Tag Archives: Exposure

Master Exposure with Spot Metering

The Spot Meter is like the sniper rifle of the photo world. It enables you to get great exposure with razor-like precision by measuring just the light you care about. This free tutorial video will teach you the essentials for using your Spot Meter to master exposure!

This video is part of our Digital Photography 2 Class. To watch more videos like this become a member or join a class!

Have a question about histograms? Leave us a comment below!



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This Week at IPS // Sunrise & Sunset

This week our Digital Photography 1 students photographed some amazing sunrises and sunsets. These 7 images are my favorite of the bunch, though they aren’t the only good ones. What I love about each of these photos is that they all have dramatic color and light, a clear subject, and a compelling composition. Way to go guys!

Comment to let me know which image is your favorite and why!


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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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Under Expose for Backlighting

Under Expose for Backlighting

Backlighting is one of the most interesting, dynamic and challenging types of lighting that a photographer can work with. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how I over expose for backlighting, but just one approach doesn’t do this light justice or satisfy my creativity. Today I’m going to share with you how I under expose backlit scenes for dramatic effect.

What is backlighting?

Under Expose for BacklightingFirst off, light coming from behind the subject is what we consider backlighting. It has nothing to do with the direction your subject is facing and everything to do with the relationships between your camera, subject and light source. Light shining right at the camera is very difficult for the camera to meter (measure), but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

How do I under expose?

Every camera is different but the big idea is to set your Exposure Compensation to a negative value. Start at -1 and see what happens. To make the scene darker, move to -2, to make it brighter, try -2/3 or -1/3. Most cameras mark the exposure compensation button with a symbol that looks like this [+/-]. If you are shooting in manual mode, don’t center the needle, rather move the needle to -1.

Under Expose for Backlighting
Here’s a shot of the sun going down over a Malaysian island. The sun is clearly behind the island, meaning that the strong direct light is not shining on the side of the island I can see. My goal is to create a dramatic sunset effect with my subject silhouetted, so I set the exposure compensation to -1, focus carefully on the island, and this is the result.

Under Expose for Backlighting
“Mother with her Dead Son” is a powerful war memorial by German artist Käthe Kollwitz. The scene is lit through an open oculus in the ceiling, allowing light to fall on the back wall, effectively backlighting the statue itself. To capture the mood of this scene accurately, I told my camera to under expose the scene by 1 stop.

Under Expose for Backlighting
The silhouette is the classic example of an underexposed backlit subject. Here I am photographing a group of photographers from one of our Colorado workshops as they photograph a dramatic sunset. By setting my camera to underexpose the scene by 1 stop, I have captured the people as silhouettes and the background as a beautiful sunset.

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Photo Tip Monday // Overexpose for Backlighting

Photo Tip Monday // Overexpose for Backlighting

Strong backlighting can be a photographer’s nemesis. Sometimes your camera will figure it out, perhaps giving you some of your favorite shots, but when it doesn’t, the results are often disastrous, leaving you with horribly underexposed blobs where you were hoping to see smiling faces. In this blog post, we’ll look at how to tell your camera to overexpose in order to get dramatic results from strong backlighting. For today, we’re going to deal with the light on our own, no flashes or reflectors allowed!

Backlighting photo tips
Canon 1D MkIII | ISO 800 | f/2.8 | 1/100s | 15mm

I knew I would have one epic shot when the doors were flung open and the bride and her father stepped across the threshold into the wedding chapel. They wouldn’t wait for me to figure out my exposure. I wasn’t about to just hope that my camera got things right and bemoan my luck to a sympathetic photographer later if it didn’t.

Before the doors came open, I set my camera in Manual exposure mode, adjusting it so that I would obtain proper exposure for the inside light. I knew that when they came into the room, the only light on their faces would come from the indoor lights, not the overwhelming light from behind them. The opportunity to center my needle in manual exposure mode with the doors closed was just the thing to make this beautiful shot happen.

The tricky thing about strong backlighting is that you often don’t have enough light. Your camera reads all the light coming through the lens, figures that since it’s so bright it will actually darken things a bit, and you’re left with your quasi-silhouette instead of pretty flowers, a veil and a mustache.

Backlighting photo tips
Blackberry Storm | Exposure unrecorded

This shot was taken a couple years ago with a Blackberry. Yes. It’s possible to trick your phone into getting proper exposure too! While you don’t have a manual mode or even exposure compensation to play with, you can usually select the area of the photo to focus and meter off of, and that’s precisely what I have done. By clicking on his face by his eyes, I’ve told the camera (phone) to ignore the intense light on the background behind, and even the bold light across his cheek, and instead, lighten everything to obtain proper exposure for his eyes. While the technique is slightly different, the principle works on your phone, digicam, and DSLR.

Backlighting photo tips
Canon 1D MkIIn | ISO 1600 | f/2.8 | 1/400s | 115mm

Another way to persuade your camera to lighten things up enough is to use your exposure compensation. Setting this to a value of +1 will double the amount of light in your photo. A value of +2 will give you four times the light your camera would have chosen automatically. Different cameras will feature this control in different places, but it all works the same way, telling the camera to take what it would normally do and “add more light” or, when set to the negative side, “reduce the light.” {note: exposure compensation does nothing in manual exposure mode!}

This is just one way of dealing with intense backlighting, but one of my favorites, because it’s super simple, and once you get the hang of it, becomes second nature.

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