Basic Digital Photo Concepts: session 2

Part 1

Overview of Basic Exposure Modes:  “Green” Zone, P, M, S/TV, A/Av, Scenic/Picture Modes

**If you want to get better at photography, it means being willing to make bad photos. The Green Zone on most cameras will make good photos and also make it very hard to learn good photography. The Green Zone is the “leave it to the camera” mode and it works real well. It makes it hard to make mistakes. It makes the photo-making process thoughtless. So, AVOID the Green Zone. The GZ is “safe” and risk-less, and where there’s no risk, there’s no achievement. So please, make bad photos–don’t take the easiest route–make mistakes and learn how to avoid. them

+”Green Zone”-Our goal is to stay AWAY from this mode.  FULLY automatic, minimal operator input (depends on make/model).

+Program-This mode is OK to be in.  Fully automatic (camera chooses the shutter and priority), but operator is allowed some freedoms (depends on make/model).

+Shutter Priority– This mode is OK to be in.  This mode is semi-automatic.  Operator has all the freedoms of Program, but also has the control to determine shutter speed setting.  Camera then chooses appropriate aperture.

+Aperture Priority-This is my preferred exposure mode.  This mode is semi-automatic.  Operator again has all the freedoms of Program, but also has the control to determine the aperture setting.  Camera then chooses appropriate shutter speed.

+Manual –This mode is OK to be in.  This mode is completely manual.  Operator chooses shutter speed and aperture, using built-in light-meter to set exposure.

+Picture Modes-the camera “dials in” biases to color and exposure based on selected subject matter.  Are fully-automated modes.

Exposure Compensation:  

Probably the most useful function you could learn

+ExpoComp is a terribly useful feature.  ExpoComp allows you to over-ride the camera’s “brain” and to put your own in charge.

+A camera always looks for “medium gray”.  A camera’s light-meter, the device that looks at the light of a scene and chooses the shutter-speed/f-stop combo, always tries to average a scene’s tones.  The average scene is made of lights and darks, highlights and shadows.  A camera figures the best way to capture the most information is to split the middle, knowing it may loose the extreme darks and lights, but will get everything else.

+Not every scene is an “average” scene, in fact, most scenes are NOT average.  So, the camera’s light meter can often use tweaking, to make a shadowed scene come out dark and a bright scene come out light-filled.

+Use ExpoComp to tell a camera to automatically over- or under-expose a scene based upon your judgement.  Usually, +.3 or +.7 may be enough for a bright scene and -.7 or -1.0 for a darker scene.  How much ExpoComp you apply is determined through experience and personal taste.

White Balance

+White balance allows you to make good color in your photographers, generally speaking, regardless of the lighting circumstances. The camera senses the colors in the scene and then adjusts how it records that light to make it a “white light”, a “daylight” scene, as best it can.

+Every camera has a variety of white balance options; I really only use 3 of them in standard situations: Automatic, Daylight, Cloudy.

-Automatic for indoor, non-flash situation and flash situations

-Daylight for outdoor, non-cloudy situations. This is because many cameras tend to be “too blue” in general.

-Cloudy for cloudy days, or indoor situations with window light.

-When a situation is of mixed light sources, it’s generally best to use Automatic.

Flash Modes: Easier than you think.

+Flash off-always consider the light before using your flash. Use “P” mode, as you always have the option to use or not use your flash then.

+Automatic: camera determines light balance. Not bad, not good.

-in this mode, the camera usually biases towards the flash exposure, not the ambient exposure and that’s why the background goes dark.

Red-Eye Reduction-can best be solved in two ways, either by increasing the ambient light level in your setting or by using a hot-shoe flash.

-for best results, always warn your subjects, as there is a delay.

-different methods, either pre-flash or constant light.

+“Slow-Sync”, “night-time mode” and “Rear-Curtain Sync”

-I try to avoid slow-sync, as you have NO control over the length of the shutter speed in that mode.

-I usually use “S” or “TV” mode when working with flash indoors.  In that way, I get to determine how slow the shutter goes. To find the right shutter speed, you need to experiment a bit. For me, at ISO 200, a good choice of shutter speed, with average household light, might be between 1/6-1/30.

Rear-curtain sync is good because if it has an effect it will be a positive one. If it doesn’t have an effect, it won’t matter. Rear-curtain sync is about the timing of the flash–at the beginning or end of the exposure.  Things tend to look more natural when the flash fires at the END of the exposure rather than the start.

+Flash On: “forced flash”, “fill flash”. This is very helpful when people are in the shade while the background is bright (back-light), and when people are wearing hats/visors, or have heavy shadows on their faces. You can “force” your flash to fire, in order to “fill in” the shadows.


2 thoughts on “Basic Digital Photo Concepts: session 2

  1. Great overview Troy! I would highly encourage any photographer to lock down that dial into Manual from day one.

    Interesting that you prefer Aperture Priority, do you ever find it limits your images?

    • Hello Norman,
      I don’t feel that using Aperture Priority limits my image–how do you see that happening? I think an automatic exposure system, combined with appropriately applied exposure compensation works just peachy. 🙂

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