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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.
Earlier you saw how we can control tone through exposure--that is, we can darken a tone by underexposing to put it back to its true dark value. Remember, your light meter is assuming that everything it's pointed at is middle gray and is trying to calculate exposure settings that will reproduce the scene as middle gray. Tone also has an impact on color. Take a look at our flowers again. This is a different set than we have used before. My light meter is looking at them and assuming that they are middle gray, and it's calculating some exposure values to reproduce them as middle gray, and here is what it's coming up with here.
Now, they look pretty good. They look like colorful flowers. But as I look at the scene with my eye, I see that they are actually a little darker; they are a little more saturated than what I am getting here. If I dial in just a tiny little bit of exposure compensation, I am going to dial in a 1/3rd-stop exposure compensation and watch what happens to these tones in here. They get just a little more saturated. Now, I am sure you notice the background getting darker too. There's no way around that. I am lowering my exposure. But again, watch the difference in the color. I am going to put it back to where the camera wants to meter.
It's just a little bit lighter. That may not seem like much, but that will show up in print, that difference. Let's go to a 2/3rds stop down, and they saturate a little more. This is getting back to the idea that color has a tone. Just the way black-and-white objects have a tone from black to white, color objects have a tone from, in this case very, very dark orange to lighter orange on the highlights. We can increase the saturation of colored images, dark-toned color images by underexposing.
If you have ever shot slide film, you're probably already used to this. The general rule with shooting slide film is that you want a little bit of underexposure to get your colors nice and deep and rich. And that can be true when you are shooting with your digital camera, when you are shooting JPEGs. It's a little bit different when you are shooting RAW. But for the most part, if you underexpose a little bit, you will get deeper, richer colors. That doesn't mean you want to necessarily walk around all the time with your camera set to underexpose by a 3rd of a stop. But if there are times where you are shooting some darker colors, you want to be sure they are really saturated, then maybe bracket your exposure--that is, shoot one normal, then underexpose a little bit, shoot another one.
You may find when you get home that that underexposed one has slightly better color.
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