Today’s modern digital camera has so many functions on them, that it’s difficult for the new user to grasp every aspect of taking a good photo. A typical menu has so many items in the function list of the Shooting Menu and Set Up menu that no wonder many people prefer the point and shoot cameras to the DSLR cameras. Of course, you could just the Auto mode every time on your digital camera but it seems a waste of money buying this type of camera not to use all of the camera’s capabilities.There are other specialist modes on your camera which preset some of these functions for you. There are Portrait, Scene, Landscape, Children Portraits, Sports, Macro or close up modes. There are also semi auto modes such a Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes, which allow you to choose one of the parameters for more control of how you take your photos.What I would like you to do is to get you involved with the Manual mode and set all of the parameters yourself to suit every situation and get the correct exposure every time. No more blown highlights, no more loss of detail in the shadows. A perfectly exposed photo every time you use your camera. Sounds too difficult? Not if you know the secret to understanding exposure.
You first need to work out what kind of shot you want. Is the subject stationary, which means you want to set a large aperture so that the subject is in focus and the background blurred, or do you want to set a smaller aperture and have more or all of the background in focus? Is this an action shot and you want to set a fast shutter speed or do you want intentional blur to simulate speed with a slower shutter speed? Additionally, are you shooting in bright light or low light which means you may want to set a low or a high ISO?The secret to understanding exposure is quite simple. Correct exposure relies on 3 characteristics of the camera. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO. These three are linked so that if you increase one, another will decrease proportionately, while the remaining item is fixed. So, if you want to shoot a scene, and you want to specify a shutter speed of say 1/60s at ISO 200, the aperture would have to F5. Now say you want to shoot the same scene at the same ISO, with a smaller aperture of F8 to give a greater depth of field, the shutter speed has to slow to 1/30s. Similarly, if you want to shoot the same scene with the same aperture, but at a shutter speed of 1/125s to freeze the action better, you would have to increase the ISO to, for example, 640 or 800.There are a couple of extra functions on the camera which help with exposure. The first is the graduated line found in the viewfinder, with a _+ or a -. Whether the + is on the left or the right depends on your camera make. If the view of the shot is under exposed, a line will appear on the more negative side of the graduated line, indicating you need to the decrease the shutter speed, i.e. allow more light into the camera. Conversely, if the view of the shot is over exposed, the line will appear and extend towards the positive side, indicating that you need to increase the shutter speed to allow less light into the camera. You are aiming for an equal, i.e. 0, on the graduated scale.Your camera’s built in exposure meter can be set to spot, centre weighted or matrix. I prefer spot as it gives me more control over how the camera determines the brighter and darker components of the shot. If you half press the shoot button, you can prefocus on a bright area of the view and the camera automatically senses if the shot is going to be over exposed or under exposed. Adjust the settings to give a 0 on the graduated scale in the viewfinder. Now focus on your subject without changing the settings and there will be no blown out highlights in your shot..
The other functions that can help you greatly with exposure are the use of the Histogram and Highlights screen functions once you have taken a shot. Pressing the button with the square and a right arrow in it lets you see a variety of screens associated with your captured shot. One of them is the histogram. A dominant shape to the left signifies under exposure and a shape to the right means over exposure of your shot. Any over exposed areas in your shot will flash on and off in the Highlights screen. These different screen functions can be toggled up and down with the main button where the OK button in the middle.If you want to fine tune the exposure further, the button with the +/- on it allows you to reduce or increase the exposure. Some trial and error may be necessary to get a good result.Don’t forget, using flash will add another factor to understanding exposure.With a bit of practice, you can produce perfect exposures every time.