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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.
Here is a weird one. Look at this black-and-white checkerboard. We have got equal numbers of black-and-white squares, and all of the squares are the same size. Obviously, white squares reflect light, and black square don't. So you might think that this grid, which is half-composed of reflective white squares, would reflect half of the light that's strikes it. But it doesn't. It only reflects 18% of the light that strikes it. Here is weirder one. This is true for most scenes in the world. It turns out that most scenes that you look at reflect 18% of the light that strikes them.
Now this fact has obvious applications for cocktail party conversation, crossword puzzles, and making very nerdy impressions on first dates, but there is a photographic application as well: because most scenes in the world reflect 18% of the light that strikes them, if your light meter assumes that what it's pointed at is reflecting 18%, then that's a pretty safe assumption. So what your light meter actually calculates is a shutter speed and aperture that will accurately reproduce the tones and colors of something that is reflecting 18% of the light that strikes it.
Again, for most scenes in the world, this is a safe assumption. Remember, different amounts of light will need different exposure settings, but your light meter assumption is always that you want exposure settings that are correct for 18% reflectance. Now as you'll see later, this assumption can occasionally let you down, but most of the time it will be fine. To further assist you, your meter tries to choose a shutter speed that will be safer hand-held shooting, though if the light is too low this may not be possible, and it tries to pick a midrange aperture. Most of the time you can just let your light meter do its, but as you see later, there will be time when you need to out- think it and takes a manual overrides to ensure that some tones and colors appear correct in your image.
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