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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 85 of 107

Adjusting Exposure


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 85 of 107

Adjusting Exposure


Lesson Info

Adjusting Exposure

With exposure, modern cameras are very lenient with getting the wrong exposure, and so there's a lot of tools in here that you can use for correcting them. So first off, sometimes images just aren't bright enough. We do want an image that's nice and easy to see, and in some cases it's just raising the exposure. And this is just ... I missed the exposure by a stop when I actually shot this. And if you miss it by a stop ... wrong ... Don't do it again. But you can fix it. It's not that big a deal. One stop is not that big a deal to deal with. But once again, you don't want to go out and purposely, or unnecessarily, underexpose your images because if you try to brighten them up afterwards, you're trying to brighten up areas that don't have a lot of information, and you're gonna get a ton of noise. If you had just shot it properly, it's gonna look a lot cleaner. So you should always be striving for the proper exposure when you're out in the field in this case. Looking at your histogram, th...

ere's gonna be different controls, and the exposure is not necessarily the best because what's it's doing is it's moving all the pixels darker and all the pixels brighter, and so it's a little bit crude in that regard. It's a global adjustment. It's adjusting everything that's going on. These other adjustments are gonna target one area, and they'll have what I like to call a rubber band effect on everything else. And so, maybe the whites get moved up brighter. It's gonna bring up the exposure part just a little bit, and it's gonna hardly touch the ones at the other end of the spectrum. At the top of the histogram in Lightroom is an area for turning on the clipping where you can see areas that had been lost in highlights and shadows. And that might give you some direction when it comes to how much an image needs to be processed. Now this image here just has some areas of brightness and darkness that are very, very extreme. And it's perfectly okay. There's just not that much information in the highlights. And deep in those shadows, there's not a lot of information that we're realistically gonna get out of this image. And so that's the type of thing that you can click on and off to really check out your image in another way. How much information have you lost? And you can leave this turned on as you're making your adjustments to see how much information you are rescuing at that particular time. And so the histogram is an important tool to keep open and looking at. And so an image like this in the desert, you'll notice the histogram down here. It's a relatively small exposure range. We're not even close to the edges with the blacks and the whites. And so we can add a little bit of contrast to this. We can increase the whites. We can decrease the blacks. And when we get a little bit more contrast, our picture has a little bit more snap to it. It's got a little better look to it, a little better contrast and color to it. And it's a good improvement that, I think, helps these types of images. And so playing with that contrast, if it's a relatively even tone, and doesn't have a wide range is an easy first step to go with. Probably my favorite slider is shadow detail. And what this does is it targets areas in the shadows, and tries to make them lighter without affecting too many of the other things in the photograph. And so let me go back and forth between the original photograph and one where I just adjusted the shadow detail. And so bringing up those highlights in the middle brings our eyes more in to the people that we want to see in the middle of the frame. And so what we're doing in this is we're just raising the shadow levels up. And it's looking over the entire frame right now at the shadows. So it is what's considered a global adjustment. And it's just looking at that darker area which happens to be in the middle there 'cause it's kinda in between to doors of light. So this picture was a little bit on the dark side, and I needed to do a number of things to adjust it. But it was the shadow recovery that gave me the most amount of information back on this. And so I did have to adjust the exposure, but it was that shadow slider that I really had to crank up, in this case, to get some more detailed information in those side buildings which was lost in the shadows. Shooting portraits can be challenging 'cause you want the entire face to look good. Over on the left-hand side of the screen we have a few too many highlights on the forehead and on the face. And so to fix that up, what I've done is I've gone into the whites, which is the brightest of lights, and then there's highlights right after them. And drag those down a little bit to the left to make the highlights darker so that the skin tone is a little bit more smooth there, and we don't have those glossy reflection areas to some degree. And so a little bit of adjustment when you get those bright spots. And that can happen in portrait photography. It can happen in landscape photography. Up at the top of Mount Rainier there, there are some glaciers that are really reflecting off a lot of light. And when you shoot with a raw image, you are collecting a lot of data that you can work with, and you can pull that back a little bit going to the whites and the highlights, and pulling those back a little bit. Hopefully you don't have to pull them back too far. But you can pull them back a little bit. Local adjustments are not to the whole frame. They're to a certain area of the frame. And there's a number of adjustments that you can make in this regard. One of them is the graduated filter. And I try not to use this as a substitute to the real filter out in the field because if you don't use this out in the real world, you might end up with completely overexposed sky. And if it's blown out pure white, there's no resurrecting it. If it's just a little bit brighter than you would like, you can tone it down a little bit, and you basically get to choose everything above a certain line or range of a line, and it can all be darker. For instance, in the image on the right, we just darkened it by about one stop or so to give it a little bit more color and detail. In this case, I actually used it reverse 'cause I wanted to lighten up the foreground so that you could see the foreground a little bit more easily. I got the background correctly Just wanted a little bit more light in the foreground. And so these local adjustments can be used for touching up images quite easily. And it's so much easier these days. I remember back many, many years ago in the darkroom, trying to figure out exactly how many seconds I was burning in this and dodging this area here. And then once you got it right once, and you wanted to make another print, you'd have to remember exactly what you did during that two-minute exposure. And now we can replicate ourselves and record what we do so easily, it's fun. Alright, so with a portrait photograph, what I'm often doing is doing a vignette in some ways. And this is a different way of doing a vignette is with a radial filter. And what I'm doing is I am keeping the brightness of her face the same, and I'm darkening in everything else around that oval. And you can create any size circle, any size oval where you want it. And it does this nice soft graduate filter out there. And I like it 'cause it's just barely detectable that you used it at all, and it just makes the photo read a little bit more simply and cleanly. In this case I wanted to adjust my image just a little bit more on this. And the pathway in fills up a lot of the frame, and it's actually the flowers, but I liked the symmetry of this shot. And so what I did, I just wanted to choose this pathway and darken it a little bit and just tone it down. And so what I did is I selectively used a brush to brush in the area of that pathway just to darken it a little bit. I felt it looked a little bit better. It drew your eyes over to the flowers a little bit more. And so those are types of adjustments that I make on photos on a fairly regular basis. I don't usually do that much that much of the time. But just a little bit here and there, just edging your photos to one direction or the other can have a big improvement on them.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan