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Balancing Exposure

Lesson 3 from: Photography Essentials: Getting Your Best Shots

Sean Dalton

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Lesson Info

3. Balancing Exposure

Lesson Info

Balancing Exposure

balancing our exposure actually becomes quite easy once we understand aperture shutter speed and I. S. O. The three things that control the amount of light entering our camera. So how do we know if we have a balanced exposure, how do we know that there's going to be the perfect amount of light entering the camera? Not too much or not too little. Well the camera actually tells us how much light is entering the camera and it tells us that with a cool little feature called the light meter. Now, all cameras have a light meter, um some of them have it on top, like this one and then they also have it in the viewfinder. So when you look through the viewfinder and you have pressed the shutter button to focus, the light meter will pop up on the bottom. And if you have a mere lys camera um that will be the same thing. Once you look into the electronic viewfinder, you will see the little light meter on the bottom there. So what is the light meter? Essentially the light meter is just a little line...

um that has a few numbers on it and it tells you how exposed your images. So, and there's a little indicator that moves from left to right, um showing you where your exposure is in accordance to that line. So if your indicator is to the right of that center point on the line, that means your image is overexposed. And if it is to the left of the center, that means your image is underexposed and a good rule of thumb is just try to keep that indicator right in the center. And that's how you know that you pretty much have a balanced exposure. So the light meter is essentially how you know if your image is balanced but how do we know which settings to choose? How do we know if we want to have a fast shutter speed or a slower shutter speed or a wide aperture shallow aperture? How do we balance those things and get the creative look that we want? I think the best way to understand this um is with some real world examples. So say for example I'm shooting a portrait of my friend, remember that we said I. S. O. Is the last resort. So we want to keep I. S. O. As low as possible. So I'm gonna set that to 100. The next thing I'm gonna do is set my aperture to 1.4. And the reason I'm setting my aperture at 1. is because I want to have a really shallow depth of field. I want to use aperture creatively and blur the background behind her and make everything look really cool. And that's my first thought right? My first thought is creative. It's it's to capture that blurry background um and isolate my subject. So now we have an I. S. O. Of 100 an aperture of 1.4 which is really wide which means that there's a lot of light entering our camera. So now in order for me to balance my exposure and ensure that we're not getting too much light in our image. I need to make my shutter speed faster and I'm going to adjust my exposure with shutter speed. So in this situation you know because I'm not shooting a moving subject, I really don't care how fast or how slow my shutter speed is. So I'm only using it to balance out my exposure. So in this case because we have a lot of light entering the camera, I'm gonna make that shutter speed really fast all the way um at 14 thousands of a second and that will Balance out the exposure perfectly. Now let's move on to another example let's say I want to shoot a landscape and I want to have everything in the image in focus and I want it to be really sharp. So once again I'm gonna set my eyes so I'm gonna leave it as low as possible. Um at 100 the next thing I'm gonna do is set my aperture and I'm gonna set my aperture to a number that is going to assure that I have nice sharpness throughout the photo. All the way from the foreground to the background. Um And in this case I'm gonna try F. 16. That's a pretty small aperture and that'll really make sure everything is in focus and give us a really really deep depth of field. So now because my aperture is so small and the I. S. O. Is so low we really don't have that much light entering the camera. So in order to balance my shutter speed instead of making my shutter speeds faster like I did when I was shooting the portrait I need to make my shutter speed lower to make sure that we have enough light entering the camera. But now remember if you drop your shutter speed below 1/100 of a second. Um then you're gonna have camera shake in your image and then your image is gonna be blurry. And that's why landscape photographers use a tripod is because they're always shooting really high apertures and they want to ensure that they have crisp photos. So they put their camera on a tripod it doesn't move at all and they can use whatever shutter speed they want doesn't matter how slow it is. Um They're gonna be able to get everything in a nice sharp focus. So for the last example let's talk about shooting a portrait at night right? So we're we don't have a lot of light. Um And we're working in a really low light environment and it's these situations where you really need to understand how to properly use your camera in order to come away with a beautiful image. So say it's really dark outside And my lens is set to f. four. Um A lot of lenses that you're gonna buy in the beginning. The maximum aperture is gonna be F. Four which is not super wide. But it's it's not bad either. That still lets in a decent amount of light. And I've dropped my shutter speed down to 1/1 100th of a second. And once again I can't really go any lower than that because if I go lower than that then I'm gonna get camera shaking my photo. I don't have a tripod to stabilize the camera. So that is the slowest shutter speed that I can go um while still maintaining sharpness throughout the frame. So I've set my aperture I've set my shutter speed but there's still not enough light entering the camera and I really need to get this shot. So what do you do while you turn to I. S. O. Which is the last resort. Um And we increase our I. S. O. To balance out our exposure. So when I. S. O. Of it might not be enough. So I'm gonna go up to 400. Um And if we still don't have enough light entering the camera go up to 800. Um And once again you just keep going until you're sure you have enough light entering the camera. So in short ensuring the proper exposure is just you creating a balance between these three things. And once you understand how to create that balance, you're gonna be able to capture any image you want to capture. So whatever you got to shoot, you need to determine what the most important thing is. Are you trying to freeze motion? Are you a sports photographer and no matter what you need to freeze motion? Or are you just trying to get an artistic shot with the shallow depth of field? Identify that first, identify which is more important to you. Um And then adjust the settings based on that for me, I typically like to shoot at a wide aperture whether I'm shooting food or portraits or street. I like to shoot with a wide aperture of F 1.4 or F 1.8. And that's just because I like that shallow depth of field. So because I always have my aperture set to that well then I just adjust shutter speed to balance my exposure. So I'm really not thinking about camera settings that much, I set my aperture and then I just adjust my shutter speed to make sure that the exposure is good. And then once again if I'm shooting in a really dark environment um then I will just increase my I. S. So if I need to. But honestly I really adjust my S. O. Because I simply don't need to you know sports photographers, they're not worried about aperture as much as they're worried about shutter speed. Um And food photographers could care less about shutter speed but they really care about aperture because that is really really gonna determine the sharpness of the food and where they have their focus and things like that.

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