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Photography QnA: Exposure Settings

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Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques : Exposure Settings

Wondering about indoor photography exposure settings? Maybe you are more interested in outdoor settings. This Q & A and Exposure Control in Digital Photography article covers it all. For in-depth instruction, check out Bryan F. Peterson's Understanding Exposure online photography course.

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Photography Question 
Susan Shepard 

member since: 5/20/2007
  11 .  Automatic Vs. Manual?
Should I use auto settings? In other words, will I get good results?

5/20/2007 12:25:40 AM

  Depending on your equipment, auto settings will do a fine job for normal exposures. But what is considered "normal" may be in question. If a scene is one where you are not pushing the limits of the exposures, and you are not interested in controlling depth-of-field or stopping action, then you will be happy with auto-results. However, if you want to use your equipment to control the results you get, understanding manual modes, what they affect, and how to use them will likely be to your advantage.

5/20/2007 5:26:38 AM

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Photography Question 
Christina M. Pontius

member since: 3/20/2007
  12 .  Shutter Speed Vs. Aperture
Besides controlling light, shutter speed also controls what?
Besides controlling light, an aperture also controls what?

3/20/2007 11:45:46 AM

 
 
  Tar Creek
Tar Creek
 
 
Hi Christina,
Shutter speed records the way action is displayed. A long shutter speed smears action together, while a short shutter speed stops action.
The aperture controls the amount of area in sharp focus - which is called depth of field. If you focus at 5 feet from the camera, a large aperture will give you sharp focus at just 5 feet. If you took the same picture at a small aperture, you might be in focus from 4 feet to 7 feet, depending on your aperture.
You might want to look at my article for more information:
Photography Exposure Basics: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
Thanks,
John Siskin

3/20/2007 11:57:48 AM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  For Flash Photography you can control light by using aperture and use shutter speed for controlling ambient light(available light).

3/28/2007 7:06:43 PM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Christina,

The aperture is an opening in an optical system that restricts the passage of light. Since the opening is round it obeys the geometry of circles. Long ago it was decided that the increment of adjustment should be a doubling or halving i.e. 2x incremental change. To double or half the area of a circle its diameter is enlarged or reduced using a specific number set. The set is 1 – 1.4 – 2 - 2.8 – 4 -5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 -32 – 45 – 64. Each number is its neighbor on the right multiplied by the square root of 2 which is 1.4 (rounded). Each number is its neighbor on the left divided by 1.4. These values are known as f/stops or simply stops, however the official name is focal ratio.

A secondary occurrence resulting from a change of aperture is a change in dept-of-field and depth-of-focus. As aperture size decreases, depth-of-field and depth-of-focus increase. A tiny opening nearing f/64, results in the depth-of-field approaches that of the pin-hole whereby everything is in focus. The sharpest setting for a lens is about two f/stops down from maximum. For most cameras this is about f/8. At larger apertures acuteness degrades as more of the periphery of the lens is utilized. This is true because light rays stemming from the lens edges require more bending (refraction) and therefore are more likely misdirected. At tiny apertures acuteness also degrades. This is true because a higher percentage of the light rays strike the edges of the aperture. As light rays pass close to a barrier they are misdirected, a phenomenon known as diffraction.

The shutter is a gate that allows light to play on the film or chip for a limited time. This is necessary as the light sensitive media (film and chip) accumulate light energy. The early shutter was simply a lens cover, removed and replaced by hand. The next innovation was an air operated shutter. A rubber bulb was squashed by hand. This sent air pressure to the shutter holding it in the open position. As long as the bulb was kept depressed, the shutter remained open. Modern shutters retain the “B” setting for bulb. Modern shutters are clock mechanisms. The 2x incremental change in duration remains in common usage. A typical time series is in seconds and fractions of a second thus: 4 – 2 - 1 – 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/8 – 1/15 – 1/30 – 1/60 – 1/125 – 1/250 – 1/500 – 1/1000 -1/2000. Long shutter speeds require that the camera be securely mounted to prevent movement whereas at 1/30 the trained hand can hold the camera steady. Higher shutter speeds are required to arrest motion such as at a sporting event. Higher shutter speeds are also required to suppress camera movement when long lenses are employed.

The aperture and the shutter are the major controls used to manage exposure. They are worked together to achieve the desired level of exposure presented to the film or chip.

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net

3/28/2007 11:10:23 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  I wrote something you might find of interest. Camera Settings

3/28/2007 11:29:59 PM

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Photography Question 
Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  13 .  How to Shoot White on White?
How can I shoot my granddaughter wearing a white coat against a background of mostly rocks and trees covered with lots of snow?

1/6/2007 11:05:25 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Zoom in close on your granddaughter's skin (cheek, forehead or neck), (spot)meter and lock that in (AEL), then zoom out, recompose the scene and expose. That way, your granddaughter should be lit correctly while the snow gets overexposed = white (instead of grey). Have fun.

1/6/2007 11:29:38 AM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  Thank you very much!!

1/6/2007 11:33:13 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Howard,
White on white can be challenging. In some classes, the final exam is white eggs on a white plate. Try that some day when you are bored out of your socks. Outdoors, this is mainly an exposure problem. If you own a correctly calibrated meter, this would be a good time to use it. Readings close up of the face (you can substitute your own hand if you can’t get close) renders the skin tone at zone V. That’s middle gray (18%) and all that. That’s too dark for light skin, however, perfect for darker. For the lighter folks, close down one f/stop. For extremely dark complexions, open up two f/stops. Better to take a close-up reading of a gray card or use an incident light reading. You may still need a minor adjustment to render a pleasing skin tone. Bracketing is always advisable. Best of luck,
Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net

1/6/2007 2:18:42 PM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  Thank's for your answer,I haven't been able to touch my camera for a few days so this weekend I will checkout your suggestions and the other advive I've gotten too.I appreaciate all the help I can get.

1/10/2007 10:45:55 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  If you need to shoot in a hurry, meter off the snow and follow these simple guidelines:

*In bright sun...over expose the sunlit snow by two stops.
*In diffused light (an overcast sky)...overexpose the snow by one stop.
*In deep shade on a sunny day...overexpose the snow by 1/2 stop and add a warming filter (or adjust your white balance) to avoid a blue-cast to the snow.

...then bracket 1/2 stop over and under in each scenario.

Bob

1/10/2007 12:22:07 PM

Glenn Ruhl

member since: 12/22/2006
  Alan's suggestions for metering off of skin are good, but since the meter is trying to render the skin as middle gray, wouldn't you need to open one f/stop when metering off of light skin, and close down when metering off of very dark skin?

1/11/2007 10:34:30 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi all and many thanks to Glenn,
Boy is my face red! Must have had a senior moment!

Glenn, is correct and deserves a tip of the hat.

Since most every (all good) meters are calibrated to correctly expose an 18% target and render it middle gray or “battleship gray”, taking a close up reading of human skin causes light skin toned individuals to be rendered too dark. The countermeasure is to open up 1 stop allowing more exposure. As you know, more exposure results in lighter shades.
The converse is true for dark complexions.

I must have fallen asleep for that one because as you all know I am never wrong (except probably a few thousand thousand time in my life.

I meant well and the correction is warranted and appreciated.

Alan Marcus
ammarcus@earthlink.net.

1/11/2007 5:14:50 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  So you ARE human...!

Phew...

1/11/2007 5:30:20 PM

Glenn Ruhl

member since: 12/22/2006
  Hi Alan,

I had been a bit hesitant to point out the correction, because it was my first post, I didn't want to seem rude, and it was obvious from the rest of your post that you know what you're talking about, which had me doubting myself a little. Thank you for your very gracious response.

Rgds,
Glenn

1/12/2007 8:13:27 AM

  expo disc

1/12/2007 8:17:49 AM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  Thanks to all of you,I finally got a chance to go see my granddaughter and take a few practice shot's in the snow. It was very cold but the sun was extreamly bright. She could hardly keep her eye's open but I didn't have a lot of choices of locations to take the picture. Thanks again for all your help!!!

2/4/2007 2:18:57 PM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  Thanks to all of you,I finally got a chance to go see my granddaughter and take a few practice shot's in the snow. It was very cold but the sun was extreamly bright. She could hardly keep her eye's open but I didn't have a lot of choices of locations to take the picture. Thanks again for all your help!!! (sorry,I posted the picture on constructive critique section)

2/4/2007 2:25:29 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  "It was very cold but the sun was extreamly bright. She could hardly keep her eye's open but I didn't have a lot of choices of locations to take the picture."

Next time try to keep the sun more at her back, that might make her squint less. And - as her face would then be shaded - I would fill-flash. Also, the golden rule for photographing kids & animals is: get down to eye-level. THEIR eye-level! Bend your knees if you have to...
(Angle, and waist level finders, and articulated LCD's DO have their uses, you know!).

2/4/2007 5:53:06 PM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
 
 
 
I would like to thank W Smith again for your help. I guess I learned a valuble lesson on posting a picture.I posted it for input on the white on white question. I'll have to confess that I know very little about photography but really I am trying and with all your help I know I can get better.I have to have more patience when i'm shooting.

2/12/2007 1:25:06 AM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
 
 
 
OK I'm going to try again to post another picture.This was the same day as the white on white picture a few minutes later on some metel bleechers. Remember I don't know photoshop but I hope this one is a little better. Her skin tones are a little off but it was about 20 degrees.

2/12/2007 1:39:14 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Howard, I finally got around to seeing that photo. It's a very nicely lit portrait of a pretty young lady!
But where's the white snow? Where's the white coat?

BTW, could you please post a link to your photos in your posts? Makes 'm a helluvalot easier to find...

2/16/2007 9:34:55 PM

Howard A. Wimpee
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/2/2006
  Hi W Smith, We could not find the white coat so I had her find the white sweater she was wearing.I have to apoligize I didn't set up the shot very well at all. I will make sure I have this shot in my gallery. Remember the composition isn't very good, just posting it for the white on white. I hope I can get more than an hour with her next time. The snow in the valley here in northern Utah is terrible but if I can take her up into the mountains to a ski resort the snow is fantastic. I really apreaciate your time and help. If you get a chance check out Snowbason and Powder Mountain ski resorts on the net,I don't have any pictures right now or I would post them. Thanks Again, Howard.

2/17/2007 10:57:23 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Fine, Howard. Just make sure your photo has at least 2 whites in them if you post it in a thread (you) called "How to Shoot White on White?"....

And post a link in your message!

2/17/2007 12:24:37 PM

Who Me? 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/19/2007
  Sounds racist

2/17/2007 4:16:37 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
LOL!

2/17/2007 4:48:51 PM

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Photography Question 
Jimmy W. Kennington
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2006
  14 .  How to Take Pictures of Snow Scenes?
What is the best effect, or best settings, to use when shooting snow scenes?

12/25/2006 4:54:40 PM

Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  See if your camera has a preset for snow scenes.

12/25/2006 5:19:11 PM

Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/15/2004
  To photograph snow scenes, you want to compensate the exposure by +1.5, maybe +2, depending on lighting. The reason for this is because the meter in your camera will register the snow as being bright and will want to under expose the shot which will lead to gray snow.
Another option is to meter the sky (if sunny) and recompose to take the picture with that setting. As Stephanie suggested, if your camera has a "snow" scene mode, use it. That will usually take care of the compensation for you.

12/25/2006 5:37:57 PM

Jimmy W. Kennington
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/3/2006
  oh I feel dumb, haha. there is a snow setting on my camera. thanks anyway guys!

12/25/2006 7:31:09 PM

 
 
  Mt Rainier
Mt Rainier
iso 100, 200mm (Canon 70-200L), f/5.6 (AV priority), 1/3200, exposure comp -1 step, no post processing.....Practicing this morning shooting snow
 
 
My camera must have the controls reversed. When I do snow, I use minus exposure comp to get white snow. Beats me!
Bob

12/26/2006 7:16:51 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  For people or portraits in the snow: Spotmeter their skin, then zoom out, recompose the shot, and shoot.

12/26/2006 7:36:29 AM

Phillip A. Flusche
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/17/2003
  A little short saying I use is, "If the scene is white add light" The amnount varies depending on how much of the scene is white. A more accurate saying is if the subject is darker than the background (for example person with snow background) then add light - overexpose. If you shoot three shots with the 1st a white sheet of paper, the 2nd being a grey piece of paper, and the 3rd being a black piece of paper. All three will be a grey photo. To get the white paper to be white you have to overexpose -ie add light. To get black paper you must underexpose by some amount. Digital meters try to make every scene an average of gray. Since snow is the largest percentage of the scene it tries make the snow gray and thus the whole scene is affected. If uyou mess up and don't then you cna fix it most of the time using the levels tool by dragging in the slider on the right until it touches the edge of the histogram. The slider on the left will darken the picture.

12/27/2006 5:33:20 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Next time you venture out to shoot snow scenics, wear a bright red hat (or scarf).
Before you shoot a particular scene, throw the hat into the snow.
Move in close and meter the light reflected off it...then recompose and shoot the scene.

(...works like a charm.)

Bob

12/27/2006 2:12:06 PM

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Photography Question 
James C. Scott
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/16/2006
  15 .  Getting a Good Exposure in Snow
With the snow season coming up, could you give some pointers on making adjustments with the Digital Camera and the effect bright snow has on the camera? Thank you.

10/26/2006 3:58:41 PM

Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/15/2004
  You could try to meter the sky (if sunny), and then re-compose. Another thing to try is to compensate by +1.5 to +2 stops. The reason for this is that your meter will think the snow is very bright and it will give a false meter reading which means ,you may end up with gray snow if you don't compensate. It is not a typo, you want to ADD 1.5 to 2 stops.

10/26/2006 6:20:10 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  Just expose with an incident reading, no adjustments.

You know actually I had two AE-1P's and I had never used them and they have a partial meter inside (or whatever it's called that measures the middle ~30% of the viewfinder). I metered off the sky and went from there. I was using Portra VC and with it's wide latitude I'm sure some exposures were way off but the darn film is so forgiving I just guessed exposure on half of them with the days trend and they came out good. The meter proved to be pretty reliable; now let's just see how they do with some picky Velvia, lol.

10/26/2006 6:33:02 PM

Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/2/2004
  I like the incident reading for that was my method back in my medium format days. But James S may be lacking a hand held incident meter in which he should follow what Mike suggested by compensating a plus 1.5 to 2.0 stops to correct the fooled reflective meters reading of all the sun bouncing up from the snow.

Justin how did you compensate for the bright sun off the tarmac in some of your air show images? I have found that produces near identical meter effects as snow.

Ray

10/26/2006 6:47:38 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  James, if you don't have an incident hand-held meter, you can just get an 18% grey card and meter off of that. Before you take your shot, put the grey card in the same light your shot will be and point your camera at that. Now press down halfway and see what the meter says. Now shoot the scene the same as what the meter said.
You said you're shooting digital, so here's the best part. That whole immediate feedback thing everyone brags about ... USE IT! lol. Just shoot one and check it out on the LCD. If it's way off, the change your exposure to fix it. Now if it looks good, expose two more shots. One shot 1/2 stop over-exposed and another shot 1/2 stop under-exposed. This will give you 3 shots that are very close to each other but when you get on your monitor you can pick the best one. The reason I say bracket your exposures is because the LCD screen should only be used as a guideline. What looks good on there may not be a perfect exposure, so if you do the 1/2 under/over, then once you hop on the computer, you should have a perfect one. Hope this helps any.

10/26/2006 9:42:56 PM

Fritz Geil

member since: 12/24/2004
  James, if you don't have an 18% grey card (and you must not, since you asked the question), meter the back of your hand, set the exposure +1 stop if you are caucasion, +1/2 stop if you are Asian, and use the meter reading if you are African. Set this value on Manual, then shoot to your heart's content. Incidently, this works in all situations, as long as your hand is in substantially the same light as the subject. This method is accurate enough for many professionals, even using chrome with its notoriously narrow exposure latitude.

10/31/2006 1:29:18 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  A deep blue sky on a sunny day will give an accurate meter reading but only if the angle of the sun is low and is behind you.

Metering off one's hand is done quite often but keep in mind that skin tones vary and it can be difficult to isolate what will meter correctly based upon one's race.
Generally speaking, what has worked well on YOUR hand will work again in the same light at another place and time.

Metering bright colors has always worked for me when analyzing the light falling upon winter scenics.
Quite often I'll wear a bright red hat when afield and simply toss it into the snow to get a quick meter reading.
This works in shaded areas, when the light is diffused by cloud cover, and also in bright sunlit snowscapes.

Or, you can just meter off the snow itself and set to over-expose it by 2 stops if the sun is shining on it,...1 stop over if the sun is diffused by a thin layer of clouds, and 1/2 stop over in deep shade.

You will probably find that the "hat trick" will recommend the same exposure settings in each scenario.

11/1/2006 3:28:26 PM

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Photography Question 
Kirstie Goodman

member since: 4/7/2006
  16 .  Gray Card: How to Use It?
I own a Canon 20D and was wondering if anyone can explain how the gray card works. I basically know that it corrects wrongly exposed pictures - for instance, a snowy white landscape turning gray because of the camera. But how do you use it? Thanks in advance for any responses.

10/11/2006 6:33:33 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Exposure is determined by the amount of light falling on your subject. It is best measured with an incident light meter placed in the same light as your subject. The exposure meters in cameras cannot directly measure incident light falling on the subject, they measure through the lens the light reflected off the subject. This can introduce exposure error because white or light toned objects reflect more light than black or dark toned objects. The camera's meter is calibrated for light reflected off a middle tone, commonly referred to as 18% gray. This usually works fine for scenes with a mix of light and dark toned subjects since it will average to the mid tone. If the scene is predominantly light or white (snowscape, beach, bride's dress, etc.), the camera meter will think it is brighter than it actually is and tend to under expose (render the white dress as gray). If the scene is predominantly dark or black it'll tend to overexpose.
The 35-zone Evaluative metering of the 20D (as well as Nikon Matrix and other systems) uses artificial intelligence to try to detect such exposure errors and automatically correct for them, but it is far from perfect. Using an 18% gray card is an inexpensive alternative to using an incident light meter to determine exposure. The card is the same mid-tone that the meter is calibrated to. Set the gray card in the same light as your subject and meter off of it, using either filling the frame with the card (and any metering mode), or using Spot/Partial metering if the card covers only the center of the frame.
Per the Canon instruction manuals, the 18% gray card is also preferred for setting the Custom White Balance.

10/11/2006 8:35:54 AM

Shawn Wilson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2005
  Where to get them might be a question, so here ya go:

http://www.gretagmacbeth.com/

http://www.gretagmacbeth.com/index/products/products_colorcheckers.htm

I personally have the white card and the color squares card. Is it better to use the grey card instead for white balance?

I have my own question on this subject though about a bride's dress.

I did a lot of prep on the last wedding I shot with a light meter and the white card to white balance but still ended up with blowing out the brides dress.

The pictures looked good overall, they didn't look blown out, but when I dropped the brightness down the details of the dress really popped out, but of course the rest of the picture faded to black.

I considered doing a composite of two pictures to get a great shot, basically just overlaying a darkened dress over each picture, but I need to be able to get it right the first time.

Any suggestions? Would a grey card white balance help this issue at all?

10/11/2006 9:39:41 AM

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Photography Question 
Jane 

member since: 9/9/2006
  17 .  Gray Card for Exposure
When and why do you use a grey card?

9/9/2006 10:56:23 AM

anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  Grey cards provide a neutral target for exposure meters, including the one in your camera. You use them to calibrate your camera against a handheld meter, to take a reading in difficult situations, to check the incident light reading against the reflected light reading of your camera's inbult system. They are especially useful with backlit subjects or when there is a bright light source like the sun or a light fitting in front of you. Also when the scene is dark on dark like a black cat on a dark blanket or light on light like a snowy landscape.

9/9/2006 12:12:29 PM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/19/2006
  If we convert our world to B/W, everything would be made of black, white and various shades of gray. Most things, especially grass and foliage, have a reflectance value of 18%. That is, they reflect 18% of whatever light is hitting them. Meters are designed to give an acceptible exposure to reduce the subject to this same reflectance value. It would be impossible for a meter to know exactly what the reflectance value should be for every subject. Some things reflect less light, some things more light. But in the broadest sense, 18% covers the majority.
It's therefore up to the user to be able to distinguish those subjects that don't meet the criteria of 18%. If you meter a white wall, the meter still thinks it's a medium gray and the resulting exposure will give you a murky gray picture. But you know the wall reflects a lot more light than a gray card. More light means more exposure. The meter is giving less exposure to make it gray, so we must compensate for this and give it more exposure to brighten it up. The reverse is true for a black or dark wall.
However, if you meter off of your gray card in the same light as your subject, then your exposure should be good always. But it's not always practical to carry an 8x10 piece of cardboard around. It's easier to learn how to read a scene and determine how the lighting would fool the meter and know when and how much to compensate.
Incident meters read the light directly, not reflected light, but the exposure they give is to the same effect - that is, to expose an 18% reflectance to come out as 18% in your picture. You don't have to carry a card around with you as they read the light direclty. However, you can't always be in the same light as your subject. And for any meter to be valuable, you have to be able to read the light that is falling on your subject. Not much good to take a reading in the sunlight, if your subject is standing thirty feet away in the shade. The results would be disappointing, to say the least.

9/10/2006 6:42:03 AM

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Photography Question 
Jayaprakash Ms

member since: 5/10/2006
  18 .  Shooting Silhouettes Against a Sunset Sky
What are the factors to be considered when photographing silhouetted subjects? Also, what will be the aperture and shutter speed?

5/10/2006 1:47:51 AM

Brock E. Litton

member since: 5/6/2005
  All you have to do is get the composition that you want, spotmeter the color in the sky that you want to come out in your picture, use that exposure and, bingo, your subject will be a silhouette.

5/10/2006 7:29:04 AM

Jayaprakash Ms

member since: 5/10/2006
  about meter reading inside camera

5/11/2006 12:05:45 AM

Paul Tobeck
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/19/2005
  Most newer cameras have an AE lock button. Set up the picture the way you want, move your view to the sky, press and hold the AE lock, recompose and shoot. Or if you prefer, take a reading off the sky in auto, note the exposure and set the camera to those settings manually. You can then recompose and shoot the silhouette. This option allows you to adjust the darkness of the silhouette - i.e., close down a stop for a darker silhouette and a more dramatic sky, or open up a stop and bring in a few foreground details. It's always a good idea to bracket these shots at least a stop or two either way. You may get an unexpected result that you really like.

5/11/2006 5:01:12 AM

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Photography Question 
Satish N

member since: 4/17/2006
  19 .  Exposing for Backlit Subjects
 
I have recently purchased Canon A620 and started taking some photographs. I am not a good photographer, so I started using with whatever setting come as default. I took some photographs and I see that they are coming out "darker". Is it because that I have taken them in sunlight? In sunlight the flash is not working. It works only in a dark room (indoor) etc. Basically I feel that there is some problem with my taking of pictures. Is it the problem with Camera or is it because of the way I am taking the pictures? Please advise. I am uploading two images for your review. Thanks!

4/17/2006 10:09:16 AM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/3/2005
  I'm not familliar with that camera but it sounds like you might be having "backlighting" problems. A good rule for taking pics outside in the bright sun is to be sure the sun is behind you and not the subject. It seems your camera is metering the bright light so it's darkening the exposure to compensate for the bright light... which is good - but if your subecj is in front of the bright sunlight, you won't get the right detail. For this, you'd need to be shooting in Manual mode and "meter" the subject but then your background will be too bright and look funny. The best thing is the use fill flash and in automatic mode you won't be able too, unless there is a setting on your camera that will let you use it when you want to. Sunlight is very tricky - that is why the best times are at dusk and at dawn... the "golden" hours.

4/17/2006 10:38:04 AM

Satish N

member since: 4/17/2006
 
 
 
Thanks Criag for the quick answer. Here are the images I have taken (in my St. Louis trip)

4/17/2006 10:58:01 AM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/3/2005
  see the first shot? the blue sky is nicly exposed? ... backlighting.. your camera set itself to compensate for the sky and that means darkening up the subject... if you had metered off the subject, the background would have been all blown out and no detail... a fill flash would have helped.. look at your manual to see how to use fill flash.
Craig-

4/17/2006 12:09:09 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/3/2005
  my guess with the second shot was allmost the same thing, it looks as though your camera metered off the bright white shirt, causing the overall shot to be a tad underexposed. here, metering off his face might have helped. Generally, bright white shirts are hard to shoot. Check your manual for "Metering" a spot meter would have been great but im sure you dont have it... center weighted would probably be the one.
Craig-

4/17/2006 12:12:27 PM

Satish N

member since: 4/17/2006
  Thank you Craig...I will study the manual for how to use fill flash. I have learnt good details like backlighting, and fill flash. It's interesting. Thanks for the help.

4/17/2006 12:13:32 PM

anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  Nice camera, this: it has spot, evaluated and centre-weighted option for exposure, and it allows fill-flash with control over the flash output. You should have no trouble using Craig's suggestions.

However, this camera also lets you use manual control and in addition, you can add or subtract from the exposure the camera suggests; that is called "exposure compensation". In the second sample, fill-flash would be ideal, but in the first, the subject might be too far away for it to help. Here you just set +1 on your exposure compensation (this gives the picture double the exposure the camera advised). You can set up to 2 stops over or under (+ or -)but I'd start with +1 for backlit subjects like this and see how that goes.
Good luck.

4/18/2006 7:41:55 AM

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Photography Question 
Eva M. Loretta

member since: 12/6/2004
  20 .  Subject with Sunrise Behind
Any recommendations on how to photograph a marathon runner? He'll be in aposition with the rising sun behind him. I'm not quite sure what settings would give best results. Thanks for the input.

4/16/2006 12:56:13 AM

A C
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/6/2004
  Use your flash ... unless you want a silhouette!

4/16/2006 7:14:25 PM

Peter Hundley
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2006
  Fill flash would probbaly give the best balance, but sometimes doesn't look natural (IMHO), and might be difficult if you're not close enough.

Or set you exposure (manually) for the runner, which will overexpose the sky.... It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish...

4/17/2006 2:33:28 PM

Eva M. Loretta

member since: 12/6/2004
  I'm actually inquiring for my friend whos husband will be in the marathon in Florida Keys......

She is just wanting to quickly jump in front of him to get a photograph.....
thanks again for the input!!

4/17/2006 4:13:55 PM

Steve E. Beust

member since: 11/17/2003
  That's going to be one tough exposure, backlit with motion involved. You could take your exposure from the sky but keep the sun out of it or you will have a silhouette. Fill flash or flash will help but you need to be close enough for that to work. I would suggest panning the shot. This will give her a good image of the ruuer and show motion instead of a static shot. I would highly recommend practicing first. It takes some technique to get it right.

4/18/2006 6:00:06 AM

Jim Gerkin

member since: 3/16/2006
  I have had luck with a "test person". Go out and practice before the race. Try these three tips, 1.Pick a spot where the sun isn't a problem, 2 Expose the shot for the test person in a simalar spot with simalar clothes at the same time the runner is expected, 3. a sillhouette could be cool!! just make sure you isolate your runner and not a group.
Good luck!

4/18/2006 11:49:29 AM

anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  If you camera allows it, try using your autobracket setting to give a range of exposure on, under and over the metered exposure; nearly all SLRs and many compacts have this feature, so check you manual or menu and have a practice with it before the event. It might also be useful to set your camera centre-weighted or even spot metering. Jim's suggestion of a test dummmy (oops.."person") would let you see how these approaches work for you, but if the test person is not practical, this should assure you of some usable images.

4/18/2006 4:08:28 PM

Richard H. Turpin

member since: 11/20/2005
  If trying to use flash with a bright background some cameras will disable the flash (the bright light tells the camera that flash is not needed). If you decide to use flash, be certain to set the camera to flash no matter what (non 'auto' mode). Many cameras have such a setting. The flash units on many newer cameras are pretty amazing in my experience, so it might be worth a try.

4/27/2006 9:10:28 AM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2006
  light meter your hand, and lock the exposure -1. Or light meter with your shutter set to the rate of the run if you want to freeze the action. Add flash if you like that look. If you dont, do as I do. Tripod the shot metered for them, then after they have passed light meter the sky and shoot again. If there are to many people then shoot it out of focus. Then merge the photos in photoshop. There is a slight hallo effect but I like that better then flash.

4/27/2006 10:45:10 AM

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