Specific question about "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Jon_Are, May 19, 2009.

  1. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    [FONT=&quot]If you’ll open your text to page 15…:mrgreen:[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Peterson is writing about how tricky lighting situations can fool the camera’s meter. The photo he uses as an example on this page – the man in front of a brightly-lit building – is presented as a “successful exposure”.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]I wouldn’t call that exposure anything near ‘successful’. The background is horribly blown out. I would think the way to capture a correct exposure in this scene would require some fill flash.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]I understand he is making a point, but it looks as though he is presenting that image as properly exposed; something to strive toward.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Comments?[/FONT]


    Jon
    [FONT=&quot][/FONT]
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I don't have the book but...

    I think that sometimes we get too caught up thinking about 'what could have been done better' or with 'such & such extra equipment'.

    It wasn't all that long ago that photographers shot with film and did little or no post processing to many of their images. (not counting darkroom dwellers). If you had a shot with a wide range of tones, you needed to recognize that and expose for what is the most important aspect of you image.

    If the man is more important that the bright building in the background, then I'd say that it's perfectly acceptable to have the building blown out, if the man is well exposed.
     
  3. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    I'm genuinely surprised to learn this; I never would have thought this would be considered acceptable (particularly when it could have, I think, been avoided).

    Jon
     
  4. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I do... and it *is* a successful image of a properly exposed picture as long as you understand 2 small points:

    - never ever does the book touch on anything more than ambient light exposure, so the word "flash" is not in the book and never taken into consideration.

    - The subject is a man against a brighter background. To properly expose him, you have no choice (within the context of the conversation and the book) other than blow-out the background to get a proper exposure of the subject. Yes, this is a perfectly acceptable practice. If I take away your flashes... what else could you do if I pointed to that man, and gave you 3 seconds to get his picture, perfectly exposed??

    Yes, we can set the camera to properly expose for the background and fill-flash the heck out of the underexposed subject to get both the foreground and background in play... but that is not the point of the exercise, since the book is not about anything other than ambient light and understanding exposure from that perspective.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Maybe it could have been avoided with the use of another light source (flash or reflector etc)...but that may be well beyond the scope of the example in the book.

    Personally, I think it's important to learn what you can and cannot do with a single photographic exposure and existing light.

    Once you have a good handle on that, and then learn to use additional lighting, you should be able to recognize a situation that does exceed the dynamic range of your camera and what the best options are for capturing a more even exposure. This is where a more advanced photographer might do better than a rank amateur.
    Like you said, it 'could have been avoided'.

    Remember, this is a book called 'Understanding Exposure'...not 'Mastering Exposure & lighting'.


    Also consider the circumstances. If the opportunity happens in real time, maybe you don't have time to set up lighting, you have one second to get the shot and you don't have your flash ready (or you are out of range, or just don't want to use flash)...in this case, you need to know how to expose for the important part of the image and not worry about the rest.

    If you look at the many of 'the best' documentary and photojournalist images from round the world...they are often full of things that we might consider to be easy to avoid mistakes...but that doesn't matter, it's all about the subject and capturing a moment in time.
     
  6. Baaaark

    Baaaark TPF Noob!

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    It seems like in a beginner's book he could have used a better example, but someone told me the best photos are done when people know the rules of photos, and how to bend them accordingly.

    But yeah. I have the book too, and I went and looked at it after reading this. He probably should have used a better example, or at least one that didn't confuse people as much.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree very much with Mike and Jerry - its not that the image is confusing as its "wrong" its that its getting you to think more about what is right in an image for you. If perfect exposure over the whole image is what is correct for you first in an image then your photography will suffer since whilst perfect exposures are desirable out in the field and almost essential for studio work (where one has full control over lighting and subject) its only one half of the battle - the other is the subject itself and the composition of the image. For many this is often the key part of any shot - a shot of a bear attacking a seal - you won't care if the sky is or is not blown out - sure a perfect exposure is better and desirable, but as the others rightly said, in the field we don't always have access or time to have that higher level of control - so you either make do with what you have and get the shot, correctly exposing the key parts or you walk away
     
  8. Montana

    Montana TPF Noob!

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    Often times in bright daylight sports shots where flash is not allowed, I have to settle for similar "perfect exposures". Its a matter of exposing properly the subject you intend. My most often example of this happens at horse races during mid-day. No flash, black horse=blown out sky. It doesn't make for the most pleasing shots as a general rule, but it is what it is.
     
  9. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    I don't have the book, but I did a quick search for it and learned it was originally written in 1990. Digital photography was in it's infancy (as in, there were no commercially available consumer level digital cameras) and so everyone from the newest photographer to the best pro was shooting film. As Big Mike said, since there was little post processing done by shooters who didn't have access to a dark room, if you didn't have the right equipment with you, you basically had to expose for what was important to you in the image. Today, with photoshop, digital cameras with histograms and built in flashes, that would probably not be considered a great photo (I haven't seen the photo, so I can't make my own real judgement).

    Let me entertain you with an anecdote. I first got into photography my Junior year of high school when my Dad gave me his old Canon AE-1 that he had bought a few months before I was born (early 1981). This is a nearly completely manual SLR (though it had a rudimentary version of shutter priority). Manual focus, manual shutter, manual aperture, no on board fill flash, etc. Because I had chosen photography as my Senior project, I had to find a mentor. I talked to a local pro photographer, and he took me under his wing for the next year or so. During my first 5 or 6 rolls of film, I started seeing a trend that was very frustrating to me. It was that in many cases either my subject or my background was properly exposed, not both. I thought I was doing something wrong, so I went and talked to my mentor about it. He told me that the only thing I could do was choose what was important to me in the photo and expose for that. I was frustrated with his answer, but I got over it and realized that was a limitation of the medium.

    The bottom line is, that book is very good, from what I understand, at giving you the basics of exposure. But it was written in a different time, with a different medium. 20 years ago, that would probably have been considered good exposure.
     
  10. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A "successful exposure" is any exposure that gives you the photo you imagined before you pressed the shutter button.

    For example, I intentionally blew out the light coming from doors in the following photo by spot metering one of the darkest points in the photo. The result is exactly what I imagined this photo to be before I even pressed the shutter:

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Dagwood56

    Dagwood56 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have this book and just looked at the photo on page 15 - I've looked at it many times in the past without really even noticing what you mention because the man is properly exposed and he is what I looked at. Now if the shot had been taken at a greater distance away, instead of up close as it was, then I agree the blown out building in the background would be a issue, but as is I feel its acceptable.
     
  12. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Gaerek I have to disagree - whilst film has its limitations so to does digital - infact digital cameras still don't have the same dynamic range that film cameras are capable of. ITs got a lot better than it was but still for the averge person the digital camera does not have as great a dynamic range as the film camera. Thus today things are actually harder on the digital photographer than before (all the photoshop in the world can't get back details in a blown out sky or underexposed shadow - all the camera records is white or black in those cases - thus no details to restore to).
    There are tricks, like double exposures and then using tonemapping/hdr to combine them into a single exposure, but still we are limited if we take a single exposure in the same way as film is limited.
    As for the book whilst it was originally written in the film era it has had serveral revisions since then so a new copy bought today fully takes into account the digital world - the lessons of film still very much appy since digital is still working with the same laws of physics.
     

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