April 12, 2018

What is Exposure?

What is Exposure?

“That’s way too exposed!” … “Woah, underexposed!”

Ok, so what is it? Why is so difficult to expose correctly?

So thinking back to my photography classes, some of the most common things to hear from my teachers or professors are those statements you just read. Most of the time I was one of the few having to see others get told that, but other moments I was the one being criticized.

I must say, though, it helped me learn, for sure.

With that being said I want to explain what exposure is and how you can hopefully avoid having your images on either end of the exposure spectrum.

Starting with the basics of the term:

Exposure is by definition the amount of light reaching the lense of your camera mirror, sensor, film, etc.

Now you can overexpose, underexpose, and of course correctly expose.

If you have ever taken a photo, (hopefully you have) you may have noticed that, depending on how your setting was lit, your image was either too bright or too dark. This is especially true with our phone cameras. Almost 90% of the time these images are either overexposed or underexposed.

Side note: I am not saying that being under exposed or over exposed are rules to abide by every single time. You as an artist are well in your right to use these styles to aid in the conveying of a message to your audience.

The exposure spectrum is fairly basic to understand:

Underexposure: darker, or stronger shadows, in the image.

Overexposed: lighter, or less color, in the image.

An example of an image with different levels of exposure:

As a final note, exposure has a lot to do with the ISO that you are shooting with as well as the F-Stop. The longer your aperture is open, the more exposure to light you are giving your sensor, thus you must compensate (or not) with your ND filters or by shooting in the dark. Try not to leave you more work to do in post, the last thing you want is to go back home or to your office and have to sift through your images and find out that you can’t reduce the exposure to a potentially great shot because you overexposed it and your sensor didn’t catch any details of your subject. Ouch… also don’t forget it also changes your depth of field*.

*More on this in a later tutorial.

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