard and the fixes that take care of them.
“My pictures are too light (or too dark).”
No other problem is more frustrating, as the answer always is a combination of technical issues and creative thought. Learning to control the exposure is at the heart of creative photography. Yes, to be a creative photographer, you need to learn ƒ-stops and shutter speeds, plus see both light and shadow.
Check the Camera mode. Where is the mode dial set? Is it “locked on” to your desired setting? Has it slipped off or in between settings? If you’re a newbie, Auto may be best, but try the Landscape, Portrait or Action scene modes. Don’t venture to the manual side of the dial (P, A, S, M) until you want to learn more and grow in your skills.
Watch for warning lights and indicators. Blinking is bad. Flashing numbers or symbols generally indicate problems in a camera or settings. Use your instruction manual to troubleshoot the issue.
Check exposure compensation. The +/- control allows you to lighten or darken a picture. Set it to 0 for normal pictures; +1 indicates your photos will be twice as bright as the camera recommends while -1 means your pictures will be twice as dark. A +/- indicator should show on the display, reminding you that exposure compensation is engaged. Remember, +/- exposure compensation remains active until you return it to the 0 position!
Check the Metering mode. Select Matrix or Evaluative light metering mode for beginners. If your dial slips to Spot or Average light metering, it may adversely affect your exposure.
What’s the right light? The greatest issues of light and dark aren’t camera settings, but an understating of light and lighting. All photographers must learn to see and read the light. If the subject is partially illuminated or under “mixed light,” the camera (and its light meter) must make a decision as to what the subject is (remember focus point) and how best to deal with the light. You may or may not agree with that decision! Your skills as a photographer allow you to partially or completely affect that decision. Remember, your camera makes pictures with shadows twice as strong as we see them with our eyes.
Change the camera setting. Metering mode and exposure compensation are the simplest ways to take control of the light and make pictures the way you see them.
Change the light on the subject. You may move the subject, light source or camera position on every picture to control the light on the subject. A uniform (even) light is easiest to control, but the least dramatic. A partially lit subject is more troublesome to expose properly, but may evoke more emotion. The photographer can change the light by moving the subject from sun to shade, looking into or away from the sun, waiting for the weather to change from sun to clouds, or choosing to shoot in the morning or afternoon. By changing the light, you’ll completely change the look and feel of your picture. Learn to see and control the light to really make better pictures, all the time!
The “photographer behind the counter” of your local camera store is there to help you make better pictures, print better pictures and select the right equipment. We’re a valuable resource in your community. Support us, and we’ll continue to be here for you! When you have issues with your focus or lightness and darkness, remember this checklist. Take the time to learn about your camera and its settings (a little bit at a time), and you’ll make better pictures!
Mark Comon is vice president of Paul’s Photo in Torrance, Calif. As a photographic counselor, an instructor and an artist, Comon has the knowledge and experience to solve any photographic problem. Since 1988, he has taught more than 200 students per month in his popular classes at Paul’s Photo. Visit www.paulsphoto.com.
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