Exposure

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by brizzybunny, Oct 8, 2020.

  1. Those skills, Cowboy, are the things that allow us to get exactly what we want, instead of making do what a lab produces after we hand in the film or with whatever the 'engine' of a dslr does to produce the jpeg we find on our memory card.
    Those skills are all about getting what you envisioned. It, Rodeo Clown, is again a comical diversion to suggest they have nothing to do at all with that.
    But you apparently just have to wish for something to have it be. I will mail a list to you of things you may wish for me. Hope you will oblige.

    You cannot get exactly what you want unless you either find the above happens to be exactly what you want, or spend considerable time applying a multitude of skills. Film and digital do not differ in this at all.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  2. Joe , you just listed every reason I only (well almost always) use film :) . I couldn't have envisioned a better list .
    It kinda puts a smile on my face ! Thanks , Peter
     
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  3. Hi @brizzybunny, great question! With a couple of 'keywords' to use in google searches - see my suggestions underneath - you can find a wealth of tutorials (on Youtube and in text articles) on all aspects of managing exposure and using this creatively. The best ones gives examples of 'correct exposure' and over- and under exposure (explaining why). If you have access to a library, the photography section will undoubtedly contains some basic photography books explaining how to manage exposure to get the effect you want (usually correctly exposed photos).

    Compared to many other photo-sharing and discussion websites (Flickr, 500px, Photocrowd, etc.), Photonet (PN)has a relatively high percentage of members who prefer to use (classic) film cameras rather than digital ones. This is reflected in the forum topics, discussion threads, and some responses to your question. As sometimes happens, the thread has (IMHO) degenerated into a ‘talk amongst ourselves’, mostly about film photography.

    I’m an exclusively digital photographer. I do understand that film - as a medium - reacts differently to variations in light than a digital sensor does. But I can only respond from my experience as a digital photographer.

    I fully agree with @Rick Helmke that learning to take ‘correct exposures’ is a fundamental learning goal for all beginning photographers. Once you’ve mastered this, you might want to learn more how you could tweak your exposure settings to make more ‘creative photos’.

    My number 1 tip is to learn more about - and fully internalize - the concept of the ‘exposure triangle’. In other words, how the aperture opening, camera shutter speed and film/sensor light sensitivity (ISO) together determine the ’exposure’. And you’ll be much better able to dial in ‘exposure settings’ in all but fully automatic modes. This is independent of camera technology. It applies equally well to classic film cameras, modern DSLR and Mirrorless cameras and also to mobile phone cameras.

    My number 2 tip is to learn more about how digital cameras measure light and expose for this and also about the 2 main options you have for adjusting this:
    - adjusting the light-metering mode (where in the frame does a digital camera measure light and how much weight does the camera place on measurements in different areas in determining what a ‘correct exposure’ is?)
    - dialing in ‘exposure compensation’ to manually adjust the camera’s ‘correct exposure’ reading to get a brighter or darker exposure that the one based on the camera’s automatic light metering

    My third tip is to learn how to correct and adjust the exposure (within certain limits) when post-processing (RAW) digital images.

    Some Google search terms:
    exposure triangle
    exposure
    aperture
    shutter speed
    ISO
    Light metering
    Metering modes
    exposure compensation
    correcting exposure post-processing
    RAW images
    Depth of field
    Motion


    As this previous linked Adorama video explains, each adjustment to one side of the 'exposure triangle' requires an adjustment on one or both other sides.

    I almost always shoot photos in a 'semi-automatic mode'. This means that my starting point for exposure settings is based on the type of scene I photograph. Because I usually photography people, I usually dial in a wide aperture setting so that the subject(s) are more sharply in focus than the background in the photo. This makes them 'stand out' from the background. I set my ISO as low as possible while making sure that my shutter speed (determined by my camera) stays fast enough to avoid any 'motion blur by my subjects or myself. I not, then I increase my ISO.

    When taking 'sport/action shots' my subjects are fast-moving so a fast shutter speed becomes my main priority. I normally want a fast shutter speed to 'freeze' the motion. Everything else is secondary. So I dial in a fast shutter speed with the lowest ISO that allows me to do this. But I also keep an eye on the aperture to make sure that I have sufficient 'depth of field' (aperture) for the shot that I want. I adjust the ISO as necessary. The most challenging shots are action shots in low-light (indoor) situations. Often the only solution is often to increase the light sensitivity of my sensor by bumping up my ISO, knowing that I'll need to digitally reduce the resulting 'noise' in these photos in post-processing.

    For any 'photo-shoot', I review and rate my photos in Adobe Lightroom, giving some forethought to potential post-processing (cropping, exposure adjustments, adjusting clarity and color vibrance, etc.) Based on my initial rating, I select the most highly rated and post-process these by cropping, adjusting exposure, clarity, vibrance, etc. In my (amateur) photography, 'shots as taken' are just the raw materials for creating 'photos' in post-processing. Not everything can be 'fixed in PP. So even with all the PP-options available, the quality of the 'shots taken' determine the quality of the photos produced in post-processing.

    I hope you have a truly inspiring 1st semester! The field of photography (from informal to sport/news to documentary to artform) is vast. The same applies to videography.

    Best wishes,

    Mike
     
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  4. In the case of film, we knew we had to learn about exposure.
    To know which situations the meter tends to get wrong, and which right.

    Most important is wanting to learn, either with film or digital.

    This thing about digital is it is so easy to go making lots of shots, hoping that enough will turn out.
    That isn't the way to learn, though. You have to actually have some thoughts about each scene.

    For both film and digital, scenes with some bright spots and some shadows will be harder.
    With practice, we learn which ones they are and how to expose for them. But you have to
    want to learn.

    When all we had was averaging meters, we learned what might fool the meter.
    We learned to approximate the exposure, even without a meter. (Human vision is good at
    adapting to low light, so it isn't so easy to know when a scene is too dark.)

    The little screen on the back of the camera isn't always good enough to tell how
    well exposed a shot is. Most don't read the histogram, and even when you do, it isn't
    so easy to know what it means.

    Even more, though, film and digital are different. Learning to expose one correctly
    isn't quite the same as the other.
     
    Mike Gammill and q.g._de_bakker like this.
  5. Do you have to use film for your class? If so ask the instructor. He may not be right but he is one who is supposed to teach you. You paid him didn't you?
     
  6. Exactly what our grandparents said about us being the TV generation. Sadly, every older generation figures out a way in which the new generation won’t be as good as them ... and it usually turns out to be nothing more than a meme.

    The Bobby Soxer generation is now also known as The Greatest Generation. Don’t count the current generation out before the game is through.
     
  7. Like many here I grew up on film and tried to learn the lessons of exposure from the film I collected the following week from the lab. I was excited to have my first camera (Pentax ME Super 1981) and didn't realise back then that the lab was trying to give me the best results it could. I believed that what I shot was what I got.

    I would recommend a student to get a digital camera with a manual option and the ability to shoot raw and use that to learn about exposure. Analyse the histogram; change parameters and see what impact it has on the histogram and the resulting image. Definitely get a film camera if you can afford it, you don't have to spend a lot and have fun shooting some film too. I would not suggest the only camera you should use is a film camera if you are trying to learn.

    I am not a professional and have never earned a living from a camera so my input has as much value as you wish to assign it.

    Whatever you do, enjoy it.
     
  8. I was doing my own darkroom work from just about the beginning.

    Before a family vacation when I was nine, my dad bought some rolls of 120 film to use
    with a TLR he already had. He mostly switched to 35mm slides after I was born, so
    it was from before that. He also bought me a Yankee II tank and from a Goodwill
    store, a contact printer and safelight.

    Yes, as someone noted, labs (usually by machine) will adjust the exposure on printing, which might
    hide exposure errors on the film. From the days of simple cameras, this was part of what allowed
    people to get good pictures at all. It is also the reason for the large exposure latitude of color
    negative films.

    My first enlarger was a Christmas present that year, and I mostly switched to 35mm after that.

    Looking at the negatives, you soon learn what it good and what isn't. And when you try to
    print them, what exposure is needed for printing. After not so long, I would buy 100 foot
    rolls from Freestyle for $5, so my film costs weren't all that high.

    And today, if you are really interested in film, you should do at least some of your
    own film darkroom work, with black and white film. You could also use XP2,
    and have a nearby C-41 lab process it. If you aren't up to a printing darkroom,
    you can scan and print from the scans. Note that C-41 negatives are harder
    to judge exposure from than other black and white films.

    Slide film will force you to do better on exposure, as it has very little latitude.
    You will learn faster, but film and processing costs more.

    Going around with a digital camera set on P, or a film camera on P,
    won't teach how to judge and meter exposure much at all. It will slowly
    teach you the cases meters get wrong, but matrix metering gets them
    right often enough.

    Using a camera, digital or film, with a manual meter mode will help you
    learn exposure, though if you follow the meter every time, without thinking
    about what it says, not much faster than in P. It does give you a chance
    to think about the exposure, and adjust a little. If most of the frame is
    in shadow, but enough is in sun to fool the meter, you know to increase
    the exposure a stop or two. With a spot or center weighted meter,
    you learn to point in different directions, and compare the meter readings.
     
    morrisbagnall likes this.
  9. In my experience (and talking to a beginner), exposure is largely irrelevant. Learn to appreciate when under/over exposed, or flawed, shots please you and go with that. It’s far cheaper and more practical to do that with digital
     
  10. That’s certainly a valid approach to courting the camera, and many start a lifelong love affair exactly that way. My concern with it is that it won’t reveal what would have been in the picture had the exposure been different - so a novice following that course will never know the full potential to craft an image.

    The beauty of digital for learning is that you can bracket every shot for any parameter(s) and see the difference that parameter makes at no marginal cost per shot. Even better, every image is tagged with its recipe and whatever other info you need to characterize it including lighting conditions, time of day, etc. Then you can filter and sort the image files to compare each change and learn how each change affects everything in an image. And you can see the similarities, differences, and limitations of doing in post what didn’t get done pre-shot, e.g changing exposure. Even a minor change in EV affects critical factors like color value and shadow detail, and a lot of this change is so subtle that the potential to improve the image is not obvious unless you know what can be done.

    I started on a 120 roll camera in about 1950. My first “good” camera was a ratty 15 year old Leica IIIc when I was in high school. A host of 35mm SLRs followed. I did all my own processing until 2000, when I bought a 3MP Toshiba PDR M70 and discovered I could live with digital. And I value the relationship between the photographer and his or her emulsion. But I don’t miss having to keep a diary of all shots so I knew what I’d done to get what I got. I don’t miss figuring out how many frames I could afford to expose, or how many rolls I needed to buy to get through a vacation. And I really don’t miss looking at the best print I could make of an image and discovering what I could have done and should have known to make it a bit better.

    I encouraged our sons to take this approach and they both learned well. But I also encouraged them to go out and have fun with their cameras, abandoning all but the urge to shoot what they saw. That balance between learning and enjoying is critical to developing photographers (pun unintended and recognized after the fact!) and I strongly suggest it.
     
  11. Sorry Joe, I missed this. Sagacious advice.
     
  12. Come on, is a true beginner likely to capture anything memorable (especially if they are busy thinking about what knobs to turn :) )
     
  13. I think that's missed a lot even today when folks new to film drop their exposed C-41 off at the lab and get back a stack of prints(just like what I started off doing back when film was on the decline, but almost every grocery store, pharmacy, and Wal-Mart still had a minilab tucked into it for their "1 hour photo").

    Not too long ago, I was at my okay-ish local lab(to pick up a couple of rolls of E-6) and someone younger than me came in saying that they weren't happy that their prints were "too dark". The person at the counter offered a reprint, but also wondered if there was something wrong with the person's camera. I asked to see the negatives, and to my eye they ranged from normal density to a bit high(overexposed). Regardless, I'm sure the person was able to get prints to their liking, but when someone else prints your film you're at their mercy as to what they(or, more likely, the computer) thinks looks "correct."

    Slides REALLY make you appreciate correct exposure, or at least correct to your eye. So does printing in the darkroom or even scanning, where you have to deal with squeezing as much detail as you can out of a thin negative or trying to print through a thick negative.
     
    morrisbagnall likes this.
  14. Hope Brizzybunny don't get overwhelmed with this thread! :D
    --
    "Film exposure" is not "digital exposure". Of course the topic is the same, but obviously procedures are quite different.

    IMHO, the term "exposure" on film necessarily implies film development as a part of it, as soon as any variation during processing affect the output, let's call it, "base image".

    So a concerned student cannot avoid this negative/positive, development-time/density processing knowledge.

    On digital it is performed differently, since that instant feedback allows you to know the output (or "base image") in the very same moment of the take.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  15. Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and one will type the Gettysburg Address.

    I understand your point - but beginners with good eyes and instinct capture some memorable images. And beginners who see even a bit of what they like in an image they’ve made (even accidentally) are often motivated to learn how to make it better. My kids are perfect examples - at 8, one son started shooting with one of my SLRs at a race while I was on the track driving. He got some amazing pans plus great portraits of people in the pits.

    A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
     
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  16. I did realize that quite early on and it was THE main reason for me to abandon color negative film altogether and exclusively shoot slide film - I wanted to be in charge of the results.

    I disagree, "development" is very much part of the exposure process in digital - at least when you are shooting RAW. For me, shooting JPEG is equivalent to slide film - you better get it right in camera as there are very limited options to make adjustments later. Shooting RAW is like negative film - development is required in either case and adjustments are a lot easier to do on the computer than they are in the darkroom. The "optimum" RAW exposure may not look much on the camera's back screen but will allow to get the best results later on the computer.
     
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  17. The OP mentioned that he was starting a first class on photography this semester and asked for tips on exposure. He didn't mention what camera he might be using on the course (DSLR/Mirrorless/cellphone/film). He has not yet responded to the initial comments. In the meantime, we've all been talking amongst ourselves, mainly about exposure for film cameras. Most of this thread may not in any way be relevant to the OP.

    It's been more than 30 years since I took any photos with a film camera. In those days, I knew nothing about photography (except that I'd read somewhere that an ISO 400 film was better for indoor/low-light photos than an ISO 100 film. But I couldn't have explained why. Still, somehow, all of my 'automatically shot ' outdoor and indoor scenes
    (on compact and SLR) came out OK, even without a light-meter.

    So I wonder why 'film camera exposure' is seen as a greater 'challenge', requiring more expertise and experience than 'digital camera exposure'. My personal experience is the exact opposite. I've found that it's much easier to blow out highlights and/or create murky (noisy) shadows when shooting digital than I ever remember when shooting film. I've since read that film - as a photographic medium - is more 'forgiving' of over- and under exposure. The corollary is that digital sensors are less 'forgiving' and require much more precise exposure control - both when shooting and in PP - than film photography.

    It is not my intention to kick off a culture war' between PN-members. I simply point out that the 'film photography' responses do not necessarily answer the OP' question.

    Mike
     
  18. Film and digital are different, and blown highlights are one case.

    Some of the claims are not that digital is easier, but that it is easier (and cheaper) to learn.

    Negative film, especially color negative film, has a large exposure latitude, while
    reversal films (both color and black and white) have much less latitude.

    While it is noted that you get instant feedback with digital, it isn't so easy to judge
    exposure from a little LCD display.

    Digital has sharp cutoffs on both ends, where film is more gradual.

    But also, most digital cameras have better meters than many film cameras.
     
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  19. I don't think it's possible to generalize entirely to "emulsion vs chip". Some films are quite forgiving of exposure and others are quite critical of it. In general, higher speed means more flexibility for film, while higher ISO for digital just means more noise. Most emulsion tolerates somewhere around -1 to +3 stops and many have 5+ stop tolerance for error, and most digital sensors allow little more than one stop over before detail is simply not there. In my experience, most negative film has more exposure latitude than most positive film and B&W is far more tolerant of exposure error than color. But that's not universally true.

    As has been mentioned, shooting RAW and going lower on the EV scale yields a fairly malleable digital image with more info in the dark than many believe. The bottom line is that there's a lot of data in a RAW image, and it often takes me as much time and effort to go from RAW to a finished print or digital display as it did to turn a negative into a print.

    There's extra latitude in the flexibility of processing film vs digital images. I shot Tri-X most of the time from about 1960 to well into the '80s, and I routinely pushed it 2 to 3 stops for night and indoor shooting. Ilford HP5+ is even more forgiving and does very well even when exposed and processed at 3200+. For color, Portra has some exposure latitude, and Fuji's Provia slide film is a bit more forgiving than most. My go-to color film for decades was high speed (160) Ektachrome, which captured and displayed overexposure in vivid (and sometimes embarrassing) glory. I also fell in love with Cibachrome when it first came out. It was intolerant of error and I finally let a local lab do my large prints. But the color and contrast were spectacular in the right (i.e. perfectly exposed and elegantly composed) images.

    Digital sensors also vary in their tolerance to exposure variance. CCD and CMOS sensors have different characteristics, with the best CCD still edging out the best CMOS cameras for dynamic range (unless I've missed recent advances that have changed this). But even with the same designs, some digital cameras have wider DR than others, e.g. the Fuji S3 had much better tolerance for overexposure than my Nikon D200 had. The latter clipped highlights like an early transistor amplifier clipped audio peaks - harshly and noticeably. That was the first camera I ever bought that I simply didn't like - it always wanted to be in charge, and I never found a way to make it do what I wanted it to do. OTOH, my Sony 6500 and my original RX100 are both more forgiving of my errors than the D200 or any other digital camera I ever had.

    So it's true that film is, in general, more tolerant of exposure variance than digital sensors. But poorly chosen film and poorly chosen digital cameras can both surprise and upset the unwary who believe in generalizations.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2020
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  20. In my experience with film, it is relatively easy to blow highlights or to get no detail in the shadows. E.g., think on a contrasty beach scene. We need to deviate the reading of a meter and modify the standard development time to keep both extremes under control. And we cannot check success until we have the film fully processed at hand.
    This is the reason I say here that under the "film exposure" title the photographer needs to consider the exposure as a whole process.

    A digital camera of course help to understand value distribution, but not a lot more. Wider aperture, longer time or higher ISO equal brighter image, or viceversa. That's all. What you see on the screen, histogram or highlight warning is what you get.

    I now wonder if this Black&White forum (I believe part of the formerly Film&Processing forum) is extrictly related to B&W film, or just to any kind of B&W photography.
    I see the title don`t specify it, although most threads here are referred to traditional "film" photography.
    If so, it could be a good idea to specify it on the forum`s title.

    Although maybe the OP is thinking on other effects (say, "high key" or "low key", pushing or pulling film, etc.), the answer is the same, if we talk about under or overexposure, most times we must take processing into account.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
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