Terms – Exposure 2

So what is the difference in exposure between photography fields? The answer may be more fascinating than you realize.

Without an in-depth knowledge of a science it seems basic and small. Thus it would seem incapable of containing enough product for very many markets. However they more the science is studied and further discoveries are taken the science’s markets begin exploding with possibilities. Within each market is a specialized way of dealing with the product for that market. Allow me to explain:

A coin to the founder is equal to his time, resources and product used in minting it. To a collector (still in the market of the numismatist) this coin no longer holds only the value of the coin upon its date of minting, but now any more historical and geographical significance, making its value increase (besides the rising value of precious metals).

To photograph such an item as marketed to a collector, he will be interested in seeing the coin’s condition, its inscriptions, distinguishing marks and a clear representation of the metal color. This suggests to the photographer a specific method of lighting, absence of artistic embellishment and being close up for the best view of the coin’s condition. Can we safely say this requires skill and vocational specialization? Yes, without a doubt.

Take the same coin but in a different market. This coin is not being photographed to a market focus on collectors but sold to a precious metals store who pays out cash to the seller. Photography in this market (if used) would most probably focus on damage detail, over-all likeness and any metallic tarnishing. While these shots are close enough in description, the execution and lighting set-up of the shots are quite different.

While the subject is lit just as well in both shots, the lighting is different because of the market’s push for equal, over or under exposure of the background in reference to the subject. The details of how this is accomplished is still a new topic of discussion.

Showcase Lighting

Have you seen those pictures that take your attention and your will to look at any other photo dwindles? Maybe it is a picture of a young woman looking out the open window with the curtains blowing toward her.

The “best lighting” is directed from natural light source placement. This is what I mean by “natural light placement”, light should be coming through the window (back to the photo description above) and not around the window.

There is an important lighting technique which I refer to as “even lighting” or as others say “flat lighting.” “Flat lighting” means that the light is spread across the subject without creating harsh shadows or excessive amounts of light. Not meaning the shadow is absent but having control of the harshness or contrasted effects of the shadow is important!

I used to think that I needed no other light source but the ambient light of the outdoors; while the lighting is always perfect outside with the sun as the source, reflectors, diffusers and shades are great ways of flattening the ambient light.

Adding light with flash and strobe was my primary apprehension, because it is so easy to displace the natural lighting with one overpowering light source. This is not to say adding light with flash and strobe is bad, just a word to the wise that adding light in this way brings a lot more skill and thought to the table than anticipated.

“Showcase Lighting” is all about drawing the viewer’s attention to a specific place in the photo. This is to say, consider what your picture shows. Motion? Draw the viewer’s attention with the movement direction. Personality? Highlight the facial expression including eyebrows, eyes and/or mouth.

Lighting really is a way of communicating where you want people to look without words. Learning how to do this is not easy nor can it be reduced to a formula (at-least not to my knowledge).

Portraits – Candid

Candid shots can be hard to pick out from a few select pictures because posing does not have to show the subjects awareness of the photographer. However for our purposes we will call those posed shots candid anyway for simplicity’s sake.

What does “Candid” really mean? :

“Truthful and straightforward; frank.
(of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.”

So we could even say that the most important quality of a candid photo is not, the lack of knowledge on the part of the subject but how truthful the image is to practical life versus our Utopian fantasy. This is not to say, a photo should include our frustration, irritation and messes, but rather kept simple and uncomplicated.

Is that easier said than practically applicable? Perhaps, although here are some suggestions to inspire your own creativity for simplicity.

  1. Focus on your subject and what has drawn their attention.
  2. Beware of your frame corners so as not to include distractions.
  3. Intentionally use backgrounds that support your shot and not stealing your viewer’s attention.

Focusing on your subject and the object holding their attention: Using a macro lens will crop a lot of the surrounding scenery bringing your focus to rest on your subject and their object of attention.

Being aware of what your frame corners catch which may distract a viewer is easy to forget. In fact I have found that if I am not paying attention I still catch minor undesirables. It can sound like photography is an art impossible to meet or only for the totally devoted  who do nothing else but study for the next super-image. I can nearly guarantee you this is not the case in most photographer’s cases.

Intentionally using backgrounds that are not flashy or precisely perfect have helped me draw out more of my subject’s presence versus a nice scenic shot with a presence.

Learning Your Equipment – Part 4

Learning the capability of your equipment and how it will see a scene you shoot and utilizing that knowledge, I think is a skill akin to that of Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso or Rembrandt van Rijn. You think this is a little over stated? Perhaps not. Not only will you notice the shading caused by the light, the setting around your subject and how you want to set-up your shot, but when your new skill is perfected you will be able to estimate with some certainty the shutter speed necessary to render your subject perfectly lit.

As I have personally begun my own education in estimating shutter speed in connection with proper exposure, I understand it takes a little time and thought before pushing the shutter button. I was the impatient student ready to push the shutter button expecting a miraculous photo worth thousands of dollars. Even if I were completely talented, talent can be formed and shaped. So now I understand the value of learning the basics and the power of their effects in a photo. So get ready: Here we launch into a few practical steps to learn and practice in “self-metering” light.

Where is your subject? Sitting in light, with face shadowed? The location of your subject relative to your light source is important to note because a person’s face is a delicate surface to capture.

What is the part of your subject you want properly lit? Eyes more specifically than only the face for best expression. What I meant by a person’s face being a delicate surface to capture is that being so well-shaped it is deeply shaded or over lit. Proper lighting may require a longer exposure time than you are used to, but keep a tripod or mono-pod on hand to help steady your camera.

How is the background lit in contrast to your subject? Is the background part of the photo as you planned? Be sure to plan steps to include the background elements essential to your designed shot.

Camera Troubles – Part 4

With this basic knowledge we have built on the human Eye and how the camera lens was designed from the model of the Eye, I would like to venture into some observations of human vision.

Again please take note of my disclaimer from Camera Troubles, “I am not an Optometrist”, so I am not attempting to prove anything for or against medical science but observing our ability and capability.

We have some magnificent capabilities to see detail in deep shadows while focused on well-lit objects. It is in fact this ability that I find most fascinating, because I have tried to  figure out whether I had looked into the shadows subconsciously noting the detail or if I am seeing that wide a spectrum of detail. In either case, the ability to see the wide range of detail in light or shade is a characteristic that I have not yet found innate within a camera, but I find it most common in creatively thinking people.

There are some ways to achieve the look of detail in shadow while focusing on the lit focal point. Before going to the topic of how the camera see a scene, we would do well to better understand what and how we see.

I have a hard time discerning the varying degrees of light and how well the area is lit where I am shooting. This I know from experience and so now I take some test pictures before getting into the heat of the photo shoot. This tells me some amazing things about my Eye sight. The Iris opening so wide that I do not notice the slight shadows between light fixtures and my Brain filling-in details of the wall paneling. We have an awesome device in our Brain to automatically fill-in such detail! Thank God for giving us such magnificence to be used and shared!

Now we have not discussed the process in-depth of taking the photo after exposure from the Sensor to Storage. So in the next posts in this series, I plan to explore “The Data Transfer” and “What the camera sees of what I do.”