Please note that this is an audio transcription. Grammer and punctuation will not be perfect.Hi there everyone and welcome to the Photography Podcast on Photography.ca.‚ My name Marko and we are coming to you from Monreal, Quebec, Canada, and today is December 8, 2006.
For today’s show, we are going to talk about exposure.‚ Although a lot of people know about exposure, a lot of people do not.‚ Someone on the bulletin board mentioned that they like to know a little bit more about getting good exposure, so I thought I talk about that today.‚ Even if you know about it, I guess you can hear about it again and we all learn from each other’s techniques.‚ It is a good thing to do.
Exposure refers to the quantity of light hitting the film or digital sensor, in terms of a digital camera, to correctly take the shot.‚ This quantity of light, it needs to be precise.‚ If too much light hits the film or sensor, the shot will be overexposed or too light.‚ If not enough light hits the digital sensor or film, then the shot will be too dark and it will be under exposed.‚ It really needs some precision.‚ The good news is, is that in today’s modern cameras either traditional cameras or digital cameras, the sensor in that camera is very sophisticated.‚ Generally, that sensor will give you good results most of the time.‚ Under normal circumstances when there is good mixture of tones in the scene, your shot will be correctly exposed because basically what the camera sensor is trying to do, it is trying to give an average reading of all the tones in the scene.‚ If you have a lot of dark tones and a lot of light tones and some mixed tones, well, then your camera will generally give you very good exposure and that is all you need to do.‚ The problems happen when there is too much of one tone or too much of another tone.‚ Specifically, if there is too many light tones or too many dark tones, what the camera is going to try and do and say, “Hey look at those light tones coming to the camera.‚ In order for me to make this average, I need to close down a bit.”‚ What is going to happen is your shot is going to look grayer or not as light as it should.‚ These are situations where you need to be careful.‚ There are other techniques that you can use that will help solve these situations.
The classic example, of course, is someone standing in front of beach or in front of a window and then another person tries to take a photograph of that.‚ When that camera is looking at the scene, it is saying, “Oh my goodness, look at all the light coming into the camera.‚ Again, I need to shut down.”‚ What happens is the person in front of the beach or the window ends up looking too dark because the camera underexposed the subject because so much light was coming into the camera.‚ These are the situations where you have to be careful.‚ When you see extreme amounts of light coming into the camera or on the opposite end, if you are taking a picture of, let us say, someone wearing dark clothes against the dark wall, the camera is going to say, “Oh my god, this scene is so dark.‚ I need to average it out.‚ I need to open up a lot.‚ I need to give the shot more exposure.”‚ What happens is the black person in the black suit against the black wall ends up turning out mushy and not black because the camera did not correctly expose for those tones.‚ Like I said, again, to recap, in normal scenes where there is a variety of tones, there is really no problem and you will generally get good exposure.‚ The trick is being able to notice when the scene is not normal.‚ That only comes with experience.‚ Of course, if you have a digital camera, you could just look at the results and adjust expose accordingly and hopefully learn from it or if you are with a conventional camera, take notes if you are learning and then when you get back the results you can also see what went right and what went wrong.
Now, the camera sensor in your camera, that is a reflective sensor.‚ That is reflective meter.‚ It is called reflective meter because it measures the light that is hitting your subject and coming back to the camera, the light that is being reflected back to the camera.‚ These are generally excellent in quality as we mentioned before especially in modern cameras.‚ Again, you just have to be aware of the situation where the lighting is not normal because that camera meter will be fooled.‚ What these reflective meters do when they are in camera is they average out the whole scene within the camera.‚ It looks at the whole scene and the camera measures the whole scene.
There is another type of reflective meter called the spot meter.‚ It is exactly the same in principle except that it only measures a smaller area of the photograph.‚ Usually, you will see like a circle in the middle of the camera when you are looking through it. ‚In the center of that circle, there will be smaller circle or a smaller square.‚ If you have spot metering available on the camera, it will measure exactly what is in that teeny spot.‚ It is really handy when you are more advanced and you want your exposure to be based on a particular area of the shot, but for most people the type of metering that is non-spot that evaluates the whole scene or the whole frame of what you are shooting gives really good results.
A great tool that can help with exposure, especially if you are just learning or you want to perfect your metering technique or you want to assure yourself of good results, is a gray card.‚ What the gray card does is the gray card is the exact measurement that the camera is trying to achieve.‚ The camera is trying to make all the tones middle gray.‚ Although this may sound weird for color photography, again, it is trying to achieve a middle color so that the exposure will always be average and thereby correct.‚ You can buy this gray card at any photo store and it is a great, great handy tool when you are learning.‚ If you do come across a situation where you are just not quite sure of exposure, especially if you are with a non-digital camera and you cannot see result right away, what you could do is, let us say you are taking a picture an object or a person, well, you have that person hold the gray card or you use some type of device to hold the gray card in place and you approach the subject and you take the meter reading off the gray card.‚ You approach the gray card and you have the gray card fill the frame of the camera.‚ You note the exposure on the camera and you plug that exposure in when you back up.‚ That will give you a very accurate result.‚ You should also be aware that the actual exposure is dependent on three variables, which is the film speed, the aperture, and the shutter speed.‚ These three variables, they change.‚ They are not constant.‚ Although you may use certain a film or your camera may tell you that it is using a certain film sensitivity, it is not always bang on.‚ As you approach in experience or as you approach better photographic technique, you may want to make smaller adjustments in order to achieve better results.‚ In using the gray card, you could really find out the difference between the camera’s exposure and what the actual neutral exposure really is.‚ I recommend using the gray card when you get like a new camera or a new lens or you want to really perfect your exposure.‚ Just take a shot, put the gray card in the scene, approach the gray card, take the meter reading from the gray card and your camera, then keep that meter reading back up and take the shot as you normally would.‚ A good thing to do as always would be to take the shot according to what the camera reading was giving you from your position as opposed to what it gave you when you approach the gray card in the scene.‚ Again, it is a great, great learning tool and experience.‚ The metering we just talked about, this reflective meter, it comes with the camera and it is great tool to use.‚ You can also have an external spot meter if your camera does not have one.‚ They are pretty expensive, but they are great tools to have as well.‚ What it does is to kind of looks a little bit like a gun, let us say, and from your position you aim it at the subject and you can get an exposure reading that is very, very precise from a small area on an external reflective spot meter.‚ Very useful device for those that are more advanced who really want to perfect their exposure.
Another type of meter that is very useful to have and most pros have one, or even advanced amateurs they have one, is called an incident meter.‚ What the incident meter does is it measures the amount of light falling on the subject.‚ It does not have to do with the reflection back to your camera.‚ It is the actual amount of light that is falling on your subject.‚ You approach the subject physically.‚ It does not matter if it is a person or an object, but it is definitely something that you can approach.‚ You would not use it for a mountain or a landscape.‚ I guess you are good — if you want to get a lot of exercise, approach the mountain and then go back to your position and shoot, but it is really for portraiture or still objects.‚ The ambient meter or the incident meter will measure the light falling on the subject.‚ The results you get from this meter are very accurate because it actually measures the amount of light falling on the subject.‚ You can get into tricky situations with the incident light meter as well if different mixed lights is falling on your subject, but in general just play with it a little bit.‚ Again, check out the results either on screen on a digital camera or when you get your film back and you will see that it is just an absolutely fantastic, fantastic device.
Usually, when we use the incident meter, especially in traditional photography, we are going to measure for the shadows.‚ We are going to expose for the shadows.‚ If there is a mixed light within the scene, we are going to try and position the incident meter and we are going to point it at the light source or toward the light source, but in the darker area of the scene if that makes any sense at all.‚ If there is like a bright ray of light shining on the subject at his chest level, you may want to measure the scene below the chest level so that it does not totally blow out the scene.‚ You want to expose for the shadows in general and develop for the highlights if we are talking traditional photography.‚ If we are talking digital photography, just incident record the scene.‚ Take the metered measurement, plug it into your camera, shoot, and see what you get.‚ See what you are doing right or wrong.‚ That is really the beautiful aspect of the digital camera; you can see the results right away.‚ Again, for anyone that is seriously into photography, I highly recommend getting an incident light meter.‚ It is so practical and such a great learning tool and such a great useful tool, especially if you are being paid to shoot.‚ Now, again, these incident meters are a couple of hundred dollars.‚ They are between $200 and $300 to buy them new, but you can often find them used on eBay or you can look in your local paper or go to a local photo store and you will find these meters used as well.
The only other thing I really wanted to mention about exposure is the difference basically between traditional cameras and digital cameras.‚ Although the technique of measuring the scene will be the same, again, you are going to want to make some small adjustments with regard to the meter readings that you are getting especially if you see that your results are consistently off.‚ Film manufacturers and the camera’s speeds, you need to adjust them.‚ They are going to be really good for most applications, but you are going to find that occasionally the meter reading is off and you are going to wonder why.‚ It is because they are not all bang on, you need to adjust them slightly by increasing the exposure either through exposure compensation in the camera or exposure compensation in the meter.‚ You really need to adjust the individual meters if you want to get the best result.‚ You also need to know that when you are doing your tests that although your eye can see the difference in latitude between the darkest parts of the scene and the lightest parts of the scene, the camera cannot.‚ If there is a really huge difference, the camera will not be able to record it properly regardless of how you are metering it.‚ Now, that is a whole other topic and we can go on and on and on about the fine points of exposure, but you need to be aware that if the scene is too bright, your camera will not be able to record it regardless of the meter reading that you put in.‚ These types of situations really only occur with experience.‚ After you have shot many, many photographs, you will be able to realize, “Oh my goodness, this scene is just way too bright.‚ I either can’t shoot this scene and record both sides of the spectrum, the dark tones and the light tones correctly, or I have to reduce the contrast of the scene somehow.”‚ Sometimes that always will not be possible.‚ You need to give it up unless you have such a budget whereby you are able to really control the scene with all kinds of equipment, then if the scene is too strange in terms of its brightness variety, you just have to wait for another time or realize it is just not going to work or live with the results you get.
That basically covers our show for today.‚ As always, we appreciate comments in the blog and we also appreciate comments in the forum.‚ We are changing around the blog a little bit.‚ I hope you like the changes.‚ You can subscribe, as always, for free in iTunes.‚ Just do a search for photography podcast or Photography.ca Podcast and you will find our podcast.‚ We are going to have some direct links put up in the blog so that if you just click those links you will be subscribed in iTunes, which is a great podcatching software to have, so I recommend you download it if you do not already have it downloaded, but a lot of you probably do have it downloaded.‚ That is it for the today.‚ Thanks so much.‚ We are going to do another podcast really quickly.‚ Once every two weeks I am finding is bit long, so I intend to actually shorten that period in the very near future, maybe once every 10 days or even once a week.‚ Hope you keep on listening.‚ If you have any questions, shoot them my way.‚ It is my pleasure to answer them, either via email, via the blog, posting in the forum.‚ Always my pleasure, love talking to newbies, love talking to professionals through email or directly.‚ Again, thanks everyone for listening.‚ Have a great day and keep on shooting.‚ Bye for now.