How to know if you have the correct exposure.

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by ItsssRyne, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. ItsssRyne
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    ItsssRyne New Member

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    Alright so I understand the whole exposure triangle thing. I know that if you adjust shutter speed then you also have to adjust the aperture or iso, and vice versa.

    But what I don't quite get is how to tell if the exposure you have is the correct one for your situation.

    Some instances I find the picture comes out better if it's a little over or underexposed. Is this the correct way to do it or should I get the meter as close to the middle as possible at all times?

    For example, say I'm shooting under a canopy under the shade. It's a little darker here than out in the sun. So to make up for that added darkness I overexpose it just a little so that I can get a better image. Is this ok or am I breaking the rules?
  2. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    Rules are meant to be broken however in photography there are no hard rules, only guidelines and physical laws.

    To check your exposure use the histogram. It will tell you a great deal about the exposure, more than your eyes can.
  3. Josh66
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    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    It depends on what metering mode you use, and how you meter. What works in Matrix/Evaluative may not work so well in Spot.

    Read up on what each metering mode does and how it works, and you should have a better understanding of when to do what.
  4. Lee_Maryland
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    Lee_Maryland New Member

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    How to read a histogram? I know how to get there, but no idea what to look for.
  5. ItsssRyne
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    ItsssRyne New Member

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    Alright thank you. I was actually playing around with the metering modes today. Haven't explored that far into it yet. Just want to make sure I'm doing things right and I want to get the best shot out of each situation.

    One of the things I love about photography is that you learn something new with just about every shot.

    Another question I had was how do you get the correct settings on the fly? Numerous times today I was asked to take a picture and I had to ask them to wait a second so I could get the settings right. I noticed they didn't come out nearly as well as opposed to when I had more time.
  6. marmots
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    marmots New Member

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    i usually just play with it until it looks right
  7. Josh66
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    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    Probably the easiest way is aperture priority. ;) Make sure you are using a metering mode appropriate for the scene though.

    And don't rush it. If you need more time to do it right, take more time.
  8. ItsssRyne
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    ItsssRyne New Member

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    Ok that makes sense lol. I've been caught up so much trying to master manual mode that I forgot there were 12 other modes to use.

    So I do know a little about histograms. I know there's close to 250 shades of color on a histogram and it pulls up how intense each one is on your image. (I think)

    A buddy of mine told me that you don't want any one shade too high on a histogram and that it is better if they just about even out. Is this correct?
  9. Josh66
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    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    ...Sometimes.

    It could make for a very flat (little contrast) photo.

    edit
    The 'not enough time' thing reminded me of something we always say at work... "There's never enough time to do it right, but there's always enough time to do it twice."

    When you rush, you get sub-standard results. So you have to do it over again - it's better to just do it right the first time, even if it takes longer.
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  10. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    See here: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/beyond-basics/278696-help-histogram.html
  11. ItsssRyne
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    ItsssRyne New Member

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    Cool, I gotcha. Thank you so much for the advice. :thumbup:
  12. TCampbell
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    TCampbell Well-Known Member

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    The light meter in the camera isn't alway correct. Lots of situations will fool it into suggesting an incorrect exposure. Very dark scenes (e.g. A scene with a few bright objects amongst a very black overall scene) will usually fool the camera into over-exposing. The reverse is true of very white scenes. You could buy a dedicated "incident" light meter to get more accurate exposure readings, but one you learn what sorts of things throw off the built-in light meter you probably won't use it very much. Bryan Peterson's book "Understanding Exposure" will probably give you a pretty good grounding on the topic.
  13. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    This is art, not rocket surgery. If you want it darker or lighter, either way, you're not wrong. Of course, you want that to be a conscious, informed decision, not just a 'see what I get' situation.

    In my DSLR photo class, I teach the students not to trust the image on the LCD, in terms of brightness/exposure. Instead, they should use the histogram to judge the exposure. Understanding Histograms

    One way is to just watch for highlight and shadow clipping (be most weary of highlight clipping). If your histogram completely fits within the limits of the graph, then your exposure is likely safe.
    To take that further, you can look at your scene to evaluate what tones you are shooting, and then ensure that those tones end up where they should be, on the histogram. In other works, if you shoot a scene that is mostly white snow, but if the bulk of the histogram is in the middle, and not to the right, then you could guess that your white snow will be grey in the photo, which is underexposed. Also, know that the very right edge of the histogram is pure white, so if you're shooting something that is actually white, you will want it to be very close to that right edge.

    Of course, you can use tools/methods to get 'proper' exposure in the first place.
    How to use a Grey Card ~ Mike Hodson Photography

    Of course, your own discretion and artistic vision can still trump all of that. If you want it brighter, you're not wrong.
  14. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    It is virtually impossible to have everything in a scene correctly exposed. The closer photos get to having everything correctly exposed, the less depth, interest and visual appeal they have.

    As an example, for portraits it is often desirable to under expose the background - dg28.com - photographer education so the subject is well separated.
  15. bratkinson
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    bratkinson Well-Known Member

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    As mentioned above and millions of times through the years, photography is mostly art, the rules of which are variable, as are the mechanics.

    What one physically sees, or wants to see, or envisions in their mind can often be 3 different images of the same thing. The "art" part becomes more of what combination of the 3 do you want to present to whosoever views the photograph. While sports and other event-oriented photography is mostly 'recording history', capturing the expression on the first runners face as he crosses the finish line after the Boston Marathon is more of the 'art' of photography. Recording the joy of the leader or the sadness of someone who didn't finish the race entails capturing and conveying the 'mood' of the situation and conveying it in a photograph. Bright sunlight on the winners face or pouring rain on the loser further suggest differing levels of exposure to capture the mood.

    These are only a very few of the factors that can be considered when determining what is the 'best' exposure for a particular photograph. Depth of field and how brightly lit the subject should be also come into play. Backlit situations such as the subjects' back to a sunset must also be handled quite differently.

    So is there some automatic way to determine what is near perfectly exposed? I'm going to say it's whatever you want it to be...and there's a lot of latitude to choose from.

    Lastly, it's digital, not film. You get to see the results immediately. If you don't like what you see, make some adjustments, and take another picture!
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012

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