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Sunday, 20 April 2014


Or you could practice the Sunny 16 and Looney 11 rules. :)

That's a nice exposure of the subject. I used to judge exposure by eye, but after having
cataract surgery, I began underexposing the photos.

Many years ago I went to a Kodak seminar presented by a guy who had done a beautiful book of photos of homes in the Caribbean. He talked at great length about the careful spot metering he had done to get the correct exposure for his slide film. He had an elaborate system for figuring the exposure based on many, many spot meter readings of the scenes, which had extreme contrast from the bright sunlight. After going on about all that for much too long, he then said that after determining that perfect exposure he would then shoot an 8-stop bracket. "Burn lots of film," he kept saying. No wonder Kodak sponsored him. There was a guy at the back of the room listening to a ball game on a transistor radio (remember those?). I decided that was a better use of my time too.

Just read the Tiger's exposure guide and it took me back to my early days of Halina 35x and Zorki 4. In those days of yore I was a reciprocal ASA user. Setting the shutter-speed the same as the ASA...so for FP4, 125 ASA = 1/125th of a second. The aperture would be f16 for bright sunlight...f11 weak sunlight...f8 bright cloud...f5.6 really dull cloudy...etc.
Even nowadays I use it just to impress the hell out of youngsters who are wholely reliant on various auto exposure systems.

My first camera didn't have a light meter, and the meter in the Nikkormat FTN I used for the next 35 years was so finicky, I seldom had a battery in it. When I did have a battery, I used it so little, that it would die, and I never knew it.

I learned to judge the light from the printout on the inside of the Kodak film box, and make aperture and shutter speed adjustments according to the situation.

It was too simple, and now that everything is so smart, I find myself getting confused.

We used to cut out the little pictograms that came on the paper Kodak put in every box of Tri-x. The pictograms depicted various routine exterior lighting situations. They gave one the proper exposures to try. On the other side of the paper were various recommended development times for the film.

I would tape the pictogram + exposure settings onto the bottom plate of my Leica with Scotch tape and refer to it when in need. The month I spent in Paris with my paper guide gave me more and better correct exposures that a series of expensive cameras with meters did in future visits.

Sometimes an objective starting point rocks.

Every aspect of making a photo verses taking one is subjective. Base on your vision, if you have one, and skill set with the camera you are using.

I personally live in the world of making commercial photo's. 360's for the most part to be exact.

Setting an exposure is typically guided by the brightest part of a 360 degree image. This tells me how much highlight detail I want to remain in the final image. It's a decision that has lots of impact on post.

Once you learn to expose for what you see and the best options for post, you can produce a quality image.

Being from the Sceptered Isle, what is sun?

I was out shooting yesterday with a borrowed M4 and C Sonnar 50/1.7 - my first experience of shooting a Leica M. A beautiful, bright sunny autumn day in Sydney. I noticed some toddlers sitting outdoors in open shade discussing something very intently - it was the perfect photo opportunity. I'd forgotten the hand held light meter and guessed the exposure at 1/250 f8 on ISO400 bw film. To avoid disturbing them I guessed the distance and scale pre-focused and then snapped two quick exposures.

Shortly afterwards my friend checked the shade exposure with his camera's meter and I was very pleased to see I'd guessed correctly. Feeling happy, I suggested a portrait of some friends who happened to chance by. Advanced the film and took the picture. Something seemed amiss. Then it dawned that the rewind knob hadn't turned as I advanced the film… I stood there, stupidly turning that knob around and around, feeling no resistance...

Quoth D. Huteson: "Even nowadays I use it (reciprocal of ASA) just to impress the hell out of youngsters who are wholely reliant on various auto exposure systems."

As one of those (not-quite-so) youngsters wholly reliant on AE, I gotta say I spend an inordinate amount of time learning how my camera's meter sees the scene, and how the sensor responds (in terms of output) to the variables I control. It's been different for every camera body (huh - kinda like film?) and iI like to think of it as a "break in period" for the camera and the brain behind the eyeball.

6 months ago I went from a Pentax K-5 (huge, clean dynamic range in the shadows, 77 segment monochrome metering) to a K-3 (far more headroom in the highlights, 86,000 pixel RGB metering) and I'm just getting a handle on how the AE sees what I see. YMMV

According to the Tiger's exposure guide, Mike would have overexposed in his example at ISO800 as he described.

The only problems with exposure for me started when I began using digital and film. My black and white film I can pretty well guess dead on, and if I'm not sure I err on the side of overexposure, but digital needs to be exposed like slide film to protect the highlights, as these days cameras are good enough to be able to lift the shadows without producing much extra noise.
So I have to go out with the mindset for either film or digital and I cannot use both on the same day or my head implodes - easy done these days!

I use the Sargeant Schultz method (I know NOTHING!): put it in Professional (P) mode and diddle the exposure compensation wheel to taste. Unless, of course, I am "serious;" then I take a great deal of care and screw it up manually.

Another important interpretive aspect of exposure is that by stopping up or down a given scene, you are changing the look of shadows, mid tones, and highlights (in B&W).

On a very bright day, shooting at contre-jour, you can decide you want to have full shadow details and loose the sky (it's going to be barely visible depending with the framing you choose). You can also decide to go for a full silhouette, and have only the brightest highlights show up, so that you have a kind of American Night effect.

Good Zonies tend to have the ability to see through more subtle situations: for e.g. if you open up, you'll clear the shadows, but then you will apply a bit of magic powder in your developer to depress the mid tones without affecting too much the shadows, so that you will have a tonal harmony of exactly two zones between the tree and the rock, instead of two close-looking greys. You can also do the same thing with a custom curves in Photoshop.

Exposure and aesthetics are deeply interrelated, and the concept of "normal" exposure is perhaps the most damaging one to a creative photographer. Guess you figured that right with the Flickr comments to Bill Brandt's photos: http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.ca/2006/06/great-photographers-on-internet.html

My approach to getting the desired exposure requires three steps. Firstly, there's the "technical" exposure which is based on ETTR (I shoot digital). Secondly, there's the interpretative step of what to do with the highlights / very bright parts of the image i.e retain or discard them.

The third step is during post, where I adjust the shadows / midtones / bright areas to finalise the exposure.

Oh yeah, the fourth step is dodging and burning but that's another topic!

I would say, setting exposure like you do with cameraphone, that is auto + moving expo correction slider and watching the result on screen, is the best way to find the proper highlights/shadows balanse.

Yes! I've been ranting against the concept of "correct" exposure for decades now. Any exposure that allows you to produce a good print was "adequate". Some are preferable to others either in that they make the process of producing that good print less annoying, or that they actually allow a better print ("good" comes in levels after all). The only "wrong" exposure is one which does NOT allow you to produce a good print.

(I use "print" broadly, to mean "version of the image ready for public presentation".)

(The other use I make of it is "I screwed up, even though I found a way to make lemonade from the result", as in "I got the exposure all wrong, but this high-key look is kind of neat.")

I am trying to get the hang of the zone system for sheet film, in particular, the bit about how one can manipulate development for purpose of fitting in the full range of detailed exposure in the scene. This is new for me, in my 135 film days the choice was "do I need to push for speed, or not" when shooting action.

As for digital, I use the center-weighted matrix average as my 18% and then in manual mode dial in whatever changes I want by guesstimate. Backlit dark brown bird in flight against bright sky? Dig up another 2 to 2.5 stops from somewhere. Same bird, frontlit? Find it 0.5 to 1 stop. I would guess this falls under "experience and common sense".

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