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Exercise 1: Exposure and Image Quality

Exposure, or making a great exposure is one of the most highly underrated aspects of making what is technically a great photograph. While the requirements for digital and film cameras vary in their characteristic way, this dictum still holds more true than ever. The eye loves detail. We love to look at a photograph which has a wealth of information in it. And shadow and highlight areas in a photograph are absolutely no exception to this rule – in fact, a photograph with intense blacks, whites AND detail in these areas is one of the classic hallmarks of a high quality print. But relying solely on the automatic exposure determination made by your automatic camera is not going to do this for you automatically. In nine out of ten cases, getting this ultimate quality will depend on your recognizing the characteristics of a particular situation and knowing your equip- ment well enough to capture that range with enough tonality to spare… in classic film photogra- phy, we deal with this by adjusting the length of film development… with digital cameras by shoo- ing in the ‘RAW’ format, which has an extended tonal range (one can zero in on the desired tonal range to capture after the fact in some cases).

This exercise was designed for the purpose of understanding the general problems and quali- ties inherent in underexposing, over exposing and getting comfortable with the concept of ‘tonal range’ and different lighting conditions. The exercise consists of making a series of exposures modifying both aperture and shutter speed. The basis for the exercise will be first determining the basic correct exposure and then varying the aperture and shutter speeds accordingly. It is best to do this series outdoors in the early evening or early morning barely after sunset so as to have the most flexibility and get into multi-second exposures.

Try to find a lighting condition (you can move more into the shade to effect this situation) that will give you a suggested reading of 1 second at f/8. Then shoot the following series. A tripod or other stable surface is recommended for this exercise.

f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 1/8 sec. 1/4 sec. 1/2 sec. 1 sec. 2 sec. 4 sec. 8 sec.

Analysis: Note the ‘density’ (how well the image was recorded – look in the shadow areas for de- tail, etc…) of the film/digital images exposed for several seconds. Do you note anything different about them – and if so, what…?

What other differences do you see between the exposures? Do you notice any other differences, and what kinds?