Choice of exposure

Essentially, giving 'correct' exposure means letting the image formed by the camera lens act sufficiently on your light-sensitive film or digital sensor to give a good quality picture. Good exposure, then, is a balance of neither too much nor too little light falling on the film or sensor. Remember, setting your aperture and shutter speed controls the amount of light entering your camera and therefore the degree of exposure that the film or sensor receives.

Notice in the image series in Figure 14.1 that the picture that is correctly exposed has plenty of detail recorded in both the darkest shadows and the brightest parts of the picture. The picture on the left, however, has been seriously underexposed (received too little light). Dark parts of the picture have been recorded as detail-free black - and appear heavy and featureless when printed. Only the very lightest parts of the image, such as the girl's blouse (on the right), could be said to show as much detail as the correctly exposed version.

In contrast, the picture on the right has been overexposed. So much light has recorded in the highlight (lightest) parts of the subject they appear white and 'burnt out' on the print. Only the hair area shows the same detail that was evident in the correctly exposed shot.

To summarize, too much exposure and delicate light shades or highlight details in the image are lost, too little light and subtle shadow tones are converted to pure black. This is true for both digital and film-based images. When you are shooting slides the same final differences apply, although there are no negatives involved.

Figure 14.1 Correct or good exposure produces good prints. Images that are overexposed (too much light) or underexposed (too little light) result in prints with poorer image quality. Overexposure causes the highlights in the print to burn out and lose detail. Underexposure produces the reverse effect, losing detail in the shadow area.

Figure 14.1 Correct or good exposure produces good prints. Images that are overexposed (too much light) or underexposed (too little light) result in prints with poorer image quality. Overexposure causes the highlights in the print to burn out and lose detail. Underexposure produces the reverse effect, losing detail in the shadow area.

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