Posted by: David Vernon | October 28, 2008

Lighting – with Help from Nature

Murray Baker VanishingLast week we took a look at a lot of lighting things – and I wanted to pass on a few more tips – gleaned from the excellent introductory book by Bryan Peterson called “Understanding Exposure“. All of these tips count on getting your exposure information from nature… As you may have guessed, if there are going to be tips, they’re going to come in the fantastic form known as a list. And to make a list look better on the page here, we like to start the list below the picture which means I have to fluff a little here and there to get this paragraph to extend down far enough so that the list starts in the right place. Okay – that should do it.

Natural Light Metering Tips

  • On sunny days, meter off the sunny blue sky and use that exposure to make your image.
  • When shooting backlit sunrise and sunset landscapes, meter off an area beside the sun.
  • When shooting city or country scenes at dusk, simply meter off the dusky part of the sky.
  • When shooting coastal scenes or lake reflections at sunrise or sunset, meter from the light reflecting off the surface of the water.
  • Have a lot of green in the scene (think plants particularly – or leaves)? Meter off the green and underexpose by –2/3 stops (I know – this tip may have been more helpful four months ago).

Even if you recompose your shot and your light meter now disagrees with you – stick with it and it will turn out pretty darn close to right.

What about Night and Low Light Photography? A great rule-of-thumb for all night and low-light photography is to simply meter off the sky. No matter how light or how dark. You can always compensate in low light photography by setting your exposure to wide open (say f/4) and metering off the sky to get a shutter speed. Then, if you really need to shoot at f/16 or f/22 for great depth of field, you can compensate in the other direction for with longer shutter speed and higher ISOs to offset the change in aperture.

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