Photo Tip Friday: Learning to Deal with Over or Under Exposed Photos, Part 2

by Mary Denman    @MaryDenman 

Belfort, France by Mary Denman Photography

Have you ever had photos that were washed out or too dark to really enjoy? Then you've had a problem with under or over exposed pictures.

Last week, I took a more technical approach. Learn about the relationship between ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed (Time) in Part 1. You'll find a link at the bottom of today's tip.

Today's tip is actually really simple and very easy to apply. 

It's understanding where your camera focuses and how that affects the exposure.Let's get started.
I've encountered many people who take sunset or sunrise pictures, only to be upset with how they turned out. What they didn't understand is how their camera read the light or took a meter reading of the light

When you have your camera set on Automatic or in a Program mode, the camera has to read the amount of the light in the picture in order to calculate the aperture and shutter speed to capture the best shot for your ISO. 

So how does a camera do this? It's simple.

It reads the light where you tell it to focus. 

What does this mean for you? 

TIP 1: For a DSLR, notice where your camera is focusing. This is where it's reading the light and decides the exposure.

How? While looking through your view finder, depress the picture taking button half-way down. This will light up the red dots in your view finder. Now do you see what the camera is seeing? 

Grab your camera and try this. 

Now that you understand that, let me show you how to use your newly acquired knowledge to take the shots you want! 

Let's consider Collage 1 below. 

These pictures have not been altered. These are straight out of my camera. 

Collage 1: Understanding where your camera focuses by Mary Denman Photography
Look at the difference in the shots! 

In the first photo where the color is more saturated, I focused on the brightest part of the picture. The sun. 

Because the sun is the lightest part, the camera decided to take a faster shot to compensate for the brightness. As a result of that, look at the buildings at the bottom in picture one and see how dark they are. They're silhouettes. 

In the second photo, I focused away from the sun and made the camera think the picture was not quite as bright which made it take a longer exposure. This resulted in more light being let in and you can see more of the city, even the snow on the roofs. But the area around the sun is more washed out.

How did I do this? Glad you asked. 

TIP 2: Learn to depress the picture button half-way down and then reposition the camera.

In photo 1, I focused on the sun and took the shot. 

In photo 2, I focused on the area below the sun, depressed the button half-way, then repositioned the camera to get the composition I wanted. 

But I can illustrate the idea of repositioning the camera more clearly with the next collage. 

Consider Collage 2 below.

Collage 2: Understanding where your camera focuses by Mary Denman Photography

How did I get such very different images by standing in one spot and taking two pictures? By where I focused and where I positioned the camera. 

In photo 1, I simply took the picture as it looks. I focused in the middle and the camera read the light off the snow, and it said, "It's very bright." Then, it used a fast shutter speed. The snow has great detail.

In photo 2, I wanted to change the lighting so I focused where the arrow is pointing. On the rocks at the top of the opening. Notice it's the in focus part of the photo. Once I depressed it half-way down, that locked the metering, and then I moved the camera to frame the picture as I wanted. 

By learning to actively watch where your camera is focusing can make all the difference in the world for capturing the shot you WANT to take. 

But how does this apply to cell phones? Glad you asked.

TIP 3: On a cell phone, control how it reads light by where you focus. You can touch anywhere on the screen to tell it to focus. This can actually be a little easier than on a DSLR. 

Pull out your phone and try it. 

So, play around with your camera and get more comfortable with it. 

Then, apply these tips and watch your photography improve rather quickly. 

Hope these tips help.

Keep on clicking!



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  1. You always have great hints for getting the best photos, I am finding some settings on my iphone to help me as well.
    Thank you for stopping by Friday Feature @Oh My Heartsie Girl this week!
    ♥Happy Valentines♥!!

  2. With my iphone, I can now add more or less light exposure after the photo is taken.