10 Ingredients For Successful Images
A digital recipe for smokin’ photos
5. See The Light
Our eyes have a dynamic range of about 11 ƒ-stops, which is why in a high-contrast scene, we can see details in shadow areas, and why highlight areas aren't washed out. Our cameras, however, don't "see" exactly what we see. They have a dynamic range of about five ƒ-stops. So we need to be able to understand the contrast range of a scene (from the brightest area to the darkest area) and know what our camera can and can't capture in order to make a good exposure decision. Read on.
6. Fine-Tune Your Exposure
In most cases, when thinking about the exposure, we want to expose for the highlights, or the brightest parts of the scene. That's because when highlights in a digital file are washed out and overexposed by more than an ƒ-stop, they're difficult or impossible to recover in the digital darkroom. RAW files offer more exposure latitude than JPEGs, making it easier to recover seemingly lost highlights. As a general rule, to avoid washed-out areas of a scene, I use the exposure compensation (+/-) feature on my camera and reduce the exposure in the average metering mode (when my camera is set on the aperture priority or shutter priority mode) by 1⁄3 stop. That helps to prevent bright areas of a scene from becoming overexposed. In addition, don't overlook the importance of fine-tuning exposure with this function. Sure, you could use the spot metering mode on you camera or use the manual exposure mode, but I think you'll find that using the exposure compensation dial is much faster and easier. Of course, check the histogram and overexposure warning on the LCD to ensure a good exposure.
7. Control The Light
Sometimes, the contrast range of a scene is too wide to be recorded by our camera. That's when we need to control the light with accessories. Basically, there are three accessories for managing light.
Flash. A flash evenly illuminated the face of this woman who was sitting in the shade. Sunlight filtering through the leaves of the tree created unflattering shadows on her face that were eliminated by the flash.
Reflector. Here, I used a reflector to bounce light onto the face of a subject who was sitting in the shade in front of a dark background. The reflector also added a nice catchlight to the subject's eyes.
Diffuser. Using a diffuser, strong shadows created by direct sunlight can be softened.
8. Check Your Camera Settings
One of the cool things about digital photography is that you can change many camera settings in an instant—ISO, white balance, image quality, exposure compensation, focus point, metering mode and so on. The not-so-cool thing is that it's easy to forget about individual camera settings (as I've done more than a few times in the past), which can result in a ruined shot. Checking your camera settings from time to time will help avoid disappointing results.