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August 30, 2012

Exposure - little helpers

OK, now everybody is choosing Manual mode from camera's choices of modes, or at least semi auto. Then you know what metering mode to choose to make your camera worth the money spent. But how can we take the correct exposure to another level? What makes some photographs stand up from the crowd, where many are just grey average, even we exposed the image to what we call correct?

Luckily, there are some cheats and aids on the market which can do exactly this things for us. Well, they won't do it by their self, they help you do it by yourself. Some of them are already built in your camera, or editing software, some of them you can buy and they are really cheap, some of them are more expensive. So let's have a look at them.

18% grey card
Grey card is simple piece of cardboard, paper, cloth or whatever printed in 18% grey shade. It also can be a reflector from one side and grey card from the other, which is quite handy. They come in different sizes and shapes, you just have to pick one which suits you the best.
grey card.jpg
How it works? If light conditions are not what you'd call ideal, let's say you have really bright background, or too dark scene, you just simply point your camera (set to auto or semi auto mode) to the grey card and take the exposure reading. As camera exposure metering works with 18% grey, you'll have correct exposure for every light condition. But be careful, "correct" exposure might not bring you desired result. It is also handy when shooting wedding, where correctly exposed bride's bright white dress is a must and it often can fool your camera's metering system. They are really cheap, some of them are downloadable for free, just ask Mr. Google.

Filters can really make a difference and make your pictures stand out from the crowd. More about filters can be found in my previous articles here and here.

Light meters
Why the hell you should invest to the light meter if your camera already has one? The answers is, because your camera takes exposure reading of the light reflected by the subject and light meter measures light falling on the subject. Those of us, who paid attention at physics lessons know it might be a significant difference with some materials and colors. For those of you who didn't, simple explanation says that some materials and colors absorb more  light then the others and reflect the rest. Therefore the light meter makes sure that you have always the right exposure. Of course you have to shoot on Manual and set every exposure value by yourself. How it works? You simply set the ISO and desired aperture on the light meter and press the button. Light meter tells you what shutter speed is correct. It has got few modes, usually sunny, cloudy and flash settings, but it vary from model to model.
Thumbnail image for sekonic.jpgSekonic 1.jpg

Light meter is also a must have accessory for die hard manual photographers shooting on film, who haven't got the option check the result on LCD screen. It is also handy think to have for studio photographers for setting lights.

Histogram has been briefly explained here. It tells you the truth about tonal distribution through your image where LCD screen can fool you. And don't worry, if you didn't get it right in camera, histogram is also available in every editing software. Don't be scared of graphs, once you learn how to read it and use it, you never look back.

Exposure override
In semi auto modes there is a magic button called "exposure override" available. On scale from -2 for dark image through 0 for correct exposure to + 2 for very bright shot you can tell your camera if you'd like it to make the image darker of brighter. It really does the magic, it is very useful feature.

Exposure bracketing
This feature is also built in your camera (if you have a digital one). Camera takes usually three shots (you can set some cameras to 5 or more) with different exposure values (EV) and then you can decide at home which one is the best. You simply set the exposure bracketing for example to -1EV, 0EV and +1EV, but it also possible to set it in 1/3EV difference. You'll end up with 3 pictures of the same scene, but you'll be sure one of them is nicely exposed. This technique is also used to create HDR images, but you must have your tripod with you.

Posted by pkuzmin at August 30, 2012 1:35 PM