Get the right depth color when the picture is taken. Learn how exposure bias helps achieve desired results. Prevent incorrect exposures, too dark or too light. Eliminate bad exposure caused automatic settings. The camera's internal light sensor too frequently misinterpretis ambient light.
Exposure control requires a practical understanding of light. I've discovered some core settings worthy of sharing. Which settings are right for your photos? Start with examples below and learn more through practice and experiementation. Get it right the first time. Eliminate hours of post processing later.
Don't rely on software to solve incorrect exposure, software color correction is a last resort. Sure I salvage exposure mistakes using software such as Lightroom, but I don't want to. Post processing in Lightroom is a joyless task. Develop stronger skill using the camera eliminates the need for post processing software. Its a mistaken presumtion that all photos require rework after the shot.
Photos I create generally cannot be achieved with automatic camera settings. Experiment with manual camera settings. Example photos taken on a warm fall day at Yellowstone Lake State Park, southwestern Wisconsin. On one end of the lake there's a mile long level ground trail, perfect for waterfowl viewing and nature photography. On the map its called out as the wildlife loop.
Each example shows camera settings. It was an overcast day; regardless, it was bright light. Overcast days create soft diffussed light. Few shadows but still bright light. Ambient light dictates manual setting choices. Manual setting need adjusting when moving in and out of a shaded area.
My objective was to find small birds or waterfowl or cranes. Expecting to quickly quickly on a moving target. Choose settings so the shutter speed is very fast. A small fraction of a second. Select apeture priority mode, which means the camera stays on the same apeture regardless of light conditions. Secondly choose ISO 800. Higher ISO increases the sensitivity to light, decreases the exposure time. Too high of an ISO and the photo will have undesireable grain. Experience on my equipment an ISO 800 still looks pretty good with little grain.
Combine large apeture such as F5.6 with ISO 800 results with very fast shutter speeds. Very desireable for shooting birds. Fast shutter speeds also stablizes images by reducing possible camera motion blur. The combination is my basic setting for birding.
The last trick is to know my camera almost never exposes the way I want it to. Exposure is often only off by 1/3 + or - but its still off. Override the sensor's exposure depending upon overall perceived light in the photo. If there is too much light step up the ev to the +. Set to the plus when too much light is in the shot. For instance: a white snowfield, bare trees for birds or reflected light from a lake's surface. Override to the negative when you want to shoot into the dark corners of a forest, a bird low in the brushes might be -1.0 to expose properly.
I mentioned I was birding, birds are everywhere, on the ground, on the water, in the brushes, on the bushes, in the trees, and up in treetops. Practice exposing leaves and you will be ready for the brids when they appear. Every location birds are found the camera percieves light differently. So throughout the hike constant changes to exposure are required. Keep all settings the same except for exposure bias. Change the EV rating + or - depending upon overall light in the picture. Below are examples of minus ev. I'll do a follow up essay on plus ev in the future.
Consider photo on right (example I) bushes at eye level have very little sky and often are too dark when automatically exposed. I shoot the horizontal down to the ground at - 1/3 or -2/3 EV. This example makes the berries pop because the background is darker than the subject. Automatic exposure would make everything a lighter shade of green. Colors would be washed out.
(left photo) Example G good exposure and smart background choice. Choose a dark background when the subject is light. The leaves on this branch had direct sunlight from an overcast sky. Underexpose the shot by -1/3 EV to make the leaves pop. The effect is enhanced by the very dark tree bark in the background. Likewise the wide apeture of F5.6 blurrs the tree bark, blurry background puts more focus on the subject. If there were a bird on the branch this photo would be magic.
Example H shows good exposure and weak background choice (right) Fall leaves turning yellow against an otherwise green forest. Notice how the wide apeture significantly blurs the background when the background is far away. Overall color tone in this photo lacks significant difference to be an awesome shot. If a bird were on the branch the exposure would be nice at -1/3 EV but the bird would be lost in the background.
Consider the similaries among all four examples. Composition is nearly identical only with differnet color leaves for subject matter. Essentially all the same background blur. Exposure settings for both are very similar. The real difference is the shutter speed. Sutther speed varies depending upon the overall light, each was taken on a different part of the trail. For me shutter speed will be the variable when shooting birds.
What you like comes down to artistic taste. I prefer G over the other three. Mostly because the color tones have sufficent difference in the subject. Just personal taste. Shoot what you like to shoot.