Through the Looking Lens: No. 5

It’s hard to believe we’re on the 5th week of the challenge already.   Hope you’ve been enjoying the journey so far.

If you’re taking photos, you’ll very likely have some that are way too dark and some that are way too bright.  If you look at the whites in the photo, and there is no detail in them, then it is overexposed.  You’ll often find this on bright sunny days.  You have a photo where the end of someone’s nose looks like a beacon and they don’t thank you for it.  If you live where I do, the problem is more likely to be that the blacks in your photos have no detail at all and the overall feel of the image is that it is underexposed.

Here’s an example of an underexposed image, caused by the shadows of the trees, it actually was one of those rare sunny days.


This is one of my favourite places to visit and was my first pleasure trip on the bike when I got brave enough.  It’s Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

But I’m getting side tracked.  Look toward the right of the picture where it is darker and you’ll see an example of how the blacks lose detail.  The image is in RAW format, so I process it with the software programme Aperture as I’m currently working on improving my RAW file processing.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Processed.jpg

This is a little more like how I saw it: more detail on the right side of the picture and the trees are a little warmer reflecting the sunshine of the day.  As I want the subject of the photos to appear stronger in the image, I finish with a final cropping.


What do you think?  Better?

But all this has taken some time, particularly as I don’t have much experience in processing images in their RAW format.  What I mean by RAW is that rather than taking the photo as a jpeg image, I’ve used an unprocessed format that retains all the detail and information that the sensor picks up.  It enables a great deal of flexibility in the editing stage.  Jpegs are processed in camera, and therefore lose some of that information.

It’s useful, so for example, if you end up taking an image that looks like this:

Sever underexposure, send to trash, or do something with it?

it is still possible to rescue it like this:

Pan From Almost Black.jpg
This is the same image as above, however, the information stored in the RAW format was still available to produce a picture showing the light that I saw when taking it.

As I’ve said before, prevention is better than cure, so how can you avoid over or underexposure when taking the photo in the first place?

You use something called “light meter”.

I’m able to see my light meter through my viewfinder.  It looks something like this:

light-meter.jpgYour camera might vary between -3 to +3.  It may also appear on your digital screen and/or in the information window at the top of your camera.

If you go to fully manual mode on your camera, you can see the effect of changing your aperture and shutter speed on the light meter.  If it goes to the left of 0 you’ll end up with an underexposed image and if it goes to the right of 0, it will be overexposed.  Try also playing with the ISO settings.  If higher, you’re likely to have an overexposed picture, but if too low, it’ll be dark.  You can usually find a good balance by playing with these three settings.  You need to decide first what is most important in your picture.  If you want a shallow depth of field then you need a low f-stop (e.g. 2.8 – 5.6).  Those settings allow in quite a large volume of light, so you may need to make the shutter speed faster to compensate.  If you want to freeze motion, you need a very fast shutter speed, so the f-stop needs to be low, and you might need to have a higher ISO setting.

Sometimes, it’s still not right, in which case, find a little +/- button on your camera, turn the appropriate dial and you can compensate for any under or over exposure that might be apparent when you play back your image.

The Challenge


Photography is the art of capturing light.  If there’s not enough, you have no picture, too much and you’ll capture a bleached imaged.

This week, notice how light is reflected from objects.  Aim to take a photograph, not of an object, but of light.   This is what the camera captures.  Try to improve your exposure through noticing good light conditions for a well-exposed image.

If you have a DSLR camera, try to control less than ideal light conditions making use of your light meter.

Challenge Response


My personal challenge was to take a photograph in completely manual mode making use of the light meter to achieve good exposure.   I’ve chosen the wonderful wine bottle stopper featured above to achieve this.  I’m working indoors with natural light and due to the time of year and dull weather, the light levels are low.  I’m close with this shot, but there are some less well lit areas to the right of the image where some of the wonderful detail in this sculpture is lost.


As he’s such a magnificent specimen, it’s worth a little more work to get that exposure right.   For the next attempt, I decide to make the most of the available light and ensure the full face is exposed to the window light.  This demands a change of background.  And I’m a little happier with exposure in this shot.


However, that detail is lost due to the shallow depth of field.  Some areas of the figure are in focus, others are not.  I really want to show the leaves making up his beard, without losing the detail in the face.  With luck, you can now see these more clearly.  I’ve cropped the image since to make it very clear what the subject of the photo is.


Looks like a museum exhibit doesn’t it?

Don’t forget to share how you’ve been getting on with any of the challenges.  Would love to know if you learn anything new and if you find anything useful.

Next week, we’ll be looking at controlling motion in your photographs.


13 thoughts on “Through the Looking Lens: No. 5

  1. Wow, that’s fantastic.
    Do you think such a programme could improve old photos that I have previously scanned and keep on j-peg file?


    1. The problem with a jpeg is that they don’t have the info of raw format, so it would be difficult to go from almost black to a decent image. However, you can still do a decent enhancement on a jpeg with programmes like photoshop and GIMP (free). Do you have photoshop? I can suggest a good set of add-ons that make all the difference.


      1. No, I’ve nothing other than some pretty useless programme that comes free with my Windows. It’s OK for removing red-eye, but that’s about it, but it does do cropping.
        Any advice of the kit to have would be welcomed.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I guess it depends on what you’re prepared to pay. Adobe Photoshop is regarded as the “industry standard” and it is great. I use it with the NIK collection add ons which includes color efex , silver efex (b&w processing), HDR efex, and more. Google did a package deal a couple of years ago – don’t know about now. There’s like nothing you can’t do with a photo. I have also used GIMP before – it works a bit differently to photoshop, but does everything photoshop does and more I’ve found. It’s completely free, being open source. Both take a while to learn, but there’s plenty of online tutorials and support to get to know both programmes. I’ve used GIMP on both a mac and pc and never had any issues with it. My partner took photos of old photos and used PS to create good enhancements. Aperture is an Apple programme that didn’t cost that much when I got it – but it’s great for organising photos as well as adjustments. I’m not sure how available it is now as they discontinued it a couple of years ago and not sure if it works with Windows. This article suggests other software – it’s geared to mac, but you might find they work with windows too (e.g. Gimp is featured)


    1. Cheers, Calen! My classes are now focused on B & W, which I love. The colour in the camera has been turned off for the next couple of weeks. I think it does make you more aware of how light works and impacts on the image.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Interestingly photographers on college courses used to start with b&w, but now it is more the other way round. There are some colours and some subjects that just aren’t meant to be b&w, e.g, colourful rosebeds, but a single rose can make a great b&w

          Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing how just one tip can help to improve the images. There’s one I’ll be sharing in a couple of weeks that seemed revolutionary to me, even though it is actually quite obvious!


      1. Great! I am a very beginner when it comes to photographing….any tidbits of info a help!! My friend Sally and i put on a photo workshop here in Maine this past summer. She is a photographer….I cook and set up the props. There were 6 photographers who came, it was meant to be an opportunity to share info, experience, learn new techniques. Beautiful here in Maine in the summer! A trip to Maine, Safar?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds like the kind of workshop I’d love! There was a group on Flickr who buddied you up with someone for a month and you set each other a challenge. I learned so much from others’ experiences and tips. We’ll be travelling Europe this summer, mainly to gain some riding experience, but we’d both love to see more of America – we have bikes – will travel!! Our plan is no plan and to follow invites like yours!!


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