This exercise encourages us to challenge the camera’s metered settings and rather than pointing the camera at a subject and accepting the results, we must decide how we want the scene to appear, or if we wish to use the exposure settings creatively. The exercise asks initially that we shoot pictures deliberately lighter or darker than average and explain why we did so.
The first picture was taken in a restaurant in Chester. I sat with my back to a large window on an overcast day, meaning that there was plenty of soft lighting available. The background was cluttered and so by stopping down, I could loose these distractions by darkening the background. This is something that I might have done in Photoshop, but being able to control this in camera is much more useful.
Attempting to show blemish free screen when shooting a snap for an Ebay listing, I stopped down again to remove detail.
These two pictures show how a slight variation in exposure value can alter an image. The intention in the first was to shoot the statue in silhouette and keep detail in the clouds. To do this, I exposed for the clouds and then recomposed to include the statue – meaning the exposure was darker than the average that the camera would have set. An alternative would have been to meter the scene and then dial in exposure compensation to give the same result.
Another statue (Brussels has plenty!), but this time I wanted to show some detail and colour in the banner and so allowed the camera to meter the whole scene.
When shooting a backlit subject (and not wishing to use fill flash), metering attempts to compensate for whole scene but can leave the main, foreground subject dark. Adding a stop blows out highlights but gives improved lighting to the subject. It also better represents what was a sunny spring day in Llangollen – this blog gets around doesn’t it?
For the second part of the exercise, we were asked to take pictures of various subjects but to bracket exposure by half and one-stop either side of the camera’s metered, average settings. I’ve used the FujiFilm x100 for all of the pictures in this exercise and used its ‘pattern’ or multi-metering mode. While Fuji do not release details of their algorithms, other similar metering modes expect to see certain distribution of tones in an image and will apply changes based on this distribution. They will for example understand that when the top part of an image is light, that this is probably the sky and ignore it in their metering calculation.
However it’s done, I’ve always been happy with the metering performance of the camera. Even in challenging situations, it performs well. The camera features a prominent exposure control knob on the top of the camera body, showing what an important parameter the designers believe it to be. It features increments of 1/3rd stop rather than the exercise’s 1/2 stop guidance.
The first example is taken into low, morning sunlight (as studied in another exercise). These are challenging conditions for the meter with very bright and very dark areas. The feature in the picture that appealed to me was the mottled area of the tarmac, caused by the sun passing through the trees. Normally, I might have been tempted to adjust the contrast settings to enhance this and the sun’s rays in Aperture. Instead though, a slight under-exposure of 0.3 stops is enough to give a similar effect.
All of the exposures, with the exception of the +1 stop setting are acceptable. At +1, too much of the scene is washed out by the sunlight.
Another challenge for the meter was the darkness of a bar in Brussels. The detail in the colourful enamel signs is best seen when slightly over-exposed, but exposures from +1 to -1 are acceptable. If the subject had been the lamps and the intention was to show detail in them, then the shot under-exposed by 1.33 stops would be the choice.
More straight-forward lighting in the final example. A new stem and handlebar needed photographing, outdoors in bright, overcast conditions that meant even lighting. The extremes at +/-1.33 stops are not really usable, losing detail in highlights and shadows respectively. In these unchallenging conditions, the meter provides the most satisfactory result, as you’d expect.