- Envisioning the end result and thinking ahead about the enhancements that are possible in the digital darkroom.
- Getting the best possible in-camera exposure—or exposures if you're shooting HDR.
- A few digital imaging-processing skills.
Let's start with getting the best in-camera exposure. That's what I did when I took the opening image for this column, which was shot in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. If you're taking only one shot (that is, not an HDR sequence), here's what to do to get the best possible exposure:
- Try to frame your shot so there's not a lot of contrast in the scene, as is the case when the sun is behind clouds or just below or peeking over the horizon. Once the sun is up, you need HDR to capture the contrast range. We'll get to HDR later in this column.
- Compose your picture with the sun behind an object—a tree, some clouds or even a person. This technique reduces the contrast range in the scene.
- Expose for the brightest part of the scene, which is usually the sun, but it may be a reflection on a cloud. Check your camera's histogram to make sure you don't have a spike on the right. If you do, the highlights in the scene will be washed out. Also check your camera's highlight alert, if available, which also tells you if the highlights will be overexposed.