One of the first things you come across in photography is F-stop (from focal length "focal length"). It, as a measurement of the lens, is an important part of the…

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How bright flashes in the eyes change a photo
You have chosen the model’s pose, set the lighting and found the desired shooting angle. Everything seems to be fine. Your model is motionless, looking into the lens with a…

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Using neutral density gradient filters in landscape photography
To take pictures of the landscape at the golden hour, you need to get up early or lie down later. In addition, in this hour you will not go far,…

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How to correctly expose a photo

There are different views on what can be called a properly exposed picture. For example, the following wording is most often found: “Each photograph should preserve the entire range of tones without loss of detail in light and dark areas.”

A Google search on this topic offers the following definition: “The correct exposure consists in such a combination of aperture settings, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, which allows you to get a perfectly exposed image on which nothing is highlighted and is not lost in the shade.”

Can creative self-expression be regarded as correct?

The art of photography in its best samples is a creative expression of how we perceive what we see. Our worldview is unique. Each of us has the ability to interpret and transmit experience through the photographs that he takes.

The natural part of photography, like art, is the freedom to expose the image in such a way that some of its parts are not quite clear and detailed. If we restrict ourselves to technical requirements, creativity will be suppressed. Do not ignore the technical quality – it’s the same as throwing out a child with water. But try to go beyond purely technical limitations and expose your photos so that they turn out to be more expressive than what they reflect.

If you follow the statement that photographs are best taken with exposure without loss of detail, you can get a cold photo document of what you are shooting as a result. This approach to shooting, most likely, will not fill your photos with real life, emotions and energy.

Bell shaped bar graph

A bell-shaped histogram shows that the camera captures many mid-range tones and extremely few too dark or light tones. The statement “an ideal histogram should be in the shape of a bell” is one of the most common myths. Striving for a bell-shaped histogram will not produce the most interesting photographs. Sometimes you may be able to get a great image, but it will not be often.

In the photo above you can see that the histogram of the image is quite balanced. There are no peaks on either left or right. This indicates that we will see details in the darkest and brightest parts of the composition. The photograph was taken at noon on a cloudy day. Since the light was soft and even, and all the tones in the composition were rather neutral, the result was a “correct” exposure. If the histogram shape of the bell is considered ideal, you can look at this histogram and decide that the photo is extremely underexposed. You can even delete this photo as defective based on this information only.

In the next photo – the same statue, photographed in the bright sun in the middle of the day. However, this is a much more attractive photograph than the previous one that was taken on a cloudy day. The photographer specifically wanted to lose detail in the shadows, separate the statue from the dull background and add some drama.

The choice of exposure is as personal a matter as the favorite taste of ice cream

The desire to create photographs with only a uniform exposure in the entire range of tones is the same as eating only vanilla ice cream and always ignoring all other tastes. Talented photographs express what the photographer sees and feels. Sometimes they are technically correct, but more often not. Everything rests on the plan of the photographer.

If you want most of your composition to go dark – this is your choice. If you want to strengthen the shadow areas, do it. If the light entering the lens illuminates the back of the object and at the same time creates softness and depth of feelings, so be it.

Do not focus only on technical details.

Before you bring the camera to your eyes, you need to see the light. Consider the brightest parts of the scene. Are they important? Do you need to show the details in them, will they help you convey what you want to say with your photo? Similarly, for the dark areas of your picture – if there are a lot of distracting elements in the shadow – let them be hidden in the dark.

In the photo above, behind the woman and the elephant, there was a large open building casting a shadow over its dirty facade. The photographer took such a position to see only the shaded area behind the subject, and to separate them from the unnecessary background. He set up the exposure for the woman’s face, as this is the most important part of the composition.

The fact that the background is dark and contains no details helps make this photo more expressive. Understanding light and tone will help you get more interesting exposure. Knowing how the camera measures and records light and tone is also important. The subject of the next article in this series is how to manage exposure. What is the most important element in a composition? Determining which subject is key in the composition is an important decision when shooting.

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