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Friday, September 1, 2006

Shoot Digital For B & W

Discover the monochrome world using your digital camera

Managing Exposure

Ensuring a good exposure is important with any type of photography, but it becomes critical with black-and-white images. With black-and-white photography, you're not only making sure your image isn't severely over- or underexposed, but you're also determining how you want tones to appear in your image. You want to make sure that your highlights aren't overexposed, resulting in a loss of detail. But it's especially important that dark tones aren't severely underexposed in your image. When you try to pull out detail from these dark areas in Photoshop, you'll also reveal noise, which will reduce the impact of the dark tones.

Thankfully, using the digital camera's histogram ensures the best exposure for both your highlights and shadows. A histogram is a graphic representation of the entire tonal range of your image from the darkest black on the far left to the brightest white on the far right.

To effectively use this tool, take a picture and play it back on the LCD. The histogram should fall just short of the far right to ensure that the highlights aren't blown out. If the histogram is heavily weighted to the right, it will likely mean that highlights will be reproduced as pure white, with no details. The exception is when there are specular highlights, such as reflections on water, which shouldn't be expected to retain any significant details.

When evaluating and adjusting your exposure, allow for a small gap between the end of the graph and the right edge of the histogram. Avoid underexposing by too much, as this will result in a loss of shadow detail.

If you find that your exposure is heavily biased toward the left-hand side of your histogram, you should increase the exposure to retain some shadow detail without overexposing your highlights.


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