If you live in the northern hemisphere, hopefully you can get out and get some great winter photos. But have you ever come home with what you think are great images of the snow and winter scene, only to have a bunch of grey images? Does it mean your camera is broken?
Nope, it’s just doing its job. Your job is to read the information it gives you and adjust according to your scene.
Know how your camera meter works
The first step is to know and understand how your camera meter works. The meter in your camera measures the light reflected off the subject and sets the exposure to make it 18% gray, or middle gray. If you look at the histogram, the areas of black are represented on the left and white is on the extreme right – leaving the center for middle grey. See images below and How to Read and Use Histograms for more information.
The issue is that when you have a subject that is NOT grey, or middle brightness tones of any color, the camera will expose to make it grey. This is where you must interpret the information and adjust the exposure either up or down according to the subject. Here are two examples:
The camera is overexposing the black subject to try and make it grey – so to compensate use your Exposure Compensation “+/-” if using Aperture or Shutter Priority modes, or just make sure the needle goes more to the minus side if you’re shooting in Manual mode.
Here’s the corrected version for black
To correct the image below was shot at -1.33 Exposure Compensation in Av (A) mode, to darken it. Think minus (-) = less, or darker.
Back to the grey snow problem!
Here’s the corrected version for white
To correct the image below was shot at +1 Exposure Compensation in Av (A) mode, to override the meter and lighten the image. Think plus (+) = more, or lighter.
Bottom line – what to trust
Do NOT trust the camera display for checking your exposure, and know how to adjust if the camera gets it wrong. It’s not that the camera isn’t working right, or doing its job, it’s just getting fooled with tricky subject matter.
DO trust the histogram and learn to read it and use it to get proper exposures. This is even more key if you are shooting JPGs. For RAW files you have a lot more latitude, and they are a lot more forgiving if you need to correct the exposure. For more on RAW vs JPG read this.
The cat in the picture is Boo. After 18 years, her and her companion passed away. It’s been just one year since I wrote Photograph Your Loved ones, sharing their lives through photographs.
Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for some last minute shopping ideas for the photography buff on your shopping list, or spurge and get yourself something!
I want to wish you a Happy Christmas Eve! My plans for today are cooking, having a drink with some old work associates, and then stuffing myself at my mom’s annual dinner. Everyone brings way too much food, and we eat way too much of it and groan on the couch afterwards, and maybe play some old fashioned board games. Good times! I hope you have something equally exciting planned.
If you have any last minute Christmas shopping to do, and you want to get something for that photography buff on your list here’s a few ideas for you. Some have time limited special offers so don’t miss them if you want it – grab it now. Or maybe grab a couple for yourself, you deserve it!
My new virtual, self-paced online photography course - 4 Weeks to Better Photography (only valid until Dec 27th at midnight) Use the code xmas-12days-fYeB to get $12 off!
- Photomatix, my HDR program of choice – use the code HerXmas20 for 20% off (expires Dec 27th, 2013)
- Digital Photography School’s 12 days of xmas sale items – some of the items may not be available any more but sign up for special notices in case any are offered again!
- Digital Photography School’s eBooks
- Patel ebooks – use the discount code 20xmas13 to get 20% off (only valid until Dec 25th, 2013) Go for The Complete Collection of 19 eBooks for only $60!
- PhotoWhoa – Products to help you become an awesome photographer
- Photography Concentrate – photography tutorials and how to guides
- Topaz plug ins – my favourite for use with Photomatix and Lightroom for great HDR. THey have any available, check out the whole range
- Zenfolio – build yourself a website or portfolio to share your images, starting at only $30/year, great value! I use them for my portfolio site!
- NAPP – National Association of Photoshop Professionals – everything you need to learn and get good at Photoshop: 10 magazines yearly, online tutorials, help desk (worth the price alone!), and exclusive discounts for members only $99/year in the US.
- Kelby Training - “online education for creative people” $199/year or $24.95 monthly (cancel any time)
- Flatbooks – Clever eBooks for theCurious Mind – use the discount code FB-2586-4FKO to get 30% off
Here’s a few more winter photos to enjoy