While the world is all amazed with 50MP full frame sensors and a bajillion autofocus points, you may be pleasantly surprised by some technologies that years ago were absolutely incredible and in some ways should be brought back to the world. We’re not talking about putting 1080p HD video into a DSLR, but instead we’re going back much further into time. Plus, we’re exploring how the focusing systems would work in today’s world.
We’re going to share with you a little fact about exposure and the way that your camera works. Are you ready?
First off, cameras are programmed to do specifically what you tell them to do. They’re not supposed to think and in fact, they can’t. If you tell it to take a photo of a scene, you have to figure out what parameters you’re telling it to use. Shooting in Auto? It’s going to do pretty much anything. Shooting in aperture priority? It will do a bit less work based on what you’re telling it to do. Shooting in manual gives you complete and full control over the results of the image, but again it’s doing what you tell it to and nothing more.
This is why working with a camera’s metering can be very frustrating when it comes to wanting to get the image that you actually have in your mind. But here’s how you navigate that problem.
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While many street photographers tend to shoot with their cameras in shutter or aperture priority, lots of street photographers shoot in manual mode. If you’re looking to give this a shot, then we recommend a very handy trick (literally) to make metering a scene and people in the scene even easier.
When you point your camera at someone, it’s bound to try to meter for skin or for the person. In that case, a good place to start is to point the camera and lens at your hand, take a meter reading and adjust the shutter speed, ISO and aperture based on this. Then depending on if your scene is more dominated by shadows or highlights, you fine tune the exposure from there before even putting the camera up to your eye to shoot.
By metering off your hand, you’re exposing for a similar subject in most likely similar lighting and you’re that much more likely to get the exposure correct the first time around. Plus, folks don’t think that you’re posing a threat to them.
Go ahead, try it out the next time you go to shoot street photography.
We’ve talked before about getting better sharpness and about getting better colors in your images, but now we’re tackling the subject of dynamic range. We’re going to start off by saying that not every single image needs to be an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image in order for you to want to get better dynamic range. Sometimes it really just depends on what you want to accomplish creatively. But you should also know that this has everything to do with knowing how to meter with your camera to begin with.
Back when I still had my photography training wheels and still mostly shot film, I developed this instinct to always change my aperture and shutter speed based on the environment. In New York, it’s not uncommon to walk from a building’s shadow to bright sunlight within a couple of feet. So instead of constantly relying on my metering then changing the settings, I would remember approximate values. This lead to me actually losing less opportunities to get the shot that I wanted instead of fumbling with my metering.
For a long time, I thought I was the only one who did it and I instilled that value into the rest of the site’s staff. But a video that I found on YouTube seems to reiterate exactly what I learned. A photographer wanted to use an old film camera that didn’t have a light meter. So what we had to do was learn the differences in the shadows and lighting then adapted his settings to the situation and location.
This is the simple concept behind the Sunny 16 rule, but it isn’t as exacting. Instead, you’ll get estimated values and you can then fix all the rest in post-production.
Check out the video after the jump.
Whether you’re thinking about getting into film, or you’ve magically picked up an old SLR and are confused about how to use it, hopefully this little guide can steer you in the right direction.
The actual process of shooting film isn’t that much different from digital. Assuming you understand how exposure works, then the principle is exactly the same.
If you come from shooting RAW on a digital camera then really you only lose three features.
– Ability to change ISO
– Ability to change White Balance.
– *shocker* Ability to preview your shot
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published at Peter Stewart’s blog. It has been syndicated with permission.