Why Is Exposure So Important?
It not only determines how light and dark the various tones in your image are (the technical
side of exposure), it also determines the "look" of your images (the artistic side of exposure). Every exposure decision is also an artistic decision. If you have your camera on auto exposure,
you have turned over the artistic decisions to a computer chip. There are dozens of exposure combinations (apertures, shutter speeds, and ISO settings) that will give you exactly the same
"exposure" (lightness and darkness of tones), but very different artistic "looks". Only you know the look that you want for a particular image.
Your camera doesn't know that you want to make a particular sunset darker and more dramatic,
or that you want to create a certain portrait with delicate, ultra light skin tones. Your camera doesn't know that you want to freeze ever water droplet in a fountain, or that you want to
create a blurry "angel hair" waterfall. It doesn't know that you want the Tahitian gliding across the Pacific in a pirogue to be slightly blurred and the background more blurred to show motion,
or that you want to freeze a cityscape but blur the lights of the cars.
Auto exposure can have problems, especially with the dramatic subjects and dynamic lighting
that often have the most artistic potential. And sometimes your camera gets things totally wrong. There are times that auto exposure works just fine. Other times it will be far from the results you want.
Finally, the best exposures will also give you the best colors.
If you miss the best exposure with your camera, you can correct the exposure with software, but
the colors will be off. Miss the "ideal" exposure by more than 1/2 stop and the colors start to shift. Miss by a stop or more and the colors shift dramatically (and software won't be able to
correct the color shifts after the fact).
Taking control of exposure will give you the best possible colors your camera is capable of producing.
In the series of article linked below, I will take you through the basics of exposure.
My most detailed and comprehensive coverage of the art and science of exposure is in my photography book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies. In Parts I and II there are 10 chapters of information (220 pages in all) with exercises, photos and illustrations devoted entirely to both the science and art of exposure. If you are a beginner, the book will quickly bring you up to speed. If you are well beyond the beginner phase, there are plenty of intermediate and advanced techniques for you to go out and try. You are getting a beginners guide to exposure and an advanced guide to exposure, all in one book.
In Parts III and IV, everything you experienced in Parts I and II will be applied to all kinds of photographic situations and topics. Go here to find out more.
December 22, 2010
Copyright © Jim Doty, Jr. All rights reserved.