How to Use Intentional Overexposure in Photo Shoots

show more Intentional overexposure provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Ben Long as part of the Foundations of Photography: Exposure show less
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Intentional overexposure

This is Jack. His ear is in my mouth. I don't know how much you can see me, because right now what's going on is the bright sky behind me is causing the camera to underexpose me. So this is a case where if you were shooting in this situation, you wouldn't have any detail on me because of the bright background behind me. So we're going to show you a kind of a simulation of what you want to do with your camera. If we overexpose intentionally, you can now see detail on me and Jack. Jack's getting a little impatient.

You can see now see detail on me and Jack. Now the background is blown completely out to white, and that's just something you have to accept. It's a stylistic choice you can make. If there is no detail there that we need, that can be fine. Now the way you would do this on your camera is to dial in an intentional overexposure using your exposure compensation control. How much is something you may just have to experience in that with: one stop, two stop. That's one of the great things about being able to review your images on your camera. So, let's take a look again. Here is what your camera will probably do by default when you meter in a situation like this. So no detail on me, no detail on Jack here.

Here is what happens if you intentionally overexpose using your exposure compensation control. Now, let's take a look at the shots. So here are the two shots I came with. The first one is the shot as my camera wanted to meter it, and you can see that the camera really biased itself for the background, this bright highlight, and that's left Jack in shadow. So that was no good. So what I wanted to do, of course, was intentionally overexpose using my exposure compensation dial. So I dialed in a one-stop overexposure and got this shot.

Now, the problem was I was worried about Jack running away. So I didn't actually do what I've been bugging you to do which is to always check shutter speed when you shoot. I took the shot and had not checked in on my shutter speed. I didn't know that it was actually at a 1/20 of a second, which is too slow for hand-held shooting. However, when I pressed the shutter button I heard a distinct "kathunk" of a slow shutter speed, and right away I realized, oh, my shutter speed is too slow. Jack is moving. I am moving. This is going to be a blurry shot. So very quickly, I dialed my ISO up to 400.

I looked at my shutter speed, saw that it was at a 20th. I knew that if I went up two stops, that would get me from a 20th to a 40th to an 80th. That's fine for hand-held shooting. I quickly changed my ISO and took a second shot, and that got me something usable. This is a fine example of why you really need to be familiar with your camera controls. You've got to sometimes make those adjustments very, very quickly. This is also a great example of combining a number of the different concepts we've talked about: how you can buy yourself more shutter speed latitude with an ISO change, and more importantly, that you can intentionally overexpose to put detail back into shadows.

Intentional overexposure
Video duration: 2m 40s 3h 24m Appropriate for all


Intentional overexposure provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Ben Long as part of the Foundations of Photography: Exposure

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