Exposing for highlights
Video: Exposing for highlightsAll of this theory that we've been talking about, this is not just something that you study at home and think about and then go, "Okay, that's in there. Now, I am going to go shooting." You think about it when you're in the field. You work through the same types of thoughts in your head that we've been talking about in the studio in a very theoretical way. And this shot that we found right here is a fine example. So we're driving down this road, and I've got this nice road going into distance with these pretty shady trees. And there is something in the background that you can't actually see right now. The video cameras we are using is a digital image sensor, just the way my SLR does.
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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.
- What is exposure?
- Exploring camera modes
- Light metering
- Shooting sharp images
- Controlling shutter speed
- Understanding f-stops
- Controlling motion
- Working with a shallow depth of field
- Measuring aperture
- Shooting in low light conditions
- Performing manual light balance
- Working with the histogram
- Using fill flash
- Understanding reciprocity
Exposing for highlights
All of this theory that we've been talking about, this is not just something that you study at home and think about and then go, "Okay, that's in there. Now, I am going to go shooting." You think about it when you're in the field. You work through the same types of thoughts in your head that we've been talking about in the studio in a very theoretical way. And this shot that we found right here is a fine example. So we're driving down this road, and I've got this nice road going into distance with these pretty shady trees. And there is something in the background that you can't actually see right now. The video cameras we are using is a digital image sensor, just the way my SLR does.
And like my SLR, it's got a much lower dynamic range than my eye has. So right now what you're seeing in the sky is just white. So I'm going to ask the camera operator to change the exposure, so that we can see what's actually up there. And you should be able to see that look, there is a mountain looming there in the distance. Now, when I walked into this scene, I was able to actually just see all that. I was able to see nice dark shadow, and road, and mountain looming in the distance. This is shot I want to take. What needs to happen next is right away I need to recognize that's a lot of dynamic range in that scene.
I can't just hop out of my car, snap off that picture, and hop back in. I've got to stop and think about this situation. High dynamic range, more stops of light then my camera can capture, even though my eye is seeing everything just fine. So I'm going to need to think about my exposure a little bit and use a little exposure compensation to be sure that the mountain is visible. Watch what happens if I take a shot as the camera has metered. This is a landscape shot. I know I want deep depth of field, so I put my camera in aperture priority mode to give me control of aperture, because aperture is what controls depth of field.
I've dialed down to F11, which is going to give me a very depth of field. I'm going to take my shot. I've already focus the camera, so I'm just going to knock one off there. This is what we got, and sure enough there is no mountain back there. It's all overexposed. It's gone out to complete white. So what I need to do is think about exposing for the highlights in this image, protecting the highlights by choosing an exposure compensation that's going to be sure that the mountain, which is the big highlight area, is okay. I'm going to dial in an underexposure. When I underexpose, the mountain is going to darken.
I'm going to get detail on it, and actually for that matter, I going to be able to see it all. I want to get some detail on it. I'm also going to pull some color back into the sky. Now, when I do that underexposure, the dark parts of my image are also going to go darker. They may not go so dark that I can't see them, but even if they do, that may not matter. When a shadow goes dark, we just think it's a really dark shadow. When a bright highlight goes bright, it's a big empty spot in our image. So you are much safer often losing your shadows than you are when you lose your highlights. The other thing is that light and shadow, that's the vocabulary of photography.
Its nice having images without detail in them sometimes, against images with lots of detail. These are some of the aesthetics that you work with when you're working with light in a nice image. So what I'm going to do now is dial in an underexposure using my exposure compensation control. Now remember, this is landscape I want to deep depth of field, so I want to be sure I preserve aperture control. If I'm in program mode, and I dial in an exposure compensation, I don't actually know how the camera is going to get the compensation. If I tell it I want it underexposed by one stop, it might underexpose by changing shutter speed or aperture. Or if I'm in auto ISO mode, it might make tiny little ISO changes.
If I make changes to all three, I don't want it touching my aperture setting. Fortunately, when I'm in aperture priority, any exposure compensation changes I make will be made to shutter speed. So I am on a tripod. I don't care if my shutter speed goes too low. I'm going to dial in one stop of underexposure. Now, how do I know one stop? I don't. I'm just starting with one stop, and we'll see what's going to happen. I take the shot, and there it is. There is my mountain looming in the background. So now I've got detail on the mountain. These shadows have got a little bit darker.
I can choose to brighten them up, I could choose to darken them further, or I can leave them alone. That's an aesthetic choice that I get to make later. I don't need another shot here; one shot was plenty to bring the mountain back. So very often in a high-dynamic-range situation, this is the type of process that you're going to go through. You're going to take a shot, maybe review it on the screen, or maybe you're not even going to bother with that first shot. You're going to come into it and go "That mountain is just too bright. I'm going to start with an underexposure." The point is I'm trying to protect highlights. I don't want them to go white, and I'm doing that by underexposing them to pull them back into range, so that I can see those details.
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