Getting The Ideal Exposure For Your Digital Photography

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Photo “Cheeky Parrot” by Amy Renfrey . Copyrighted

Last week we discussed shutter speeds and the basics of how shutter speed works in your digital photography. I also mentioned how shutter speed and aperture work together. This week I’m going to help you get some excellent exposure control over your digital photography.

In digital photography it’s all too easy to think “I won’t worry too much about getting it perfect because I can always fix it later.” The thing about digital pictures is that it has less ability to alter and perfect your exposure than film does. In basic terms digital needs more thought put into getting good exposure control than film.

What is the ideal exposure? Well it actually depends on whether you are shooting in Jpeg format or RAW capture. When using a Jpeg capture in a scene with high contrast it’s a good idea to use exposure compensation and exposure bracketing to get an idea of one exposure that’s good to work with. You may need to let go of aiming for some detail in the shadows. But at the same time don’t overexpose the bright aspects of the picture.

Since most of us digital photo camera owners shoot in jpeg, (because you can edit it later) I’ll talk about some aspects of this. When digital cameras take the photo the processing is regarded as “complete”. That means as far as the digital camera is concerned the camera colour, white balance and sharpening, etc, are final.

Although you and I know the camera doesn’t have a brain, we do, and the results can be a lot different. A lot of Jpegs need some modifications. This can be true for pictures that have a great deal of over and under exposure. Then comes the editing time on the computer for you and me. The camera isn’t able to provide you with a better image than what you got because of how Jpeg is. The Jpeg file has 8 bits of brightness or 256 values. Not a very wide range at all. In the case of our over and under exposed image anything we do looks simulated and obviously fake.

What you can do in this case is observe the original photo in the playback mode. Take notice of what’s going on. Look at the darker and lighter areas separately to each other. You can take the photo again using exposure compensation. Take the photo using +2/3 to allow for the darker areas then -2/3 to allow for the brighter areas. You can then set the exposure at 1/3 or 1/2 F stops. Try shooting three images and you should have a fairly even photo at the end of the exercise.

If that fails, you can use the Histogram in Photoshop. Use the exposure compensation method to get as close as you can to the right exposure. The Histogram will be able to tell you what you need to do by adjusting the sliders to lift the image quality of your digital photo.

Next week: Shooting In Raw

Happy Shooting
Amy Renfrey

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