Deciding priorities

It is important to learn to recognize situations where special care over the way the light is read will greatly improve a shot. For instance, in situations where the sun is lighting a small but important portion of a distant scene, you can overcome the meter's tendency to suit the exposure for the general view by temporarily filling the viewfinder with a similarly lit subject close at hand. Using a similar approach, you can measure the exposure for people's faces by reading off the back of your own hand (as long as both subjects have the same lighting). If your camera is equipped with a zoom lens, then it may also be possible to zoom in to take a reading from the important area of the scene and then zoom back to take the photograph.

Sunsets against tree shapes are often disappointingly colorless when exposure is measured by a general reading. For Figure 14.11, the camera was first angled so only sky filled the frame to make the exposure reading. Even when you make use of an exposure technique like this, it is best to take several shots of contrasty situations, 'bracketing' your exposure settings, i.e. use the exposure override or aperture or shutter settings to give twice and/or one-half the metered exposure.

Digital shooters, on the other hand, can use a shoot and review approach, checking the exposure of the picture just taken on the preview screen on the back of the camera, to ensure the correct settings have been used before proceeding.

Film users will need to make sure that contrasty pictures like these are followed up with sympathetic printing by your processing lab. Otherwise, the lab could strain to 'correct' the very effect you wanted to produce. If necessary, ask for a reprint, explaining what you were aiming for.

Figure 14.11 To ensure that your sunset shots are not recorded as too light and washed out, tilt the camera towards the sky to take your exposure reading first before recomposing. This way, the dark foreground detail will not affect the overall exposure of the picture.
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