The Secret To Correct Exposure With Any DSLR Camera – Revealed for the First Time
Are you just starting out with photography? Have you ever wondered why that expensive, brand new, professional grade DSLR in your hands is betraying you and not giving you perfectly exposed photos – every time?
Read this article and you can learn the secret to correct exposure with any DSLR camera – revealed for the very first time – right here on the internet.
(Warning – the truth about getting correct exposures from your DSLR camera may shock some readers – discretion is advised.)
The secret ingredient is… Cough syrup.
Nothing but plain, ordinary, over-the-counter children’s cough syrup.
Works every time. Works with all cameras.
If you’re looking for a shortcut to success, sorry to burst your bubble.
If you’re wondering why experience counts when you’re holding one of the most sophisticated cameras ever made – keep reading.
I am going to start the explanation at the beginning of time.
Back in the film days…
…getting correct exposure was easy. You just lined up the little needle in the middle and bang – perfect exposure.
Of course, the real secret was behind the scenes in the lab. Most modern films have an exposure latitude of several stops – so as long as your initial exposure was in the ballpark, your prints would come back from the lab perfectly fine.
Then along came digital and screwed everything up – while at the same time giving unsuspecting new photographers the illusion that they could easily “fix” poor exposures.
In reality, with nearly all digital cameras, you have to nail your exposure. Using RAW with a modern professional level DSLR’s helps increase the odds – but if your initial exposure is off by more than a stop – you’re still in the quality danger zone.
This is very counter intuitive for new photographers to understand. Everyone knows that Photoshop, Lightroom and every mobile phone app ever made has an exposure slider to “fix” poorly exposed images.
Unfortunately, most of the time this means brightening underexposed photos – and if you were shooting in (P)rofessional mode to begin with, chances are brightening that photo is going to cost you image quality.
If you’ve bothered to read this far, you should know exactly what I mean.
All right, according to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is… love? Who’s been screwing with this thing?
Why Your DSLR Hates You
When I first started taking photography seriously, exposure used to drive me crazy!
What the heck do I have to do to set this camera to take correct exposures? What are the “right” settings? Is it the metering mode? Maybe I have to use exposure correction? Maybe I have to use this exposure lock button? What is Active D lighting? How do I bracket my exposures?
Why can’t this damn thing think for me!???
Your DSLR hates you because it is batting for average. You on the other hand want it to swing for home runs. You just don’t know how to tell your camera to hit homers yet.
For average photos, an average histogram is awesome.
If you’re getting bored of average, you have to do something else.
Most beginning photographers start by figuring out way’s to trick their camera’s internal algorithms to produce images that look more like what they want – while at the same time sticking with Program Auto (aka “P” aka Professional Mode).
Metering modes, exposure corrections and exposure lock are all examples of “tricks” that tell the camera to modify how to interpret exposure – but there is still no way of knowing that it will spit out the photo that you want.
Plus, it gets very confusing very fast trying to remember how to push which button to set what in which setting.
There is an easier way.
Its called Manual mode (aka “M”).
Free your mind.
The Real Secret to Correct Exposure With Any DSLR Camera
I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a problem getting very close to the exposure I wanted in camera.
My usual process now is to guess what the exposure is (I’m usually in the ballpark), chimp once, adjust, chimp again, good.
(“chimp” v. Photographer slang to quickly look at a preview of a photograph on the back of the camera. Similar in appearance to fidgety monkeys.)
The odd time I am in a difficult lighting environment, I use a lightmeter for my initial guess and/or compare notes with the histogram.
That’s it – that’s the real secret to correct exposure with any DSLR camera.
And I say that not to sound all high and mighty, but as someone who used to really struggle with getting correct exposures.
Until cameras figure out how to read your mind, you just have to let go of the idea that there is some mystical camera setting that will produce correct exposures every time.
Use Manual mode and practice. That’s it.
Sing it with me – cause I know you want to!
Let it go, let it go!
Have You Struggled With Getting Correct Exposures With a DSLR Camera?
Are you an exposure correction / exposure lock devotee or do you just bypass your camera’s brain all together and use your own?
Leave a comment below and let us know!
JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.