Friday, November 15, 2013

Photography - Exposure, focus, stuff

A few weeks ago, I mentioned pulling together a photography FAQs post.  I don't know what I was thinking as what I really needed to do was populate my neglected Photography page, a project I've finally completed.  I've answered some frequently asked questions and linked to my photography posts, some of which answer other frequently asked questions.

Today, I want to talk about exposure and focus, two extremely important topics that really are the base for a good photo but unfortunately, don't always receive the attention they need and deserve.  Exposure is that triangle of ISO, shutter speed and aperture.  If you're new to photography (and even if you're not), I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's book, Understanding Exposure.  If you don't understand exposure, you won't be able to properly expose your photos with meaning.  Sure, you may get lucky or auto mode may help you out but that's not understanding what you're doing.


So how do you always end up with perfectly exposed photos?
  1. Learn to shoot in manual.  Your camera is not smarter than you.
  2. Understand the three different metering modes: matrix, center-weighted and spot.  When you set your camera for the metering mode you want to use, you are telling the camera how to read light.  My post here describes each mode and gives examples.
  3. Practice, practice, practice.  Practice photographing in different light situations.  Practice photographing with different metering modes.  Pick up the camera and practice!
  4. It's okay to take test shots and then adjust your settings.  If given the choice, I would rather have slightly underexposed photos than slightly overexposed photos.  Personally, I find it much easier to edit a photo if it is underexposed rather than overexposed.  Your goal should be to get the photo right in the camera though.  You don't want to always have to rely on edits to fix a photo.
  5. Think in terms of light.  This one may seem to be a bit out there but it's important.  You need light to create a photograph.  Whenever we are somewhere and I have my camera (and sometimes even when I don't have my camera), I monitor the light.  Where is it coming from?  What are the weather conditions?  Overcast?  Full sun?  It's something you'll start to do without realizing you're doing it.  

I know it's easy to get sucked into trends with photo styles and editing but try not to.  Do what you think looks good, not what everyone else is doing.  Trust me, I've learned this lesson the hard way.  (Side note - has anyone else come across family pictures or pictures of kids with the contrast jacked up?  I've seen it with quite a few local photographers lately.)  One of my photography pet peeves is super soft portraits, which I know is/or may be one's style but personally, I find it to be outdated or a result of shooting wide open and not nailing focus.  For portraits, my focus (the majority of the time) is one of my subject's eyes.  I judge whether or not I've nailed my focal point by opening the photo in PSE and blowing it up.  If the eye/eyelashes are crystal clear, then I'm happy.



BreezieGirl said...

I completely agree in regards to editing. I definitely got pulled into trends in my earlier days and I would probably re-edit those photos now. On the plus side, they taught me A LOT about PhotoShop. There are still some photographer's styles that I absolutely adore, but I can't edit that way. It doesn't feel natural and I never like mine as much as theirs. :)

I shoot fairly wide open when the situation allows for it, but I do the same things in terms of focus. On the eyes and if it isn't perfect, it gets re-shot. After years of shooting this way though, I'm pretty good at nailing the focus.

I love that first shot in this post. Bright sunny days are still frustrating for me. :)

Laurie said...

Thank you, Sarah! You mentioned that you do minimal editing so I was just curious... do you shoot RAW or JPEG?

Sarah said...

I shoot JPEG.

Marion said...

Your pictures are amazing. Your style is one that I try (mostly unsuccessfully) to emulate. Focus and exposure are my biggest hurdles right now. I can fix exposure easily because I shoot in RAW (via PSE), but if I miss the focus. UGH. I've only had my "big girl" camera for a year I'll give myself a little break. :) Thanks again for the tips!