Monday, September 15, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Better Exposures in Tricky Situations

Enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. The photo(s) in this post were taken by Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured this image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Better Exposures in Tricky Situations
Over the many years I’ve been photographing, I’ve seen many advancements in metering systems to help ensure photographers get proper exposures. Manufacturers incorporate sophisticated algorithms and lighting scenarios into a camera’s computer to try to cover the many different lighting situations that commonly occur. Yet as complex as these systems have become, there’s nothing smarter than the knowledgeable photographer to nail a proper exposure. Knowing when, why, and how to override the meter is essential to getting proper exposures.

BACKLIGHT: When a subject is backlit, the camera doesn’t know whether you want to record it as a silhouette or with detail. The difference in exposure between the two may vary by as much as five f stops. Based on the effect you want, you need to tell this to the camera and override what it thinks it wants.

WHITE: A camera meter is designed to record everything 18% gray. This translates to incorrect exposures if most everything in the picture is white. The camera doesn’t know you’re photographing snow, but you do. To prevent your snow from looking gray and dingy, take charge. Use your histogram, blinking highlights and LCD to make sure your snow looks neither gray nor blown out with no detail.

FOG: Fog is one of my favorite conditions in which to shoot but it presents a tricky metering situation. I discovered the hard way that cameras tend to underexpose fog which yields dreary and dull images. To prevent this from happening to you, dial in + compensation.


To take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

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