Terms – Exposure

I have written several posts that mention photos should be properly “exposed”. What does it mean to properly expose a photo? Good question. That is exactly the issue I intend to demystify.

“Back in the day” when every photographer used film to capture a scene for posterity the process included light rays piercing the film and chemical coating. When I refer to exposure, it is based on this process and how long the film is “exposed” to the light. If the film was left available to light it will be unintelligibly “bleached”.

So what this means in our digital world is we look at our digital exposures for areas that does not accurately represent the colors of our scene.

Proper exposure is not dependent on your field of photography. For example, a photo-journalist does not use a different measure for proper exposure than a commercial portrait photographer would. Each vocation specialty may prefer different exposures for their purposes, but there is one common key; they all want their subject in this range of proper “exposure”. We will discuss this more in-depth in our next post “Terms – Exposure 2”.

Exposure is effected by length of shutter speed, amount of added light (flash, strobe or constant) and lens aperture. All of these we have covered in earlier posts. For now, what are the keys that will help us discern a proper exposure?

Detail – How much detail is visible in the photograph? Detail represents the photographic subject and the surrounding scene.

Depth of Shadow – How dark are the shadows in the photograph? This will cause detail to be obscured.

Bright areas without detail – What areas in the photograph are saturated with more light than necessary? This will cause detail to not be visible.

As you look through pictures take some time to look at shadows and bright areas. Look for detail and consider other places the photographer could have stood for more or less light to expose the shot.

Lighting – Part 3

Lights are not easy to work, however not impossible. Directly lighting an object without first being reflected or diffused should be carefully handled. We will get into the reason for this point in a moment but let us first remember what transpired bringing us to this point.

In the time this blog has been in operation, we have discussed contrast, highlights, shadows, elements, focus, scene design and light source positioning in preparation for this new level of photography design. Direct lighting will be harsh and bright; so what else around the object should be lit to make sense of the scene?

What elements are important to the message of your photo? Remembering to keep it simple and thus unifying the message, light the desired elements enough for the purpose. If this photo involves a model, be sensitive to their comfort. Natural poses may be comfortable for a short period but if continued may become an irritation.

Irritation can be something the model will have to fight through for proper facial expression, motion stability to prevent blurring with moderate to slow shutter speeds. None of these issues are worth battling when they are avoidable.

Take a look at some advertisement photos and notice how little they add to the photo. At the same time, notice how they add, what they add, why they add and where they add those extra elements. This is not to learn the style or technique of another photographer, but to learn a principle, “Too much spice can ruin the soup” and not enough means it is a good start though undesirable.

Light can change the focal point of shot by misdirection, improper power setting and poor timing with the camera shutter. Be sure to know your equipment. Acquaintanceship means nothing when you are entertaining a customer and simultaneously troubleshooting your lighting system. You are the expert of your equipment. Learn it well.

Product – Natural Light

Product photography can be executed with natural light in an everyday setting. Yes, YOU can photograph your own products in your home as long as you have the proper light source – the sun. This is especially beneficial for entrepreneurs of crafts and homemade trinkets who need to advertise their own merchandise.

Pay attention to your home and where the window light spills in throughout the day. The quality and amount of light can accentuate the product you are trying to showcase. For instance, when the sun is newly risen or close to setting, you can catch soft golden hues that will not  been seen throughout a normal day. The sun is also less harsh at those times so you can have a better balance when dealing with “shiny” objects. Shiny objects are any products made of reflective material. Overexposure of shiny objects are much easier to do when the sun is strongest and highest in the sky.

If the sun is still too harsh, it helps to have a “diffuser” at hand. A light diffuser is used to even out the main light source that is being projected on the product. For example, in direct light, a product made of or containing amounts of shiny metal may have a spot that is too bright and visually overpowering. We call that a “hot spot” and there should still be detail visible in those brightest areas. A light diffuser can be purchased already made and in different sizes at a photographic equipment store. If you are on a limited budget, a light diffuser can also be made of plumbing pvc pipe, 90 degree angles, and swimsuit nylon. Determine your chosen size and assemble into a square or rectangle. For ideas and a better visual picture, check out images of light diffusers and normal sizes on the internet. Stretch the nylon tightly over the pvc pipe and sew the corners to keep in place. Swimsuit nylon can be purchased at a local fabric store and pvc pipe at a hardware store. Angle the diffuser between the sun and your product to soften the light.

Proper styling, simple backgrounds, and pertinent lighting can showcase your product in a way that can wow your clients. Bring as much confidence into advertising your product as you showed in creating it.