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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.
Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You've seen how these three parameters give you control over brightness and depth of field, motion control, tonality. They are simply exposure. You've also seen a number of ways of controlling all of these parameters, but there might still be a few more items on your mode dial. These are scene modes. Scene modes typically have icons representing specific type of scenes. For example, you might have landscape, portrait, night shooting, sports. These are all automatic modes, similar to program mode.
When you shoot with a scene mode, you still need to half-press your shutter button to focus, meter and white- balance, wait till the camera beeps, and then press the button rest of the way to take your shot. But in a scene mode, the camera biases its exposure decisions for a specific type of scene. For example, in landscape mode, the camera will lean towards smaller apertures for deeper depth of field. In portrait mode, it will bias towards wider apertures to blur up a background behind your subject. In sports mode, it will aim for faster motion-stopping shutter speeds.
Scene modes typically force you to shoot JPEG files, and sometimes scene modes will even add a little bit of image processing to your images. For example, your camera's portrait scene mode might add a little bit of warming to your images to make flesh tones look better. After everything you have been through in this course, you are most likely beyond scene modes by now. You are probably used to a finer degree of control. And if you have started shooting RAW, then you'll probably want to avoid scene modes, simply because they force you to JPEG files. If you are working with a small point-and-shoot that lacks manual controls, then scene modes are probably the only manual overrides that you have.
And you probably got gobs of them. You've probably got a scene mode for shooting by candlelight, shooting at dusk, shooting fireworks. Check out your camera's manual to find out exactly what these scene modes do. No matter what you are shooting with, if you are still not completely comfortable with some of the concepts we have been covering in this course, then scene modes might be a nice crutch if you find yourself having to shoot quickly in a scene that your camera provides a special mode for. Now buried somewhere in you camera's menu system you might also find some image- processing controls of some kind. These will be usually be sliders for dialing in contrast, saturation, sharpness. Or you might find a menu of options for different looks for your images: neutral, saturated, warm.
When you are shooting JPEG images, these options give you some control over the image processing that the camera applies to the image. Now these controls have no affect on RAW images, and they actually have nothing to do with exposure. So if you see a slider that says contrast, know that that setting in no way alters your camera's light meter or affects its shutter speed and aperture choices; instead, that option tells the camera to add more or less contrast after the image has been taken. It's just like increasing contrast in your image editor. On some cameras, you can use special software on your computer to build image- processing profiles that are extremely refined.
You can, for example, dial in very subtle color and contrast edits. These features are specially nice for wedding shooters and other people who need to quickly deliver huge numbers of images, and so don't have time to do a lot of image editing in their computer. They can create an editing profile that they know yields a look that they want under the type of light that they typically shoot in, and have their camera apply that to every image they shoot. If this sounds like something you could use, check out your manual for details. But do understand, again, these features do not actually alter your exposure settings.
As you get more comfortable with exposure and the manual modes on your camera, you might very well find a place for auto features in your day-to-day shooting. There is no single correct way to shoot, so the more tools you have in your photo arsenal, the better off you will be.
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