Tulip and and Eleventh Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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Sometimes tulips are tough to photography as the colours are outside of the range/gamut of the screen and software, meaning you can get weird results. Hopefully I have cured most of the issues. Had the flowers been in shadow or in a softer light, I might have had an easier time in post-processing.

Exposing to the left and right. Left and right here refers to the histogram, but we can just as well substitute the words bright and dark. The closer you are to the right of a histogram (bright side), the more detail your camera captures. The further to the left the more shadow (too far in either direction and you lose detail, especially on the right where it will be most noticeable). This is where the expression shooting to the right comes from. Now clearly it is easier to expose intentionally to the right when shooting static images and you check the histogram, or in camera with an EVF that shows the histogram. It‘s harder to do but not impossible, when you are on the move shooting birds. It’s also best to use the lowest possible ISO when doing this. Shooting to the left can give you rich shadows and better blacks, and make a bright subject stand-out (assuming you can fix the noise). There is quite a debate over these techniques, with some people preferring to under expose their photos to be able to manage the brights in post-processing then pushing to the right and risking loss of data if you miscalculate. In short expose to the right when you can.

Female Mallard and a Tenth Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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Ducks are always fun to shoot, especially with reflections and their attitude.

Some people will tell you that shooting manually will help improve your photography with a number of things including exposure. I started that way with a handheld meter, but today on DSLRs the meter is built-in and usually cannot be shut off. It will give readings in the viewfinder and those readings will depend on the metering mode (spot – good when the subject is in shadow or backlit, centre-weighted – also good for back-lit, and full frame computer generated metering – good for most circumstances.). As a result I am not sure how shooting in manual helps with exposure. I mention it only because I have read this argument several times with respect to DSLRs and have not quite understood it. On a camera with an EVF that shows the exposure in the view finder, manual is a dream. I do think understanding the modes and idiosyncrasies of the metering system of your camera helps a great deal, testing in all kinds of light circumstances will benefit you when you have to make choices quickly later on.

A Plant and a Ninth Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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Does exposure change for Black and White? Contrast matters in black and white and to the degree the light and subject have sufficient contrast the exposure is governed by all the same things as in colour.

Auto Exposure Balance (AEB) and a bit on White Balance. One trick I know professionals use is to bracket their exposures. Most DSLRs have this option. What you can do with this function is set the camera to shoot one stop below and one above, in addition to what the camera suggests is the best exposure e.g F4, F5.6, F8 (and if one of those is not perfect you can blend the three exposures in post production).At best one will get one exposure that is workable.  The white balance (WB) setting on your camera deals with color. The wrong WB could push the brightness of your shot either way and effect what will be seen as exposure. Proper white balance is a good step to take to get exposure right. Auto WB is great on camera and most processing applications have a tool to correct or fine tune WB, assuming you are shooting Raw; if you are shooting JPG then white balance captured by the camera is fixed. White balance is best addressed in the colour version of your Raw photograph.

Nuthatch and an Eighth Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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These are some of those hybrid situations where the background lighting is very different from the foreground and while we can try to expose to capture the best of both, post-processing is needed to balance the two with selective contrast and brightness.

With all the background I’ve cited and all the tools I mentioned over the past post on exposure are we any closer to a correct exposure? Outside of a studio, where we can see the photograph and subject simultaneously, probably not. When I take a shot of a landscape, I cannot go back hours later or the next day with the prints to check the lighting, it will have changed. Moreover the image on the review screen at the back of your camera is only a JPG representation of the final product. The camera colour mode you chose in camera, vivid, landscape etc. also effects exposure. This is why exposure is problematic in spite of all the tools. And why many photographers say the final product’s exposure is a matter of preference.

A Crow and a Seventh Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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The second of the two photographs is out of camera. I under exposed the photos by accident. Such is the flexibility of Lightroom that with ample applications of exposure and contrast one can get the kind of result you see in the first photo. It is a case where I should have taken different exposures, one for the crow and one for the background and melded the two. P.S. I think the bird is giving me the finger, so maybe this shot was cursed from the start.

Exposure compensation is a tool on a camera to fool the camera’s light meter to over or under expose. Under exposure helps get rid of blown out bits in your scene, where there is no detail only white. Under exposure helps because your camera is trying to measure 18% grey, and wedding gowns, snow etc go grey or blue unless significantly under exposed (e.g. minus 2). The idea is that as one gets more practiced we use test shots to get a general sense of the exposure and set exposure compensation to adjust as we go along. Exposure compensation is usually set at smaller increments than is possible by changing any other variable, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. It’s something that I use all the time, and have to be careful to readjust it back after shooting in challenging situations.

Daft Flowers and a Sixth Article on Exposure (Three Photographs)

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Sometimes you want your backgrounds a bit blown out, and I think without a bit of this these daft flowers would not be as interesting.

Most cameras provide a means to look at a histogram of the scene. Mirror-less cameras and cameras with electronic view finders (EVF) can put this in the view finder. On a DSLR most often you only get to see the histogram in review mode. Tests shots help you select the best exposure in circumstances where you might not be able to chimp (review your shots on the back LCD). You could shoot in live view (something I very rarely use outdoors but can be useful to judge exposure). Most experts will tell you that the histogram is one of the better tools. If the histogram shows a line going up the right hand side, something is under exposed, and on the left it means its too bright no detail. Ideally we are told a bell curve, where the line touches each wall and rises toward the top in the middle is the best histogram. Unfortunately a perfect bell curve is rare and while the histogram is illustrating the light from darker to lightest, the middle ground can be harder to interpret. While the blinkies (see previous post) will alert you to burnt out highlights, the histogram is great for seeing under exposure in the shadows.

Wood Ducks and a Fifth Article on Exposure (Two Photographs)

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I cannot resist the wood ducks against this background.

In challenging lighting conditions taking test shots can be very useful. They allow us to check two things with respect to exposure: the blinkies and the histogram. Most cameras today have one or the other or both. Blinkies, otherwise known as the highlight warnings can be seen on the review screen on the back of the camera. They show the bright parts in the photo that are burnt out. Blinking indicates those parts are way over exposed. Not all blinkies are bad, some things like the sun may always be a bit overexposed. This one tool can help solve a lot of problems, usually with a simple exposure compensation adjustment. I will talk about exposure compensation in a later article, but next the histogram. By the way, a recent update to the Fuji XT-2 puts the blinkies in the viewfinder, now that’s progress!

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