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.

Portraits – Gravity

Since we just talked about Perspective in our last post, perhaps it is a good time to discuss some ways of using gravity to our advantage and slowing our shutter speed.

Yeah, that is right. Using gravity can slow your shutter speed. Allow me to explain. As a photographer, I had some ideas of how other professional had created some amazing shots of hair seeming to float in mid-air, but without having been at the photo shoot I could not be certain and I was almost convinced that speaking with the photographer was as impossible as being at the photo shoot.

For instance, imagine a model who is demonstrating the effects of a hair product for a public relations campaign for the company. The point of the company is not to prove their product’s ability to hold their customer’s hair in mid-air but the soft and static-free beauty of the hair. How can that be demonstrated in a photograph?

First we should discuss using gravity to our advantage. Fast shutter speeds mean that we need to open up our aperture and raise our ISO thus dropping out quality a bit and losing our ability to keep the face in focus at the same time as the hair. Sacrificing quality for speed in this case is not acceptable.

Using an evenly lit and solid color background makes it worlds easier when editing the shot in the post-production process so lay down a sheet of bright white paper on the floor keeping it clean for the model.

Mount your camera above the bright white paper and pose the model on the bright white paper, making sure her hair falls in a natural looking direction giving the illusion that gravity is pulling her hair down but also giving a light “silky” appearance that you see in advertisements. Using your studio lights to over expose the background while properly lighting the model’s face will give you the flexibility you seek without sacrificing quality for speed.

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 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!