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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.
This is a Moreton Bay Fig tree, and as you can see, this particular specimen is spectacular. It's got a really beautiful big root system underneath. It's got big, thick, gnarly branches. And as a photographer, as you are walking up to it, you are not probably thinking, "Wow, look at that beautiful tree." You have done that already. That's why you are walking up to it in the first place. After you've identified it as a subject, and you are walking up to begin shooting, what you should be thinking is, "What potential exposure problems are am I going to have here?" And it should be kind of obvious what they are, right off the bat, the biggest one is going to be backlighting.
I have got all this sky back here that's going to potentially mess up my shot. If I am going to be shooting underneath the tree, I've got the problem of standing in shade with all that bright stuff out behind. What I need is an exposure strategy before I even press the shutter button the first time. We have been looking at a lot of theory in this course, a lot of exposure theory. We have been studying a lot of individual parameters and seeing how they work together. We have been doing a lot of that study in the studio in a somewhat controlled, laboratory-type situation. That stuff, all of that theory, that doesn't in stay in the studio.
It's got to come with you when you go out shooting. And the way that it should kind of manifest at first is anytime that you come into a new situation, you need to quickly identify what might cause you an exposure problem and build a strategy before you begin shooting anything. So let's think about this one. Again, backlighting is going to be my problem. We've looked at lots of different ways of controlling backlighting. What might be the best one in this situation? Well that's going to depend on what I am shooting. We have looked at shutter speed, ISO, aperture, exposure compensation, concepts of over- and underexposing.
We've looked at program shift. It is the very, very, very rare situation that requires you to manipulate all of these parameters at once. Usually there is just one parameter that you are going to need to be looking at. In this case, let's say that we are shooting a portrait underneath the tree, so I know that I am going to want shallow depth of field. So I'm going to be most concerned with aperture. But if I am underneath that tree, I know also that it's going to be very bright in the background, so I'm probably going to want to overexpose a little bit. So I'm going to be thinking about aperture and some overexposure, and that's probably it. If it turns out that my overexposure drives my shutter speed down, then I'm going to need to think about ISO.
I need to have all that in my head before I go in there. Obviously, once I start shooting, that may change. It's always true with your exposure strategy. It's a fluctuating thing, as situations change, as your understanding of the situation changes. Let's say I am shooting some people running around the tree or running around underneath the tree. That's going to be about shutter speed. So I'm going to dial in to shutter priority mode and be ready to try and think about stopping and blurring motion. Again, ISO may come into play to keep my shutter speed where I want it. This is what happens anytime I enter a new shooting situation.
I think about where the potential exposure weak spots are, and I begin to develop a strategy. When you are first starting out, that strategic planning section maybe something that you actually have to stop and stand here for a minute and think it through. Okay, big aperture, shallow depth of field. You may have to work through all of that stuff. As you get better, you may not even be aware that you are strategizing. You will simply go into a situation and find yourself turning to a particular mode, preparing a particular type of over- or underexposure. It gets easier as you go along. The important thing is it's a step that has to happen.
Throw your camera into program mode. You can shoot snapshots all day long and get pretty good results. There is a good chance in that mode though that you're going to come home with people that are too dark because they are in shadow or things that are blurry because you didn't have a good shutter speed. If you're really dead-set on getting keeper images, then you've got to strategize. If you're still not clear on any of the individual exposure parameters we've covered, or any of the concepts we have covered, go watch those sections again, go out and practice some more. What you are after now is putting all of those things together into a cohesive strategy, and learning how to adapt and adjust that strategy every time you come into a new shooting situation.
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