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.
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:
it is still possible to rescue it like this:
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:
Your 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.
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.
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.