Light is the essence of both film and digital photography. When light strikes film or an image sensor, it creates a photograph. Too much light, and the picture is "blown out" (too bright), with no details that you can discern. (See Figure 6-1a.) Too little light, and it's so dark or muddy looking that you can't really see anything. (See Figure 6-1b.) The trick is to get just the right amount of light to the photosensitive element (the film or image sensor) to record the scene accurately. (See Figure 6-1c.) While it's possible to make extensive corrections in an image-editing program, the best way to ensure the highest-quality picture is to get the lighting right in the first place, when you take the picture (see Figure 6-1d). The measure of the amount of light being used to create a photo is called exposure.
In addition to making sure you have enough light for a picture, the nature of how the light comes into camera determines two other important aspects of your picture—the depth of field, or how much of the picture is in focus, and the shutter speed, or the ability to capture moving objects.
In this chapter, you will learn how to control exposure and how to make intelligent choices about the exposure settings that will affect the composition of your photos.
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