Know The Difference Between Correct Exposure And Creatively Correct Exposure

Aug 31, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

Know The Difference Between Correct Exposure And Creatively Correct Exposure

Aug 31, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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Which exposure is "correct"?
Which exposure do think is correct?

One of the most commonly asked questions by new photographers is what exposure settings they should be using to get correct exposures. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult questions to answer because of the seemingly endless amount of variables involved in calculating such settings. There are always situational elements such as available light, motion, and other things that we can use to help us determine correct camera settings, but outside of those tangible variables, a photographer must also take creativity into consideration. How do you want the photo look?

In this quick primer on exposure settings, Bryan Peterson discusses the notion that just because a photograph is exposed correctly on a technical level doesn’t necessarily mean the exposure settings were the right ones.

I am often asked in my online photography classes, as well as in my workshops that I conduct around the world, a really common question and the question is really simple, ‘Bryan, what should my exposure be?’ Well, the answer quite honestly is your exposure should be correct. I want to stress that there is such a thing as a correct exposure, yes, but there is also a creatively correct exposure. And the fact of the matter is, I’m suggesting every exposure should not only be correct, but at its most creatively correct exposure potential.”

In Peterson’s example, he took the same photograph twice, using a different aperture and shutter speed. In the photo at the top of this page you can see the two images. The first was shot at 1/320 second at f/8 whereas the second was shot at 1/40 second at f/22. Both of the exposure setting combinations produced technically sound exposures. Neither were too bright nor too dark, but one of them is still a better photograph. To Peterson, the uncluttered background and narrow field of view of the first shot is the most creatively correct exposure. When he was shooting at f/22, too much of the background was left in focus which, in his opinion, took away from the image.

So, next time you’re out shooting, try experimenting with a couple exposure combinations as Peterson has done here and compare your results with a critical eye. Before long you’ll know which setting will give you the best creative choice as well as the more technical choice–knowing how to combine both will become second nature.

[ via AdoramaTV ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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17 responses to “Know The Difference Between Correct Exposure And Creatively Correct Exposure”

  1. Thomas Dumonet Avatar
    Thomas Dumonet

    This article is more about Depth of field than exposure.
    And personally, I prefer the right picture, because if feels more balanced. Narrow DoF is not always better, and it is also overused, so actually the more creatively exposed shot would be the one on the right, being the shot with the less conventional settings.

  2. Dave Crosby Avatar
    Dave Crosby

    Know The Difference Between Exposure And Use Of Depth Of Field For Composition

  3. Howardo Mansfieldio Avatar
    Howardo Mansfieldio

    “One of them is a better photograph”.
    “Better” is a purely subjective term. You can’t apply technical data to an image to determine if it’s nice or not. Personally I think the poppy is too low and too central, and the uniformity in the angle of the purple flowers is far more appealing.
    This guy sounds like a beginner who’s just got his first fast lens and thinks shallow DOF is the answer to everything.
    We’ll overlook the issue of diffraction at f22 for now.

    1. Thomas Dumonet Avatar
      Thomas Dumonet

      Yeah, F22 is a bit extreme there, but the picture on the right seems actually better.
      The picture on the left, with the shallow DoF should bring attention to the red flower as it seems to be the main focal point, but with the purple flower being in focus too it really draws attention too much. With the picture on the right you don’t have this problem because attention is brought with the difference in color and not the difference in focus. So, this is why in my opinion the picture on the right looks better.

  4. Michal Rosa Avatar
    Michal Rosa

    “One of the most commonly asked questions by new photographers is what exposure settings they should be using to get correct exposures” – never heard ANY new photographer ask that question. The most common ones are – what camera is the best and what lenses do I need. Never, ever heard anyone asking about how to expose a picture.

    1. Thomas Dumonet Avatar
      Thomas Dumonet

      Actually, “How do I do take a good picture ?” is the most asked question, and it translates well to “How do I set my camera to take a good picture ?”.
      Also, a new photographer would already have a camera, you know, being a photographer…

    2. Wil Fry Avatar
      Wil Fry

      I heard it all the time when I was a sports photographer, but it was usually phrased: “What settings should I use?”

  5. stewart norton Avatar
    stewart norton

    A incorrectly exposed photo is too dark or too bright not sure what dof has to do with it, this article is more about composition than exposure.

  6. Nicolas Racine Avatar
    Nicolas Racine

    Sorry, I could hardly focus on the content because of the loud breathing. Mike placement problem? However, I agree this is more depth of field. I understand the point, I just think it was not veru well made.

  7. Tinny Avatar
    Tinny

    Sounds like a three pack-a-day habit. Very distracting.

  8. Wil Fry Avatar
    Wil Fry

    Am I missing something? The two images at top seem to have the same exposure, just achieved with different settings.

    1. Hoang Cao Nghia Avatar
      Hoang Cao Nghia

      Yeah, I only consider a photo is “creatively correct exposure” when it under/over exposed to archive the look that go against the normal correct exposure. This is a misuse for that term.

      1. Wil Fry Avatar
        Wil Fry

        That’s how I’ve always used the term too. :-) So basically:

        * Correct Exposure: what everyone else thinks it should be.
        * My Correct Exposure: achieves the result I wanted.

    2. Howard Avatar
      Howard

      Will, you’re right… Correct exposure was achieved using different shutter speed and aperture settings. However, in selecting a larger aperture in the f8 exposure, the depth of field has narrowed, giving more emphasis to the subject. So it’s a ‘creative’ call you make when determining how to achieve exposure. Personally, i always have my camera set for Aperture Priority, allowing me to make that creative aperture choice, and let the camera adjust the shutter soeed to complete the exposure. BTW for this type of shot I would never use f22!

      1. Wil Fry Avatar
        Wil Fry

        “I would never use f22”

        Not unless I was posting to a flower-identification site, perhaps. :-)

  9. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
    Tiffany Mueller

    Hi guys, just wanted to see if I could clear up some of the confusion…You are all correct in saying that this has to do with depth of field (DoF), but the way the desired depth of field was achieved in the two images was by adjusting the exposure settings ( Just to clarify, by exposure settings I am referring to the ISO, Shutter Speed, AND Aperture.). It’s the fine line where composition starts blending into exposure. Despite which look you like better, (I personally don’t care for the shallow depth of field, either), the point of the clip was to demonstrate that you can use multiple exposure combinations to achieve very different photos.

    In other words, if you want:
    -a shallow depth of field: change your exposure settings to a smaller f/number (f/8 in this case) and adjust the shutter speed to compensate for the larger amount of light getting in through the aperture.
    -a deep depth of field: adjust your exposure settings to a larger f number (such as f/22) and use a longer shutter speed to compensate for the decreased amount of light getting through due to the aperture.

    Hopefully that helps everyone understand how closely knit depth of field and exposure are!

  10. gs_790 Avatar
    gs_790

    I think it’s an effective instructional technique to use one topic to get to another. Remember, the target audience for this type of lecture is the aim + click + magic = picture crowd. If you learned to take pictures with a Ricoh K-10 like I did, it’s very easy to get caught up twisting knobs and dials to make the lines match, and never consider the effect those settings have on what the film sees.