Do You Really Understand Exposure?

To expose a photo correctly is one of the most basic things to learn in photography. It can, however, be hard for even advanced photographers.

In this very informative video, English photographer Nigel Danson explains how to master exposure from A to Z. Personally, I think it is the best video out there explaining the concept, which on the surface seems simple, but when you dig into it, is rather complicated. Danson starts out explaining the relationship between aperture and shutter speed and how those are the only two factors you can change to change your exposure.

He then goes on to explain in a very understandable way how the histogram works. As I always say to my clients, there is no “correct” histogram, and Danson confirms this. The histogram only analyzes the exposure. You can interpret the data of the histogram in relation to what you want. He also adds that the histogram in camera only shows a JPEG version of the exposure and not the raw file. This does make a remarkable difference in how you expose your photo.

Check out the video above. It is full of tips and tricks on how to understand exposure to its fullest. Let me hear your thoughts down below.

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barry cash's picture

Nigel great video your going in the right direction it must be hard to do these and incorporate all the important steps to the overall theme or story line.
Just a suggestion for your next follow up video maybe you could touch on the proper editing steps involved with taking an image through its PP so that the image (especially those shown in your video) retain printable pixels.
Along with global corrections using Lightroom sliders and then specific corrections using layer masks to hold those delicate tones. Then maybe take the image and print it and show what corrections you would make to the screen image to end up with a fine art print.
I like your landscape images they have feeling its always hard to portray that vs postcard images.
Keep up the desire and the drive.
If your ever on the west coast of use and have nobody to shoot with give me a call...

Daniel Medley's picture

Something that should be pointed out: Optimal exposure for either raw or JPEG will generally be different. Optimal exposure for raw will generally look "over exposed" vis a vis JPEG.

In a nutshell:

Exposure is ONLY regarding how much light your sensor is EXPOSED to. That is determined ONLY by amount of light (aperture) and length of time its allowed to contact the sensor (shutter speed).

Exposure can not be adjusted post factum; ie in post. You can brighten or darken an image, but that's not adjusting exposure.

Optimal exposure is best attained shooting in raw and exposing as far to the right as possible without blowing highlights you care about (ETTR).

When shooting a scene that contains more dynamic range than can be captured by optimal exposure (ETTR) bracket the shot.

ri sw's picture

I almost always use my Sekonic L358 incident light meter and find that it produces the exact exposure I need to produce files with the most flexibility. Histos are a close second but nothing is better than the dome

Jeff Colburn's picture

Very good video, thanks.

Have Fun,