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Photography Question 
Tammy J. Russotto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007

What Am I Doing Wrong With The Exposure?

I've been trying to learn how to shoot outside of Automatic on my Canon Rebel XT. If I shoot on Automatic the exposure comes out good most of the time but I need to stop shooting in auto all the time.

I've been trying Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority. For some reason my shots keep coming out too dark in both.

I've read books, manuals, etc., and am about to give up. Can anyone help me?


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2/24/2009 12:39:19 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The shot of the Heron, what mode and what ISO? In Tv (shutter priority) the camera is limited by the maximum aperture of the lens. If you set a fast shutter speed to stop motion, but the combination of maximum aperture and ISO set isn't enough to give good exposure, the meter should tell you so even if it lets you take the shot anyway. You may have to shoot at higher ISO. Also make sure that you haven't inadvertenly set negative exposure compensation.

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2/24/2009 1:33:49 PM

Tammy J. Russotto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007
  I shot the Heron in Shutter Priority with an ISO of 200. I was told that raising the ISO would make the images too noisy. It's not set for negative exposure compensation. I don't change anything other than from auto to TV or AV. What meter are you talking about? I don't have a light meter.

Thank you for taking the time to help me.

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2/24/2009 1:51:30 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The meter I referred to is the exposure level indicator, displayed as a scale in the viewfinder and camera setting LCD panel. It gives a range from -2..-1..0..+1..+2, with 0 indicating what it thinks is proper exposure.

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2/24/2009 2:42:20 PM

Tammy J. Russotto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007

I make sure the range at 0. It never changes. If I try to shoot in manual it moves all over the place so I decided not to do it.

If I raise the ISO will that help bring the images out brighter?

I see some people doing bird shots with an aperture of f/11-f/16 and have their shutter set at 1/500-1/2000. It's all so confusing.

Thank you!

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2/24/2009 3:05:49 PM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  Tammy, another thing to try...use your camera's histogram to view the brightness of the image...after hitting the "play" button to display the image..then click the "info" button to bring up the historgram

If you're not sure what a histogram is, please consult your owner's manual. With the histogram, you can quickly determine if a photo is generally under of over-exposed. If it's under-exposed, then you simply change your exposure compensation to a more positive number. If it's over-exposed, then make the compensation negative...then reshoot. You should then see a better balance in the's a very valuable tool!

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2/24/2009 5:13:21 PM

Bill Wyatt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/17/2005
  I would say shoot manuel mode that way you control apeture and shutter speed. Read your histogram that is built into you camera. All that is to the right is light and has more data that is to the left is contrast and has less data. Try for a setting that gives you a balance between it will look like a mountain in the middle.

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2/24/2009 7:45:33 PM

Tammy J. Russotto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007
  Thank you, Ken and Bill. I'll be spending some time reading the manual again. It's embarrassing to admit but I have no idea what the histogram is.

Hopefully this weekend I can get out to take photographs and try different settings after I re-read the manual again.

I really appreciate you both taking the time to help me.


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2/24/2009 8:43:20 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
  Murhut Falls - Nicole's Birthday card
Murhut Falls - Nicole's Birthday card
Murhut Falls, Wa 1.3s, f/13, iso100, 34mm, circular polarizer & tripod
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 40D Digi...
Hi Tammy,
I recommend taking a class or getting a book to learn exposure. Better Photo has quite a few to choose from and it is the most critical aspect of photography IMO and will allow you more freedom to capture an image the way you want it rather than letting the camera decide for you.
Landscapes, macro, portrait, sports, nature & other fine art photography depends on your ability to control your camera & exposure.
There's a lot to learn but you will pick it up quickly and it is a fun learning curve. When I started out I would use P or Auto to see what the camera chose for f/stop (Depth of Field), shutter speed & ISO and I would use this as a reference and then switch to Manual and shoot away. The camera may tell me that the correct exposure would be f/8, 1/125, ISO100 but I might want a more shallow DOF and select f/4 and then would have to adjust for correct shutter speed (this is where your meter in your viewfinder comes in) and change accordingly.
Just the opposite for a waterfall - the camera may select f/7.1 but I may want to use f/22 so that I can use a very slow shutter speed to get that nice silky look for the waterfall. A tripod is necessary for slow shutter speeds and I believe it is the most under used tool for many photographers. I carry my tripod with me everywhere I go, as do most Pros.
Jim Zuckerman teaches a great exposure class -
If you take this class, in 8 weeks you will know what you are doing and your photography will improve dramatically.
Better Photo has many exposure classes to choose from including several 4 week courses.
Another thing I would like to mention is to shoot raw. I dont think you can shoot raw in Auto. By shooting raw, you have more flexibility to adjust/correct your exposure with Photoshop ACR or other editing software.
I am not a pro photographer with the exception of the occaisional wedding & portraits for friends (I am an engineer at T-Mobile) but I do aspire to shoot like a pro because I want to be able to capture the images the way I see them in my minds eye.
If you love photography, you are in for a wonderful learning adventure.
Have fun Tammy,

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2/24/2009 9:47:38 PM

Karim Abiali
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/8/2005
  Hi Tammy

In the XTI if you don't have the right combination of aperture and shutter speed, you can tell from the meter in the view finder (if you are using AP then the shutter speed in the viewfinder will flash, therefore you have to increase or decrease aperture to get the balance. However, the camera will let take the shot but the image will be underexposed or overexposed. You can read more details in this at the manual section under AP mode.

Hope this helps.


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2/25/2009 12:07:31 AM

Tammy J. Russotto
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/19/2007
  Thank you, Carlton and Karim.

I bought Jim Miotke's a month or so ago and was reading about exposure and settings. I put the book down on the table and haven't seen it since. No one seems to remember picking it up or putting it somewhere else.

I know who Jim Zuckerman is. He's fantastic and I've seen a lot of his stuff. Unfortunately, I can't afford any classes. My daughter is getting married in June and having a baby in August. LOL

I'll start by reading my manual over again. Then I'm going to search everywhere again for that book.

Oh...I know nothing about RAW. LOL


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2/25/2009 12:35:04 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
  Thank you Tammy.
and also for adding me as a favorite :)
I was lucky enough to go on a photo trip to Europe with Jim Zuckerman & 11 other photographers last summer. I am still finding different ways to edit the photos I took there (about 4500 images). I have taken 3 classes from Jim but shooting side by side with him along with the other 11 talented photographers was a wonderful experience and I learned so much about different approaches and editing techniques from everyone.
Jim Z. has a book on exposure. He has taught me so much about exposure, composition (which entails a lot when you consider background, POV, lines/stuff that detracts from an image, etc..) and very useful Photoshop techniques.
Tammy, if you use Photoshop or any other photo editing software, shooting and processing raw images is easy and you get better results with more flexibility. Your under-exposed Heron would be just a simple slider in Photoshop ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) or with the Canon DPP software that came with your camera. My friend used Canon DPP for a couple of years until he finally upgraded to CS3 a few months ago. He loved the Canon software and still uses it sometimes.
There is a small learning curve with RAW software but it usually flows in a logical manner and is easy to figure out.
Blessings, Carlton

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2/25/2009 3:37:24 AM

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