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.

Communication

It has been said a “Picture worth a thousand words.” how can I get my photos to be that chatty? Communicating should be intentional, direct, tactful, transparent, considerate and kind. How is this possible in photography? Well, let us take a look at some examples.

I was recently watching a movie based on a historic event and during the movie I was amazed to see the detail and clarity with which the director communicated the points of history as the events occurred. It drew me in and kept showing one key issue, leaving the others minor. To draw out a point in the same way it is important to ask questions and answer them with observable facts.

Here is an example of what I mean by “communication”: How does a film director communicate the difference between the camera’s view and a cast member’s point of view? This is not a question I want to answer for you, but more of a question for you to ponder, to answer and add to your skill set. I have rolled this question around in my mind for some time and I have concluded that I can find new methods to experiment with as I see other techniques used.

How can I take these principles and add them to my still photography? After the shot type is selected, planning the scene is important. Is the person looking through the camera’s field of view watching someone through a window? Is this person hiding from someone? Could there be a hand, arm or feet seen in the shot from whose perspective the camera captures the scene?

This is a wise open realm to be explored. Not every attempt has to be perfect and you can certainly learn from your own photographs as well as you can from another’s, so enjoy and get some experience!

Portraits – Candid Capture

Q. How does a photographer catch the candid emotion, expression or action?

A. It can be difficult, however there is something consistently said by every portrait photographer I know, only 1 in every 10 is a good photo at best. The more experience in the portrait field, a photographer has I have heard the numbers dramatically increase from the 1 in 10 to 1 in 100.

I certainly found this to be true as I shot a wedding. Out of the hundreds of photos I got throughout the time of the wedding, reception and exit I only liked as many as 7! Remember though that I am coming from a viewpoint of quality and clarity, so even though the pose is good, I may not like it for smaller details that no one else might notice.

This may be a little steep for some photographers shooting film, so my caution to that is “Be careful on what you use your film.” In this age of technological advances and affordable digital cameras, use both styles (film and digital) but do not stop shooting with the digital until you get the right shot and then pick up your 35mm to get that one shot you found through the inexpensive digital shot. Do not hesitate either about deleting the digital photos! They essentially cost cents on the dollar as compared to the 35mm photo which costs a good part of a dollar if not more.

Q. How can a candid be posed with the same intensity of emotion?

Several things factor in but I will say one of the most important parts of getting that smile or   intense concentration is being able to communicate that emotion to the subject. Now, for a truly candid shot being that the subject does not know they are being photographed means the photographer should be ready to take a minimum or 3 – 10 pictures in a burst so that you can choose from the best of the expressions. One last point is to do your best to get the surface of the eye in focus because the soul of the person and the eyes being the window to the soul will give the true emotional expression.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Skin Tone

People can become upset when ethnicity is brought up, which is not my intention in this post. This post simply is to draw out the courtesy which photographers should extend to others whom may have preference to their appearance.

Skin tones vary from person to person and it is not so much the slight variations we will discuss here, but the contrasting tones.

Photography, as we have been discussing on recent posts, is in general terms the art of capturing the subject in the “perfect lighting”, or as I have put it “properly exposing” your focal point.

An interesting point of history quickly; the use of the word “expose” comes from the time when film was the standard medium product for transferring current events to two-dimensional record because of the chemical reaction begun as the film comes into contact with light and the heat created by it. Thus the film was “exposed” to light and heat.

Light sensors in our cameras can be tricky especially when in this case we want to be sure that we show-off the face of our subject. If that means taking a darker shot so that our subject is not “washed-out” or adding light so that our subject is not a silhouette, we know what should be added to make that great shot.

Family photos are always more appreciated too when mom can see the each face of her loved and ever irritating children. (Oops! Did I just type that?) It is important however to realize that art is not void of science and utilizing the foundation of science for artistic creativity in your family photos, is exactly the inspiration we desire for you. I may sound like an expert, but please remember an expert is only a drip, under pressure. So please, enjoy your leisure!

Camera Troubles – Part 6

What can I see that my camera does not?

There is not an easy way to answer this question, although I will say to say that our visual capability can not be directly and equally compared to the output of film or digital cameras.

Our sight is taken in motion whereas photographs are still images possibly showing movement by blur or subtle indications of motion. So while we may remember a certain pose, facial expression or scenery of a person or place we appreciate as if the memory were a still photograph does not mean our Eye and Brain receives these memories in just such a way.

Video recorders are truly much like cameras in this way that they capture motion or movement in 72 still frames a second or more. A video recorder more closely resembles our vision in that it records motion in so many frames.

Beyond multiple frames to give the illusion of complete motion, our vision is affected by the ability to change so quickly between seeing detail in the shadows from previously inspecting the details lit by broad daylight.

From observing myself and questioning what I see and how I see it, I believe now to better understand the difference of what I see and how I can operate my camera to photograph a scene as I see it.

I see: the bright sunlight streaming through the ceiling of tree leaves, illuminating the grass and garden floor in a brilliant array of color. As I continue to observe and breathe in the wonder of the contrast and illuminated detail, I begin to notice more detail which remained hidden until I had gotten close enough to notice for the first time.

This is done in photography in several ways. Let me begin with the best and quickest being the first.

  1. Simplicity – Photography studios will set-up the portrait studio with solid color backdrop and lighting to evenly light the subject while still allowing some shadow to remain but lighting enough to see detail in both shadowed and lit areas. This is the effect of many additional flashes.
  2. Specific detail – Scenery which cannot be reproduced or moved in-studio must be shot as is. This requires additional flashes or shooting 3 or more photos  from the same place and position of varying shutter lengths and putting them together in HDR format. (For more on HDR, please see our blog posts “High Dynamic Range” and “The Make-up Of An HDR Photo“.)

So it is not that our cameras cannot reproduce something similar to what we see, but that we have some understanding of how we can enable it to see. There are no quick and simple steps to follow for every camera to shoot fantastic photos. I wish there were! Though if this were the case I believe we would have lost some of the adventure in photography.

It can be this simple though, to know that the camera does not as quickly adjust its Lens Diaphragm and Sensor to see detail in shadow and light as do our Iris and Retina. Thus we seek to separate detail we want captured per photo by the varying amounts of light in its surroundings.

Photography truly is an amazing art. The amazement is not intrinsic to itself, but because it is base off of our visual ability which we are blessed to have received from the kind Providence who created us and the world we love to photograph.

Thank you for reading! I pray you have learned and enjoyed reading as much as I have in writing!

Camera Troubles – Part 3

The Correlation Of Physical Human Vision And Photography Camera truly makes a lot of sense when the purpose of each part is clearly explained!

As we have studied in the last two blog posts (Camera Troubles & Camera Troubles – Part 2) the camera Lens is comparable to our Cornea, Iris and Pupil. The Lens glass is designed to focus and adjust for telephoto. The camera Lens is comprised of at-least two pieces of glass (I say “at-least” because there are “Prime Focal Lenses” and “Variable Distance Lenses” which we call “Zoom lenses”.), the first being the lens we can see and should refrain from touching; the second being capable of moving microscopic distances for the purpose of focusing.

Perhaps this is a bit more theory than anyone would choose to know. Although I would not be writing this series of posts if I did not believe this information would benefit you as you daily take joy in photographing your life and the wonderful moments with your loved ones.

In side the camera Lens is the Diaphragm adjusted in stops which we photographers call “f/stop” or “Aperture”. The solid and flat construction of the Diaphragm is a little hard to explain, but let me tell you about its purpose; it is designed to adjust the opening in small amounts to regulate the saturation of light to reach the Sensor. This is the same purpose that our Iris serves by regulating the size of our Pupil and allowing just the right amount of light to pass onto our Retina.

The camera’s Sensor is a sensitive piece of equipment because it is made to be able to see things in relatively low lit situations. In fact I would say that the Sensor is the most delicate pieces of a camera when subjected to light. If anyone remembers the days of film photography, the Sensor in our digital cameras are the modern replacement of film. Do you remember looking for the right “film speed” and handling one film set after another? Oh the questions I had; and the answers I received were such an education! The camera Sensor and its inspiration our Retina (even the original film) are designed to be sensitive to light, leaving temporary impressions to be received into our memory.

There is a notable difference between our Eye and a camera’s Sensor system. The difference is this, Our Eye sees things in continuous motion and high rates of speed (something along the lines of video), whereas the camera is designed to see things as individual momentary pieces of halted time.

This is a lot of fun to discover new things about our camera! There is more to discover about the camera and some specifics as to how we can get the best out of them. Stay focused; we will capture some more details later this week!

Camera Troubles – Part 2

I can be quickly angered with myself because I lack the understanding of how my own camera sees the same scene I do. Not only that, but if I did have the understanding of how my camera see the scene, I do not anticipate that I have the dexterity to change the camera settings in the time it takes to raise the camera to my Eye once I see a shot. Although, because I know why I am angered, I can learn what I do not know. So, let us get to it!

In Tuesday’s post “Camera Troubles” we talked about how our Eye receives light and the path it takes through our Eye to the Brain. Now I should tell you that your visionary organisms are so magnificently fashioned no camera can compare to its spectrum of strength, complexity and ability.

Cameras are doing some amazing and spectacular things today, but the camera which outputs the most fantastic images is only at a basic level able to capture 1 out of the 100 things the Human Eye sees. Amazingly, even giving it a 1 out of 100, is being generous.

The camera is fashioned after the organisms that give us the capabilities to see. By displaying the inspiration for the first camera prototype I will list and correlate the major devices of the digital camera to the human capability of vision.

Major camera devices:

  • Lens – The lens containing glass for focusing and diaphragm for measured light control.
  • Shutter – The shutter is a part of an SLR camera which covers the sensor and only opens for the purpose of taking a picture.
  • Sensor – The sensor receives the light which surrounds the scene.
  • Processor – The processor receives the information from the sensor and sets it in order for storage.
  • Storage – The storage is a memory card that can produce any or all of the images you have taken.

Cameras, film and digital, are wonderful devices we can use to remind us of those specials times and events. There are some limitations of camera technology as compared to our visual capabilities.

“So how do I learn the difference between what my camera sees and what I see?”

“What settings ought to be change, and what is the proper setting level?”

These and other questions will be answered in our first two posts of April. Please join us as we explore how to get the most out of your camera!

Lists of shots

This post will not be as in-depth as others but if you take it seriously, can leave you with a very large load of homework. *Grin*

It has been my experience that I have all of these great shots in my head that I can either set-up or capture in theory. (In other words all of the elements I see in my imagination have been seen together at one time, at the same time.) However, when I find myself in a place that I have imagined a shot, I can not remember the elements I previously envisioned! Perhaps you also have experienced that disappointment and  horror of not being able to provide the photos I had in mind for my customer, now feeling like I will have to sell the shots I currently have twice as hard to make up for my lost enthusiasm. (This photo was taken in October of 2011. This is one of the times when I saw the shot, remembering it was something I had imagined without requiring me to add extra elements before immortalizing the scene.)

Here is how I am changing that costly error.

I have begun making a list of shots to compose by category, location, priority or time of day. (A time-saving tip is to input all of this information into a spread-sheet and then when I am ready to print a hard copy of my list I can prioritize them in the order that I will be shooting.)

I do not know about the rest of you, but I think about the next better shot all the time. My imagination especially runs wild after a shoot and I have just taken some exceptional shots. After I come down from the high of “a job well done”, I catalog the position and settings of the equipment set-up asking “What made the difference?” and every other question “9 ways from Sunday” about how it can be made better.