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Exposure Modes

Lesson 34 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

Exposure Modes

Lesson 34 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

34. Exposure Modes

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructor discusses the different exposure modes on a camera, including auto modes (green auto zone, P mode), semi-auto modes (shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode), and manual mode. He explains how each mode works, the advantages and limitations of each mode, and provides guidance on when to use each mode. He also discusses exposure compensation and the use of histograms to determine proper exposure.


  1. What are the different exposure modes discussed in the lesson?

    The different exposure modes discussed in the lesson are auto modes (green auto zone, P mode), semi-auto modes (shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode), and manual mode.

  2. What is exposure compensation and when can it be used?

    Exposure compensation is a feature that allows the user to manually adjust the exposure settings determined by the camera in auto or semi-auto modes. It can be used to make photos brighter or darker than the camera's default settings.

  3. Can exposure compensation be used in manual mode?

    In most cameras, exposure compensation cannot be used in manual mode. However, some Nikon cameras allow for exposure compensation in manual mode by fooling the light meter.

  4. How can histograms be used to determine proper exposure?

    Histograms can be used to determine proper exposure by providing a graphical representation of the distribution of brightness levels in an image. By analyzing the histogram, photographers can ensure that the exposure is balanced and not overexposed or underexposed.

Next Lesson: Sunny 16 Rule


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Photographic Characteristics


Camera Types


Viewing System


Lens System


Shutter System


Shutter Speed Basics


Shutter Speed Effects


Camera & Lens Stabilization


Quiz: Shutter Speeds


Camera Settings Overview


Drive Mode & Buffer


Camera Settings - Details


Sensor Size: Basics


Sensor Sizes: Compared


The Sensor - Pixels


Sensor Size - ISO


Focal Length


Angle of View


Practicing Angle of View


Quiz: Focal Length


Fisheye Lens


Tilt & Shift Lens


Subject Zone


Lens Speed




Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Apertures


Lens Quality


Light Meter Basics




Quiz: Histogram


Dynamic Range


Exposure Modes


Sunny 16 Rule


Exposure Bracketing


Exposure Values


Quiz: Exposure


Focusing Basics


Auto Focus (AF)


Focus Points


Focus Tracking


Focusing Q&A


Manual Focus


Digital Focus Assistance


Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Depth of Field


DOF Preview & Focusing Screens


Lens Sharpness


Camera Movement


Advanced Techniques


Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance


Auto Focus Calibration


Focus Stacking


Quiz: Focus Problems


Camera Accessories


Lens Accessories


Lens Adaptors & Cleaning




Flash & Lighting






Being a Photographer


Natural Light: Direct Sunlight


Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight


Natural Light: Mixed


Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Quiz: Lighting


Light Management


Flash Fundamentals




Built-In & Add-On Flash


Off-Camera Flash


Off-Camera Flash For Portraits


Advanced Flash Techniques


Editing Assessments & Goals


Editing Set-Up


Importing Images


Organizing Your Images


Culling Images


Categories of Development


Adjusting Exposure


Remove Distractions


Cropping Your Images


Composition Basics


Point of View


Angle of View


Subject Placement


Framing Your Shot


Foreground & Background & Scale


Rule of Odds


Bad Composition


Multi-Shot Techniques


Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction


Human Vision vs The Camera


Visual Perception


Quiz: Visual Balance


Visual Drama


Elements of Design


Texture & Negative Space


Black & White & Color


The Photographic Process


Working the Shot


What Makes a Great Photograph?


Lesson Info

Exposure Modes

Alright, we are finally here ready to get in to the exposure modes on our camera. We have these mode dials on the top of our camera which allows us to adjust shutter speeds and apertures in a variety of ways. And we're gonna be talking about what each of these do and what I recommend and how best to use them. So most of the cameras have this sort of dial on it. Not all of them but most of them do. We're gonna have some manual modes that give you manual options and then we're gonna have some automatic modes where the camera is taking care of things for you. So when you have the camera in these auto modes you're gonna find that the camera is gonna control the exposure which means shutter speeds, apertures, ISOs. And then it sometimes goes in and controls the flash and the focusing system and the metering system and a lot of other things. Now what is frustrating about this for anybody who's come this far in the class is that there are a lot of child safety locks on all the features that y...

ou want to get in to. Like, I wanna change that metering system that he talked about. Sorry, you can't do that, you're not allowed to do that. And so that's the problem that a lot of people will have with this and so these cameras are designed for a wide variety of people. And if you are just picking up a camera, you don't know anything about photography, these auto modes will help you get good photos right out of the gate without any practice. And so the green auto zone on your camera is perfect for you when you're handing your camera to a friend. And say, would you take some photos of us? And you don't want them to mess up the camera, you just wanna take simple pictures, it's a great thing to have. And so it does limit you in what you can do. The first of the modes that gives you some control is P which stands for program. This is where the camera will set shutter speeds and apertures but it won't put the child safety locks on the rest of the photos or on the rest of the features in the camera. So you're allowed to go in and change the focusing system and the metering system and everything else. The camera is gonna choose what it thinks it needs when it comes to shutter speeds and apertures. So let's take a look at what the camera's going to do in a program mode. So as the sun level gets darker or it gets darker it's gonna probably use a slower shutter speed. And then at a certain point it kinda goes back and forth changing in shutter speeds and apertures, working them together until the lens is wide open, until it gets down to a fairly low shutter speed. And if it needs to go any lower it will go even lower than that. And so using those two things in connection with each other, it's a pretty wide range of exposure values that you can be shooting at. Wide range of lighting conditions that you can be shooting at. One of the things that is built in to these programs is it assumes you the photographer are hand holding the camera which means you probably need a 60th of a second if it doesn't know any other information. And so it tends to want to keep you at a 60th of a second or faster. It doesn't know if you need a 500th of a second 'cause you're shooting sports photography. It doesn't know if you're trying to shoot a river and you want a one second exposure. And it doesn't know if you're on a tripod. And so it's kind of a really dumnb thing and you'd think that these smart devices would have a lot more information about what we're doing but it still doesn't understand what you the artist is trying to do in a particular photograph. And so it's a very, very simplistic program that you do have to be careful of. Now an additional factor that you can put in here is what about ISO? Because there's a separate on/off switch on your camera in turning the ISO on your camera into auto or letting you manually change it. And so as I said before when we talked about ISO you can have this in the automatic mode. So as the light gets a little bit darker the camera would first go with shutter speeds. And then from there it would work with shutter speeds and apertures until it got down to that lowest shutter speed that it wants you to use. It would rarely go below a 30th of a second and then from there it would start bumping up the ISOs. And so where these break points are depends a little bit on the camera and possibly even the lens that you have on your camera. But if you wanted your camera in the most automated mode possible you'd but it in auto ISO and in the program mode and it's gonna be good for pretty much everything from shooting a black cat in a coal mine to landing on the sun. It's gonna be really good for a wide range of brightness situations. One of the good things about the program mode is that there is the option for Program Shift or flexible program, as some camera companies will call it. The main dial on your camera can be used for adjusting the shutter speeds and apertures. So let's say your camera gives you five sixths at a 60th of a second. I don't want a 60th of a second, I want something else. Well you can dial one of these dials and maybe dial it up to 500 if you have an f/2.0 lens and you can choose that. And if you said, no, I want more depth of field you could just dial in the settings that you want and take your photo. Now the problem is is that different companies have different standards and, see if I can remember this correctly, Canon is loosey. They tend to loose the information very quickly. So let's say I wanna take a portrait and I have my camera in the program mode. Well I don't want to shoot it at five sixths, I want to shoot it at 2.8 so I dial my dial, change it to 2.8, take a few photos, and then I decide, well, let's shoot some photos over here. I hold the camera back up to my eye and it's reset back to the original setting of 5.6. 'Cause that's the default setting. And every time it times out on the meter it goes back to its default setting. Which is really frustrating if you have a concept that you're trying to shoot, it just keeps going back to the standard and you have to keep adjusting your camera. Which is frustrating and you should never deal with that. Now if you have a Nikon camera, I know Nikon, Canon really well and I forget what the other ones do. But they're gonna do one of the two. So Nikon's kinda sticky, and so they say, oh, you wanna shoot with a wide open aperture, 2.8, well then I'm always gonna keep it there. And so the next time you go to program you pick it up it's shooting wide open at 2.8. But you might be shooting a landscape shot where you don't want 2.8 so you gotta be paying attention to those numbers. And so I don't know what the solution is. Because whether it resets or it's sticky, they're both mad in my mind. You have to be really thinking as a photographer. And so the program mode is something that I would regulate to quick, one off shots where you just are not that concerned about shutter speed and aperture. And you know sometimes when you're grabbing a quick picture of the birthday cake shutter speed and aperture aren't the most important thing. You just need something recorded right away and there are those cases and that's where the program mode works out quite careful. For your serious photography just be forewarned of the resets that your camera may have. Next up is shutter priority or time value, depending on what your camera models have on it. And this is where we get to choose the shutter speeds and the camera is gonna choose the aperture. And so if you're choosing the shutter speed the camera is gonna go up and down on the aperture to figure what's best out. If you want a fast shutter speed you dial it up to a thousandth of a second. And maybe you have a 1.4 lens where you can shoot with that, problem here is that you can easily dial your camera up to two thousandths of a second and maybe you don't have a lens that goes faster than 1. and guess what happens? Your camera lets you take the photo because you are in control of the camera and it told you there's nothing here for it to use. And what often happens is that the cameras will have a little, tiny plink, plink, plink. There's a little, tiny light that blinks and I'm trying to remember what are the different ones. I think on many of the cameras the aperture will blink. The 1.4 in this case would be blinking and it's your very subtle indication that you don't have enough aperture to work in this particular scenario. There might be an F number or something else that's blinking that's just a slight warning that you don't have enough light. This can also happen on the reverse end. If you were to try to choose a really long shutter speed and you camera doesn't have a small enough aperture for that it's still gonna allow you to take a photo but it's just gonna kinda blink that something's out of register. So anything blinking in a camera is probably an issue to be checked out. The blinkies, the shutter speed, the aperture. Anything that blinks check it out, that's not normal. There's nothing that normally blinks on a camera in that regard. And so I'm not a big fan of shutter priority unless it's in a very particular situation because it's very easy to have the camera do something you didn't intend it to do. Because you just happened to choose a setting that was outside the realm. Now one kind of exception with the shutter priority mode is that it does work pretty well with auto ISO. And so in the normal case where we go down to a thousandth of a second at f/1.4 and then we go a little beyond it, auto ISO would kick in and start solving that problem with setting a higher ISO. And so there's some bird photographers that'll be photographing birds in flight, fast action, and then they land in a dark tree and that's when the ISO kind of kicks up so that they can get their shot. And so there are times and places where shutter priority works but for the most part I tend to avoid it because of this potential problem. Next up is aperture priority, this is one of my favorite modes and I know a lot of photographers use this mode. This is where you get control of the aperture. So you have main control of your depth of field but you're keeping an eye on the shutter speeds as you change from one setting to the next. And so in this case when you set an aperture the camera will choose the shutter speed. And the beauty of this is that there are lots of shutter speeds to choose from on a camera because different shutter speeds are pretty easy, it's just more time or less time. Apertures are a little bit more difficult. We need glass and opening of lenses to do that. And so we have a lot more shutter speeds than we do apertures. So if you want a wide open aperture at 1. that's gonna allow us to shoot at shallow depth of field. It's also gonna give us faster shutter speed so that we can freeze motion. Alright, let's click it in the other direction, let's close our aperture down to f/22. Smallest setting on this particular setup. We're gonna get a slow shutter speed, this means we can maximize our depth of field and we can blur our motion. And we're gonna set it in the middle if we wanna maximize sharpness. And if you think about it, right here, from one end of the scale to the other is not very many clicks. You can get from one end to the other in one second if you're quick, two seconds if you're slow. And so you can do pretty much everything in the world of photography with just a couple of dial turns back and forth in the aperture priority mode. And there being so many different shutter speeds it is highly unlikely, nearly impossible, for you to get a bad exposure in that situation. So the modes that we have been talking about so far are the program, the shutter priority, and the aperture priority mode have something in common. These are all what are known as auto exposure modes. You're making a few of the decisions but the actual decision on how bright your subject is is being done by the camera. And you can have a little bit more say over it if you want and you're gonna need to dive in and work with the exposure indicator if you want to manipulate it and you're not happy with what the camera is giving in brightness. And so this is where you gotta go back in to your viewfinder and you're gonna be looking at your light meter. Whatever it looks like in your camera. Because, to start with, it's gonna be right in the middle and that's a great place for it to be. That's the standard starting point. So when a subject is evenly lit and it's of average brightness your indicator will be at the zero in the middle. Back in the old days some of us remember those cameras that had needles. And there was a little needle that you got between a certain scale and that meant you weren't too bright or you weren't too dark, you were right about where you were supposed to be. But now we're using the digital one and if it's darker than average it's gonna be on the minus side. Minus is dark, that's pretty easy to remember. If it's on the plus side it is brighter than average. And so you just simply have to remember that. So even exposure or evenly lit subject is gonna have it in the middle, if it's dark and light and averages out then it's the same thing, it's even in the middle. And so you can have all sorts of combinations where it's gonna average out. If it's predominantly dark, everybody in the class point to what side of the screen you think the light meter is gonna be on. Okay, we've got a lot of people pointing this direction over here, that's right because it's mostly a dark object. And in this case, which side are we gonna be on? Which side is the meter going on? Going over here, that's right, it's lighter than average. And so you just have to be aware when you're photographing something, is this a white wall or is this a black wall? Things like that. This is where you get to use the exposure/compensation dial or button on your camera. Most any good camera is gonna have a pretty quick and easy adjustment for you to make your picture a little bit lighter or a little bit darker. It varies from camera to camera. Alright, let's take practice at this. So I'm photographing these doors. These doors are painted white. They do not look white in this photograph because my camera doesn't understand white paint. It thinks everything is gray paint or gray. And so what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go to the exposure compensation dial or button on my camera, whatever it uses, and I'm gonna dial in something to the plus side. Now how far to go depends on the subject. In this case I'm gonna go plus one and it's gonna brighten up my subject. And what it's doing is, I'm telling the camera by doing this, this subject is brighter than average by one stop. 'Cause your camera thinks everything is middle tone and if something is brighter you need to tell your camera, hey, this is brighter or this is darker. Next up we have this scene here and our subjects are over exposed. This is a predominantly dark scene so I need to go in to my exposure/compensation and I need to dial it down and make it darker. And so in this case I'm gonna go all the way down to 2 stops darker because it is fairly dark. There's only a little bit of area that is normally lit in this case so this is a minus two exposure. Now I'm just going in full stops here for simplicity. It might be one and two thirds, it might be one and a third, or two thirds, one third, you have all those options for you I'm just trying to keep things simple in the class here. And so sometimes with subjects that are brighter we're telling the camera it's brighter and when subjects are darker we're telling the camera this is supposed to be a dark subject. And this is where a lot of students get confused because it's kind of counterintuitive. It's dark, aren't I supposed to make it brighter? No, you want to record it and show it for what it is for the most part. You need to tell the camera that it is darker. Now if you wanna show this in a completely different way, yes, you get to choose wherever you want this. But if you want to be faithful to how bright that subject is, you're telling the camera this is brighter than average and this is darker than average. Can it be very tricky. And so you need to get familiar with what it looks like when you overexpose and underexpose your images in slight ways. And so this is a good thing to do on a regular basis just to be aware of what it looks like over and under exposed and this is called bracketing, when you do this. You can manually bracket your images. We'll talk about auto bracketing at a certain point but you can manually bracket your series. And this is what people used to do back in the days of shooting film because if you got it wrong there was no going back in many cases. And so you'd shoot a few different exposures to make sure you got it right. And sometimes I will still do this just to make sure that I got exactly the right brightness collected in any one particular image. Alright let's dive in to full manual in this case. And so now is where we get full control of our shutter speeds and our apertures. Now we're gonna have to make a decision, what comes first? Shutter speeds or apertures? Every once in a while I'll get somebody who asks me that question and I tell them, think about it. It depends on what's most important to you in that particular photograph. And so it's gonna vary whether you're shooting something that's moving or something that needs depth of field, perhaps. If you were to go with apertures and you set an aperture of 5.6 that's fine, the next step is to change your shutter speed to the appropriate shutter speed. What's the appropriate shutter speed? Well that's where we use the light meter and we're gonna get that light meter over to the zero by moving the shutter speed. So let's move the shutter speed and we're just gonna keep moving that until the light meter zeroes out. And then we're gonna have what is probably the proper exposure. And what I say is, it probably is, I don't know. We're gonna probably have to take a shot and check it out. But with the light meter set at zero that's a good place to start. As we just talked about moments ago some things are brighter than average, some things are darker than average but this is a really good place to take your first photo as a test photo in manual exposure. So I like using manual exposure a lot of the time because I like consistent, accurate results. I hate inconsistent results, you know? You shoot something and it's good and the next photo, oh, it's not good Once I've figured out how to do something right let's just replicate it and make it very efficient in that regard. So a good example is here in Cuba. Alright, I wanna get a nice shot of this yellow taxi cab driving down the street. I'm gonna use manual exposure. Now in order to get this shot I'm gonna have to set shutter speeds, apertures and ISOs so let's talk about what we need to do on this. Usually the ISO at 100 is my first inherent step. Five six, don't need a lot of depth of field, that's fine, but I kinda need a fast shutter speed on this particular shot so 500th of a second, that seems pretty good. My light meter says that I am overexposed and so I go up to a thousandth of a second and that solves the problem and I'm now getting an even exposure. Now I did this before the car actually got here because it's driving down the street. The lighting here is fairly consistent. And so I wanted to get a series of photos of the car coming down the street so I figured this out on a previous car and then when it drove down the street I took a series of photos, not sure which one of those photos I was gonna like the most. Now as far as the exposure between these, they all look pretty good to me. But to the camera, if you could look over my shoulder at what the camera is reading, the camera is reading something different going on here. And I'd like to ask somebody, why is the camera doing this? What's going on that's causing the camera light meter change? And so right here by the microphone, what do you got? Because there's more sky in the picture as you move to the right? That's exactly right. So we have more sky over here than we do over here. Alright, and the camera doesn't understand subject verus background, that is like way over the camera's head. It doesn't understand that at all. All it understands is all the light coming in the camera. And so the lighting on the car itself has not changed in any significant way. And that's what's most important to me here and that's why manual exposure works better. If I had chosen auto exposure this is what it would've looked like. Can you see the subtle difference there? And so the camera would think that it's recording the right exposure in every case and it's getting this a little bit darker. And so if you have consistent lighting you should have consistent shutter speeds and apertures. If you can do a little test, if you have that time to do a test for a couple of photos and you're gonna be shooting under consistent lighting, yeah the light meter might be going up and down but that's just because of background and other information that may not be important to you. One of the easiest exposure situations in my mind is a basketball game. It's lit by indoor lights, there's a line where you know all the players are gonna spend their time, you know where they're gonna be. It's generally evenly lit and it doesn't change during the game. You figure out your shutter speeds and your apertures in warm up and it never changes the entire game. Don't worry, you're gonna have enough challenges with focusing, you don't have to worry about exposure in that particular case. That's a super easy case for exposure. Any time there's something that's going to happen that I want several photos of and the light's not gonna change, I dial in my shutter speeds and my apertures and I just stick with them. When I was at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, alright, I'm gonna get my camera all ready and I wanted lots of depth of field so I'm shooting at f/ and I believe in this case I was doing a lot of hand holding so I wanted a 60th of a second. And I'm a little on the overexposed side here because I'm shooting lots of snow that I want to be bright. In this case I'm able to move around and anyone who's been out to Old Faihful knows that it blows that steam up there for, you know, a minute, minute and a half, two minutes, you don't have a lot of time. But I wanted to try including a lot of different foregrounds and so all of these photos are at the same aperture and the same shutter speed. But I'm able to move around quite quickly. And favorite one was this one here and all of these same shutter speed, same aperture because it's under the same lighting. And I like taking the large one there, black and white, that was my favorite version of that. If you have consistent lighting then it's really smart to have consistent shutter speeds and apertures. So that's how it works in theory. I think we should probably take a look and see what is looks like in the real world. So we've shot a video that I go through kind of the same concept but in a real world situation. So I think we can go ahead and play that now. So we're inside Pritchard Beach Bath House now and we've got Rachel who is a circus performer and an expert yoga and fitness expert. And she's gonna be doing some handstands for us and I wanted to show you the difference of using program, aperture priority and manual and why manual works really well in a situation like this where the lighting is not changing and you wanna be very specific about your shutter speeds. So to start with I'm gonna put my camera in the most fully automated mode possible. What I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna leave it in the program mode, I'm gonna put the camera in auto ISO, let the camera figure that out. In the program mode the camera's gonna figure out the apertures and the shutter speeds and I'm gonna let everything up to the camera other than composing the shot. That's what I'm gonna do. So let's go ahead and have you get in to your first hand stand position and I'm gonna frame up my shot. And I'm not even gonna worry about my shutter speeds and apertures and take a couple of shots there. And now I'm gonna switch positions and we're gonna want to get a profile shot over here because we got another set of windows that looks pretty good here. And I think I need to get back a little bit right here. And I'm not worried about these shutter speeds and apertures at all. And let's go ahead and take a couple shots. Okay, that's very good Rachel, thank you very much. Now if I look at the photos they don't look too bad. They look okay but let's take a look at the data. Well the first picture was taken at a 50th of a second and I'm not sure that that's fast enough for where I would like to be shooting. It's also chosen an aperture of about 3.2 and I'm thinking I might like to have a little more depth of field than that. So it's not really the setting that I want to have. And as I look at the second settings the camera jumped down to one 25th of a second, that's one over 25, which is definitely lower than I want it to be. So if I start zooming in I'm probably gonna see a little bit of blurriness and it's at f/2. and that may not be the aperture that I wanna be at either. So you can see by just putting the camera in the automated mode the camera is giving you generalized, simple results which will be okay photos but they may not be exactly what you want. Alright so we saw in the previous example that the program mode wasn't giving us the results exactly as we wanted them so we're gonna switch over to the next, kind of, more manual mode and that is the aperture priority mode or aperture value mode. So now you get to have control over the aperture and you're gonna let the camera figure everything else out. And in this case I'm also gonna take the additional step of setting my ISO myself. So what I'm gonna do, Rachel I'll just have you stand there right now, I just wanna figure out my lighting. And so for my aperture, let's see. I want the windows not completely out of focus. I'm gonna go with an aperture of 5.6. It's kinda the middle, slightly wide open aperture. Now I'm using a 24 to 70 lens and I'm gonna suggest, well, let's see, if it's aperture priority I only get to choose the aperture. Camera's gonna figure out the shutter speed for me. Now we do have a fair bit of light in here but it's not really bright light. It's all over the place but it's not really bright light. So I'm just gonna bump my ISO from the standard setting of 100 on this camera to a little bit higher setting of 400. That seems like it would be right and as I set this up here not quite right, I'm still at a 40th of a second. So I'm gonna bump that up to 800 and now I'm at somewhere between an 80th and 100th of a second. It changes slightly because the lighting in the background is changing slightly. So I've got my camera set up, it's in aperture priority, f/5.6 and ISO 800. So we're gonna go ahead and do our shots. So let's go ahead and get in to the handstand position. And getting 100th of a second as I zoom out. Zoom in a little bit, it's at 100th or 125th so I'm gonna switch positions now and we're gonna go a side to side shot and I need to back up a little bit on this one here. And now I'm down at a 40th of a second and a 50th of a second, let's get down nice and low. All the way to the ground. Yeah, this looks really good here. But I'm down at a 60th of a second and that isn't where I wanted to be and aperture priority is not working out well because it keeps switching on me because I'm switching my backgrounds even though the lighting is the same on my subject. And I think this is where we're gonna wanna go in to full manual exposure. Alright, we saw in the previous example, in aperture priority how my shutter speeds were changing on me because the background was slightly changing as I changed my position. As you can see, this room that we're in, the light's not changing. People aren't flicking the lights on and off and it's pretty consistent, we don't have clouds moving in and out right now, it's all very consistent lighting. So pretty much everywhere we want to shoot in here it's gonna be the same shutter speed and aperture and I just need to figure out what that right combination is. Now I already said before that I thought that f/5. seemed good for this situation as far as my subject, the distance from me and the focal length lens that I'm using. And I'm about 50 to 60 millimeters, in case you're wondering on that part. Now shutter speed wise I wanna make sure these are sharp and we don't have a lot of movement and the biggest movement is just me holding the camera. I'm gonna switch my camera to manual and I'm gonna set a shutter speed of 125ths of a second. That's a good, hand holdable shutter speed. I can usually get away with a 60th of a second but I always like going one extra for safety. So that's what put me up at 125th of a second. If I know I'm at 5.6 and I wanna be at that leaves the last variable, ISO. I just have to work around with that one. I'm just gonna take a look in the back of my camera and I'm gonna adjust my ISO to where I think it looks about right for my light meter. And in this case it looks about right at a thousandth of a second so that's my settings. 125th of a second, a 5.6, at 1,000 ISO in this room I'm gonna get good shots whatever angle I wanna be at. Let's go ahead and get in the handstand position, and I'm gonna shoot a couple of shots 'cause I know these are the right exposure. Back a little bit, let's get behind, let's see. A little lower, that looks great. Let me switch positions quickly and we'll switch the leg positions, shoot around a 50 millimeter. And I think this looks good back here a little bit further and we got the feet right in the windows, perfect. And one more, really low, so we can avoid the cars in the parking lot outside. Okay, there we go. Shot a whole bunch of photos, they're all at exactly the same shutter speed and aperture 'cause we're in a consistent lighting situation. And on top of that we had the time to figure that out. So as we roll through our photos here you can see that we have very consistent lighting no matter which angle we're shooting at. So when you have a situation that you have a little bit of time to set up and you have consistent lighting and you are very specific about the shutter speeds and apertures you want, manual exposure is definitely the best way to go. Alright so hopefully that gives you a little bit of guidance in how to shoot when you're out there. And the big thing for me is just, do you have that little bit of time for manual exposure? Now to be honest with you when you get good you need barely any time at all. Most experienced photographers in their realm of what they're doing they just got their dials going in the right direction as they're walking in to the room in the right situation. And so there's a lot of people who can work with manual exposure and barely even need a light meter. They'll walk in to a room and they'll just know through experience what sort of shutter speeds and apertures they'll need and so once you start getting hooked on exposure your gonna get tied in to having control and consistent results. That's what I really like to teach in the class. So hopefully you've got that and can work with that going forward. So this is from Louise who says, can you explain why I can't use exposure compensation if I'm in manual mode? Well that will depend on the camera you have. In most cameras exposure compensation, okay. I'm gonna have to admit something, I'm just gonna come out right here live on air, when I got started in photography I didn't know how exposure compensation worked. I thought it just magically made photos brighter and darker, I didn't realize that in shutter priority, aperture priority, and program once your camera has control of the stuff it's just secretly changing the dials in the background. So when you're in aperture priority it just changes the shutter speeds that you would use to get lighter and darker photos. It's not really making your pictures lighter and darker but it is forcing the camera to make different choices on what it has a choice of. Now in manual exposure the camera doesn't have a choice. And so by you telling the camera, make it bright or make it darker, the camera's like, I got no control. Nothing I can do. Now there is an exception to this and I know it's Nikon cameras and there may be some other brands out there, you can use exposure compensation in the manual mode. If you set up your shutter speeds, your apertures and your ISOs and you take a photo and then you go over to exposure compensation and you adjust it and you take another photo, nothing is different But what is different is the light meter has then adjusted. So what you're doing is you're fooling the light meter in the Nikons. So you can choose, if you want to shoot a photo that is overexposed by one stop there's two ways you can do it. You can just overexpose it to the plus one side or you can change it over on the exposure compensation side and then you would be setting it to zero. And it all depends on how you want to think. Do you want to fool yourself or do you want to be honest about where you're setting these things? And so if you have a Nikon you can choose to fool yourself. And there might be a few other brands that you can do it with but that's why you don't use exposure compensation in manual. You can fool yourself or you can fool the camera. Alright, this is kind of similar to what you asked earlier. This is from Kevin703, do you use your histogram to drive where your exposure compensation should be? Yeah, your histogram would be a very good tool if you said, oh wait, this is an image that needs to be brighter than average, you could dial it up by a third and two thirds and if you're looking at that histogram you can know how far to go on that exposure compensation before, oops, I'm starting to get some clippy. And so then you would maybe back off by a third of a stop and shoot there so yeah the histogram is the most accurate, technical information and it's sometimes hard to rely on it. Myself, I've been out there and I'm like, okay, this looks good on the LCD but this next image looks good in the histogram and it's the histogram that's gonna matter. That is the truth detector, that tells you absolutely, technically, whether you've got the right exposure or not. Is there ever a time when the histogram is okay for it to go completely off to the right or to the left if you're taking a snow photo? Should I keep it within the histogram edges or is it okay? Well I think we did see the photograph, for instance, at the fire where there was two spikes on the left and right and with snow, snow can reflect a lot of light and not have much texture. And so it's possible, I don't wanna say that anything is not right to do with the histogram. It's an unusual situation, it's not the standard, I would say, and in those sorts of situations, kind of one of my defaults is maybe I'll shoot two photos, one here and one here, just in case it wasn't what I thought it was gonna be out in the field. Generally if you wanna see detail in the area that's when you don't want something on the edges.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Fundamentals of Photography Class Outline
Learning Projects Workbook
Camera Keynote PDF
Sensor Keynote PDF
Lens Keynote PDF
Exposure Keynote PDF
Focus Keynote PDF
Gadgets Keynote PDF
Lighting Keynote PDF
Editing Keynote PDF
Composition Keynote PDF
Photographic Vision Keynote PDF

Ratings and Reviews

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

Student Work