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7 Steps To Getting The Best In-Camera Exposure

Use the benefits of digital imaging technology, but it’s essential to get the composition right in-camera. Follow these tips from Rick Sammon, with images from his workshop in China.
China, Rick Sammon

If you ever shot 35mm slide film, you know that it was essential to get a good exposure in-camera. Slide film was not forgiving, as opposed to negative film, which was forgiving, that is, your exposure could be “off” by a stop or two over or under the correct exposure and you could still make a good print.

Slide film shooters had to spend time thinking about how to get the best possible in-camera image, usually exposing for the highlights. That thinking process resulted in taking fewer pictures and a higher percentage of “keepers.”

Today, with RAW files, which are more forgiving than JPEG files, combined with the power of Photoshop and Lightroom, many photographer don’t worry so much about getting it right in-camera. They shoot a ton of pictures with the “I can fit it later in post” philosophy in mind. The result: lots of outtakes, totally missing some shots, and lots of processing time.

Yes, Lightroom is awesome! Photoshop is amazing. Plug-ins are powerful!  Yes, you still need the best in-camera exposure to get the most out of image-processing programs. What’s more, the better the in-camera image, the less work you need to do sitting on your butt at your computer—and the more time you can spend outdoors making pictures.


Sure, I use all the digital-imaging technology that’s available, but getting it right in-camera is first and foremost, which is the first thing I tell the participants on my photo workshops.

In this article, I will offer some advice for getting the best in-camera image. To illustrate my points, I will share some images from a recent China photo workshop I led with my good friend Ken Koskela.

Here goes!

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