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Arriving at the best exposure for a photo is part science and part art. In Foundations of Photography: Exposure, Ben Long helps photographers expand their artistic options by giving them a deep understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and all other critical exposure practices. This course covers the basic exposure controls provided by all digital SLR cameras, as well as most advanced point-and-shoot models. Learn how to master a camera's metering modes, how to use exposure compensation and bracketing, and much more. By the end of the course, you'll know how to develop an "exposure strategy" that will allow you to effectively employ your exposure knowledge in any shooting situation.
Okay, I am here now with Cowgirl and Cowgirl's personal masseuse, who is going to make sure that she stays here while I demonstrate the problem of shooting something or someone who is a really, really dark-black color. Now you've learned that when you meter, your camera, your light meter, assumes that what you're pointed at is a middle-gray tone. Now, Cowgirl here is anything but middle-gray. So when I shoot, what's going to happen is the camera is going to calculate an exposure that will render her more gray rather than black, and I want this beautiful inky black that she is.
So to restore the tone in her in the image to where it needs to be, I need to intentionally underexpose, because when I underexpose, it won't gather as much light, and she will be left a little darker. So I am going to take two shots of her, just as we did with Jack and Ursula, and we can see the difference. So here's one as the camera meters, and here's another one underexposed by a stop, and here's one underexposed by two stops, because I am not sure where I actually need to be to get the tone back to where it was.
So, let's take a look at these. Here's the shot as it was metered. You can see, at first, you may look at and go, "Oh! I don't know. That looks like a black cow to me." But remember, your eye is constantly correcting tone. Now, take a closer look and realize she is not really black; she is a dark gray. We want her nice deep inky black. So here's our underexposed image. This one is underexposed by one stop, and that's much better. You can see that she has been restored to a complete black. Now this is a little bit different than what we did with Ursula. With Ursula, we underexposed her to be sure that we were preserving the highlight details in the white part of her snout.
Now, Ursula is not actually black. She is a darkish, brownish, reddish kind of color. So when we underexposed her, she actually went a little too dark, so we had to bring her back up. But in the case of shooting something black, very often you need to underexpose to get tone back to where it used to be. In the old days, if you were shooting something white, you needed to overexpose to restore those tones to white. If you ever shot with an older camera and tried to shoot snow, or a really white sandy beach, you might come back and think it all look a little dingy. Light meters today typically don't have that problem.
They are usually very good at getting white correct. But if you do shoot something white and find that it looks a little dingy, try overexposing. These are intentional over- and underexposures used to restore tone, and exposure compensation is the easiest way to go about doing this.
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