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Exposure Compensation or Centering the Needle?

Your Question

I am sort of confused as to how exposure compensation works along with adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, etc. for the reading the camera gives you. Let’s say you are using spot metering and measuring off a point on a persons face. Wouldn’t you just adjust the aperture and shutter speed as needed to center the needle and then take the photo? Isn’t adjusting those up or down a stop generally doing the same thing as moving the exposure compensation up or down?

Rowan’s Answer

You are right, they are exactly the same. You use Exposure Compensation to adjust brightness when you are shooting in Program, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority exposure modes. In Manual exposure mode, you simply adjust the needle wherever you want for the desired exposure–the camera setting for Exposure Compensation does nothing.


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Canon 50mm Lens

50mm Prime Lens

Other photographers frequently ask me if they should get a 50mm prime lens. The answer is yes. If you are the kind of person who just needs to be told what to do, there you have it – go buy a 50mm lens. If you need a few more reasons, keep reading.

Canon 50mm Lens

I own multiple 50mm lenses, and I never plan to be without one. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. The Plastic Fantastic is the cheapest lens I own. Nikon and Canon users can pick them up for $125.
2. At a maximum aperture of f/1.8, my Nifty Fifty is far brighter than my $2k professional lenses, giving me the ability to practically see in the dark.
3. A prime lens makes me work harder – I can’t just stand in one place and zoom. When I work harder I take better pictures, you see… it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.
4. It’s really sharp. While the 50mm f/1.8 isn’t the sharpest lens you can get, it’s a lot better than the 18-55mm lens that came with your camera. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of photos!

Bonfire shot with a Canon 50mm f/1.8

Not persuaded yet? OK… here are 3 things I do with my 50mm lens that I don’t do with any other lens:
1. Shoot the last hour of a wedding reception. It’s dark and I’m bored – I need to force myself into a new perspective and I’ve been shooting a 24-70mm lens all day.
2. Lens flipping. What is this awesomeness, you ask? Yes. I can take the lens off my camera, flip it around, hold it up to the front and take pictures. I’ll write a blog post on it sometime…
3. Lighten my load. Have you ever noticed that photo gear weighs a lot? Me too… My 50mm f/1.4 is the lightest lens I own. Replacing an L-series monster with a plastic 50 is a load off my wrist. (Now granted, there are pancake lenses out there which are even lighter, I just don’t own one.)



Which one do I get? Well, that’s a great question. Both Canon and Nikon make multiple versions of the 50mm lens. The quick answer is, get the best one you can afford. I own both the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the 50mm f/1.4. I now shoot exclusively with the f/1.4 version, but keep the f/1.8 in case something breaks or I want to run two cameras. There is a difference in the quality of glass and the sharpness between the various 50mm lenses, but the big idea behind this post is, just get one!

Well? What do you think? Why do you think every photographer should own a 50mm lens?

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What [photography] books do you recommend?

I get asked this question a lot and to be perfectly honest, it kind of trips me up every time. I haven’t studied photography through books very much, so I always feel somewhat inadequate to address the topic. That said, there are some killer books out there that are worth a read. Here are two of my favorites by award winning photographer and author Michael Freeman.

The Photographer’s Eye

This is my number 1 book on photography. Mr. Freeman is a fantastic photographer, and in this book he lays bare the secrets to excellent composition in a way you’ve never seen before. He abandons the traditional approaches of the Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines and instead takes a relational approach, considering how the image works together as a whole and how the viewer’s eye is captured by the photo. This is a must read for anyone who wants to master the art of photographic composition.


Perfect Exposure

Perfect Exposure is required reading for our Digital Photograph 2 students. As in The Photographer’s Eye, Mr. Freeman does a fantastic job of approaching difficult lighting scenarios from a fresh perspective and giving his readers the inside track to understanding what is going on and how to be successful as a photographer. This book is, well… enlightening!


How about you? What are the number 1 and number 2 photography books in your life? Leave me a comment or a link.



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