Photography: Decent Exposure

Today will be all about something known as Dynamic Range. This term refers to the difference between the darkest and lightest tones in a scene. Having a high dynamic range isn’t necessarily bad – and the types of image that it’s Ok in don’t need rescuing.

Sometimes, however, you are faced with a scene where you know that you may need the wizardry of your digital camera settings to capture the scene as you’d like it to appear. Why might you need wizardry? Well, the problem is that your human eye can cope with a much wider range of contrast than your camera can. A bright sky that looks OK to your eyes might appear almost white in a photo. Certainly, any cloud detail in the sky could be ‘blown out’. Similarly, your camera might not be capture the details in the shadows if the contrast is too great.

What I am showing is some examples of what I mean and how I’ve used a technique called exposure bracketing to create an image that reveals the best of both worlds. All that means is that I use a tripod and take, say three photos of the scene – one normal exposure, one under-exposed and one over-exposed. With most digital cameras you can let the camera do it. With some cameras you can do this and the camera will produce a merged image for you. Other cameras simply store the three images for you to merge in your post-processing software.

This over-exposed photograph of the South Stack Lighthouse on Holy Island, Anglesey in Wales is one of three that I took using my camera settings for exposure bracketing.

On the other hand, this is the under-exposed version of the same scene.

This is the Normal photo. I should have checked my preview before I started but the bracketing process sorted that error anyway.

This is the version produced by exposure bracketing. The sky detail has been preserved and the detail in the shadows has been rescued. I still wasn’t happy so I cropped out the clifftop distractions.

The final shot – bracketed and cropped.

This is the Normally exposed shot from a bracketed group of photos shot at daybreak. The scene is the lone tree at Lake Buttermere in the English Lake District.

This is the bracketed version after merging.

To close, this is an under-exposed photo from a group of five photos of the disused Twr Mawr Lighthouse on Ynys Llanddwyn, Anglesey. I’ve used the merged version as my featured photo today. You may notice that I’ve also cropped out the photographer and his tripod and removed a sensor spot in the sea part of the image.

I’ve not decided what my next subject is going to be, but I’d like to move on from generalities to specifics of technique to use for different types of photography that I’ve tried. I haven’t tried every technique but I’ll tell all about those that I have had a go at.

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