Shooting Digital

Shooting Digital Part 1

How to get the best exposure in Digital Photography

There are lots of different discussions about how to set the best exposure in digital photography, and most of the time can be very confusing for people who are new to digital cameras. In this article I am going to explain the rules of exposure in digital photography as simply as I can without getting too technical.

What is Exposure in photography?

A photograph’s exposure determines how light or dark an image will appear when it’s been captured by your camera. Exposure typically is controlled by Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO.

Is exposure technique different in digital photography?

Although we have the same controls of Shutter, Aperture and ISO, in digital photography the amount light the camera sensor (Digital Media) needs to capture a picture differs from analog (Film) media. If I want to compare digital sensors to analog media, I would consider them closer to Slide film (positive), not negative film.

In film photography photographers expose the negative film a little over to capture more details in shadows. Photographers who used slide film, on the other hand, underexposed their pictures to capture more details in highlights.

Generally speaking digital sensors behave more like positive film (slides), so you need to meter for highlights, which means you need to underexpose your images to maintain the highlights and in post processing you can bring out more details in shadows.

Tulip Field Photography Workshop
In a bright sunny day it is almost next to impossible to check the exposure using the camera display. Histogram is your best friend in such situations.
Exposure in Digital Photography
I set the exposure for the bright part of the image to capture the details in highlight

How digital cameras meter light and why it’s important to understand this

Entry level digital cameras tend to overexpose the images a little. This is how manufacturers calibrate the exposure metering to make sure that in Auto and Program modes, users get bright photos. Manufacturers also programmed the processor of entry level cameras to do some in-camera post processing to brighten the shadows (DLighting, or Highlight Priority, etc. as they call it). If you shoot with an entry level camera in Auto or Program mode, the chances are that your camera already overexposes the photo, and if you save them as Jpegs the camera’s processor will post process the photo and make the shadows brighter. The result will usually be photos which are generally overall too bright.

Exposure in digital photography
Photo from a point and shoot camera. I set the exposure for highlight

Is there a work-around to avoid this happening to your pictures?

Yes! Although too bright images are not the end of the world because you can fix the problem with editing software and tone down the overall exposure, keep in mind you can not bring back blown (over exposed) highlights because they are gone for good!

exposure in digital photography
Same picture after post processing for shadows

And since we’d all rather spend more time shooting than bogged down with post processing and fixing problems, I invite you to stay tuned for the next instalment where I am going to discuss how to solve this problem and get your best exposures right at capture. You can also check our Upcoming Classes and visit the Digital Camera Bootcamp which is an 8 week program that covers all these important settings.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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