Last summer I bought another DSLR for myself.
Modern cameras are easy to use if one is content with the basics as the automated technology doesn’t demand a lot of study. Nevertheless, I purchased a manual written by well-known photographer and writer, Thom Hogan. For those like me that are more interested in photography than just point-and-shoot documentaries a long read of any of his books on cameras, beginning to end, is a delight.
I had already gone through the choppy handbook that came with the camera, but Hogan’s manual delved into more “how and why” than just how the camera works.
I spent an evening reading and going over my camera and decided to pause at the chapter on Metering. It began with, “Metering determines how the camera sets the exposure” and “the Options available are Matrix, Centre-weighted, Spot and Highlight weighted”. That was all familiar, and I poured a glass of wine and sat back to listen to some music as I pondered Mr. Hogan’s book.
There are lots of things to think about at day’s end, but it’s always fun when I can think about photography as I drift off to sleep. In the morning I had zoomed through a couple more pages and was in the mood to talk about what I had read when my friend Drew dropped by my shop. He had brought an old camera advertisement that a friend he met for coffee had given him. Drew has decided it would be fun to look for the original Canon 5D that has now been around for 15 years. That old 5D (once Canon’s flagship model) is now dated and will be an inexpensive purchase.
I had just spoken to a caller about a problem with a camera and Drew and I got talking about differences between that old 5D and a Mirrorless I had recently sold, and we were wondering how each camera would deal with the bright sun coming through my shop window.
Digital camera sensors can have a dynamic range of eight or more stops nowadays. That is the range from overexposure to underexposure. (Dynamic range is defined as the ability of your sensor to retain detail in the shadow area as well as in the highlights).
The Shutter allows light to reach the sensor for a longer or short duration, and opening or closing the Aperture lets in more or less light.
I tell beginning photographers to experiment by making test shots in different lighting using a neutral colored subject (like weathered wood on an old building) and check their histogram after each exposure to learn how a camera’s meter works.
Before I retired I spent my weekends photographing weddings. My main subjects were usually one wearing black and one wearing white.
If I aimed my meter at the black coat the white dress could be overexposed. If I used the white subject for my exposure the black may be underexposed. I wanted to see detail in both, and I would select an exposure about halfway between. A good rule-of-thumb that one might use is, “Black is about two stops under, and white is about two stops over”. That isn’t exact, but close enough most of the time.
Digital cameras usually record an amazing amount of detail in the shadows, but once there are overexposed highlights the detail is gone forever. I would rather under expose a bit than have overexposed areas. And unless I am photographing moving subjects I will choose the lowest ISO I can get away with to capture the greatest possible dynamic range. Remember, that is the capability of the camera to capture both detail in the shadow areas and the highlight areas.
Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week.
Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.