Exposing Exposure

Took the rebel out at dusk yesterday to work on achieving better exposures.

Anyone who’s ever seriously picked up a camera knows that this is not a simple matter. There are a variety of ways you can alter the exposure of a photo, and they all pretty much involve the right combination of more than one setting. To complicate it further there is no single right way exactly; it all depends on what effect you want, and, I imagine, some personal preference.

It’s all fine to buy a nice camera like the rebel, but you won’t get much more out of it than you would a mid-range point and shoot except by occasional luck, unless you make an attempt to twist the various knobs and toggle the numerous toggles. There’s no getting away from that. Light is what it is, a force of nature, and cameras are what they are, and they’re bound by the laws of optics.

Of course, today’s cameras make it much easier to get those “accidental” great shots. They have pre-programmed settings for general conditions, and they have some simple tools like the white balance button that can help you compensate for lighting issues. Almost anyone can take a decent photo with today’s cameras, but unless you’re committed to learning something about lighting and camera optics I’d say spending money on an SLR is not worth the investment.

However, if you’re like me, and you get frustrated when you don’t get the shot you envisioned in your mind when you snapped the shutter, then you do need a camera that comes fully equipped. You just have to be willing to ride that learning curve.

The first step is admitting you have a dependency on pre-set picture modes and the second is cutting the auto setting habit. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth it if you really want to be satisfied with the results you get when it comes time to view the product of your work.

I’m happy to say that for the most part I don’t fall back on the auto modes much anymore. Most of the time, I use the TV setting which gives me control over the shutter speed, and sets the rest accordingly. It helps me with low light conditions, but it isn’t enough on its own. It was a good start for me, since the rebel makes it easy to adjust shutter control with a handy wheel near the shutter release. By dialing up and down the wheel as I click away I can quickly improve my results.

Now that I have a sense of how that works I need to move on to exposure and white balance to improve things even more.

Unfortunately, the problem with attempting to do more of the settings manually is that for the novice it’s time consuming, and you can miss the moment on those shots that pass by in the blink of a shutter. It’s also hard sometimes to get your subject/s to be patient with you while you snap several shots, check the effect, and adjust the settings. Most people expect you to be able to click a single shot and be done with it.

That’s why I feel the need to take the camera out for practise, like I did yesterday. I need time to learn more about white balance and exposure compensation. This isn’t the same as truly understanding f-stops and ISO, and how it all fits together but it’s a step in the right direction.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be truly be able to master until I can take a photography course, but I do know my photography is improving and I know more about exposure than I did when I bought the rebel last year. Progress is progress.

Here’s a couple photos taken yesterday at dusk in an attempt to do more than just adjust the shutter speed. I like the effects but they weren’t exactly what I was trying for. (The first one has far too much noise, due, I suspect to a high ISO setting.) Still, they’re better than most shots I’ve taken in dusk conditions before. I’m happy with that.




2 thoughts on “Exposing Exposure

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