Exposure is important, we all know that. And camera manufacturers all claim they have solved any problems, with cameras which will take care of the exposure details for us, producing perfect images! Well, I have stopped believing that. True, my cameras are far from new, and maybe a 2016 camera actually does what the sales people have claimed for decades. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
As you know, I’m still in the process of learning the peculiarities of digital photography. I have been blogging about how much fun I’m having with the ”M” setting. Which is, setting the exposure manually, and not giving the camera a chance to screw it up. Now, I assure you, I’m fully aware of the benefits of automatic exposure - unless you shoot motionless objects, it’s often the better choice.
But putting aside the issue of haste, it is not at all difficult to shoot manually with a digital camera, for obvious reasons which nevertheless escaped me until recently. On a digital camera you can see the result *instantly*! So, for goodness sake, just play with the aperture and shutter settings until you get it right! Why? Because it gives you *control*. When you’re setting exposure manually, there is a subconscious process going on, making *you* the artist, and not the camera. Whether you are aware of it or not, you will be choosing certain settings based on the circumstances of each image, and learning from each choice. Control is what makes *you* the photographer, and not your equipment.
This is why I’m so excited about photography these days. Years after I got my first digital camera, I figured this out! Also, another important thing which I ignored in my staunch belief that automatic exposure ruled supreme: blowout.
I guess I just put a blind eye to them, the skies which were always white instead of blue (I may be overdoing the blue now just for the fun of it). It’s true, with older digital cameras I find that blowout is often unavoidable. Those older sensors, combined with the limits of the JPEG format, just didn’t have much of an exposure window. Meaning, you either got a blown out sky, or a jet black foreground subject. Shooting RAW is the way to go, but even then, there is a clear risk of blowout, as you will see. Dark parts of the image can, to some extent, be rescued in post processing, but not so the white skies. The blue just isn’t there. Solution: underexpose.
Of course, this is not a secret. You can probably read the words ”expose the sky” all over the internet. It’s not likely to work well if you don’t shoot RAW images, but if you do, you may find that this simple trick makes a world of difference. After all, if you shoot RAW, you’ll be adjusting the images afterwards anyway. As was the subject of my previous demo, the job is far from over after you have pressed the trigger. Sorry, ’shutter-release button’, I mean.
Now, boy do I expose the sky, that is, make sure it doesn’t have any blown out areas. Actually, I use the histogram feature on cameras that have it, where the areas which are too light or dark are blinking. One glance at that, and I know if the exposure needs to be adjusted, and of course I usually take several versions of the image just to make sure I get one that’s good. It’s not like the film days, when you had to be economical, you can take as many exposures as you please! (Unless you’re standing in the middle of a road, or the clouds are moving fast, or… yeah, that’s true.)
Even without the ’blinking’ feature, it’s usually not hard to see if the exposure is in range. The demonstration shows examples of blowout, and how to avoid it.
Click the image to view the demonstration in a separate window.