Pragmatic Photography 101: exposure basics; not too dark, not too bright

So why exposure second?  Well, it’s more complicated, and you’ll probably want pictures that are in focus first before you start figuring out why your photos are too dark or too bright.

Concept 1: Using exposure compensation in shutter priority to control exposure ( how dark / bright the photo is).

So in the previous tutorial we used shutter priority to help us understand / control motion blur, and at which point we would get blurry images because the shutter was too slow.  Here we’re going to use the same shutter priority mode, but we’re going to add in exposure compensation to change how bright or dark the scene is.

Exposure compensation is a setting that let’s you manually override the automatic suggestions your camera is going to make on how bright or dark an image should be (we’ll use the term exposure going forward).  So if you are shooting in automatic mode (often called “P” on most cameras), and an image is coming out under exposed (too dark) or over exposed (too bright), you can use exposure compensation to override the cameras settings.  Exposure compensation also works for Shutter Priority mode and Aperture priority mode.

[Assignment 1]: Look for a high key (scene that has a lot of bright or white tones), set your shutter speed to a level that will contain blur (likely over 1/250th if something is moving), and then use exposure compensation to get the right exposure.

[Assignment 2]: Now look for a low key scene (one that contains a lot of dark colors), and set your shutter speed to contain motion blur, then use your exposure compensation to get a proper exposure.

Exposure Compensation - Shutter Priority - Panasonic GH5
In this shot, I set the shutter speed to 200 to make sure nothing would blur. Then I just focused on the fitness tracker / airpods and let the camera choose the exposure. It did a surprisingly good job, but there a few bright spots in the image.

[Assignment 3]: Take things a step further and learn how to control exposure while in Aperture priority mode.  If you set your aperture to something low like f1.4 or 2.8 you’ll blur everything thats behind your subject.  If you set it to something like f5.6 or f8 you’ll see a lot more of the photo in focus.  Then use exposure compensation to take a photo thats over-exposed and one that’s under-exposed.  Try it in high-key and low-key settings.

Aperture and Shutter Priority - Panasonic GH5

[Additional Resources]:

In this section I try to include a variety of high quality reference blog posts that might do a better job than I have of explaining the underlying concepts.

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