Saturday, 14 June 2014

Wildlife Photography Exposure

Wildlife Photography Exposure

Link to PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Exposure

Posted: 14 Jun 2014 02:44 AM PDT

The exposure of a digital photograph is affected by the camera’s aperture, shutter speed, ISO setting, and of course the amount of light in the scene being photographed. An incorrect exposure will turn an otherwise well composed wildlife image into something mediocre and, at worst, completely ruin a shot.

wildlife photography

“Jaffna… Sri Lanka’s most beautiful?” captured by Hermen van Laar (Click image to see more from van Laar.)

All digital cameras have an automatic exposure setting, so it may seem that exposure is something that is best left up to the camera. It’s certainly true that in some situations your camera’s automatic exposure system will produce properly exposed shots, but there are also many situations where it will not.

Automatic exposure systems only tend to work well when a scene and the subject animal consist mainly of mid-tones. This is because automatic exposure averages out the exposure of the scene as a whole, achieving an overall exposure equivalent of a uniform mid-tone grey. Since virtually no real world scenes consist of purely mid-tone grey, this can mean that your wildlife photos may end up incorrectly exposed if you rely purely on your camera’s default exposure settings.

Scenes that consist of mainly very pale colours will come out underexposed (such as a pale animal in the snow) and scenes with very dark colours will come out overexposed. Furthermore, pale animals against dark backgrounds may be overexposed and dark animals against pale backgrounds may be underexposed. Animals with pied markings such as puffins or magpies will usually have their white areas overexposed. Therefore it is often necessary in wildlife photography to adjust your camera’s default settings to correctly expose your shots.

wild animal photography

“Mother and Child” captured by Deon (Click image to see more from Deon.)

Exposure Settings

Prosumer and DSLR cameras have three main light metering modes available:

  • Multi-Segment or Matrix. This is a camera’s default automatic exposure mode. This divides the image into a number of segments and averages out the exposure for the scene as a whole. This mode can work well for frame filling close-ups of animals and for wider shots of scenes consisting of mainly mid-tones, but as explained in the previous section, this mode will often produce incorrectly exposed images when the scene has significant areas of extreme light or dark.
  • Spot Metering. In this mode the camera bases its exposure value on a single point in the image (usually the centre of the image, but this point can be adjusted on most cameras). This is a useful mode for wildlife photography, as it often enables you to achieve the correct exposure for the subject animal. Spot metering should be used with care, however, as the light readings can vary significantly depending on where you point the camera—it is best to choose a point on your subject that has a mid-tone.
  • Centre-Weighted. Like multi-segment metering this mode takes an average of the scene as a whole, but in this mode more importance is given to the centre of the image in the averaging process, meaning that the camera tries to ensure the centre of the image is correctly exposed. This is another good setting for wildlife photography that, unlike spot metering, is less sensitive to variations in scene brightness. As centre-weighted metering still uses a form of averaging, it can still produce incorrect exposure if the centre of the image contains extremes of light or dark.

Exposure Compensation

If you find your camera’s metering doesn’t produce good results for a given scene (e.g. when your subject animal is very light or dark) you can use the manual EV Compensation (Exposure Value Compensation) setting on your camera to adjust the exposure it will use. For example, without EV compensation, a spot-metered or centre-weighted picture of a white swan is likely to come out underexposed (as the camera tries to achieve a mid-tone grey for the swan’s white plumage). By setting your camera to a positive EV Compensation you’ll be able to get a picture where the swan’s plumage is exposed correctly. You may need to use a little trial and error to find the exact amount of compensation required.

bird photography

“Swan” captured by Angela E. Taylor (Click image to see more from Taylor.)


Another trick you can use to get the correct exposure is to use the exposure bracketing function on your camera. In this mode, the camera takes three shots at different exposure settings: one at the camera’s recommended exposure, one slightly underexposed, and one slightly overexposed. Bracketing increases the likelihood that one will be correctly exposed. It should be noted that because bracketing takes multiple exposures, it is not particularly suitable for shooting animals in action; the animal is likely to move between exposures making each bracketed shot different, and unless you are very lucky, the best exposed shot might not be the shot with the animal in the best position.

Checking For Correct Exposure

You may be tempted to try and check the exposure of a picture after you have taken it by viewing it on your camera’s LCD. While this may give you a rough idea, it is not very reliable; a screen’s brightness can vary and the ambient lighting conditions affect how an image appears on the screen. A far more reliable way of assessing exposure is to look at your camera’s histogram.

The histogram is a graph showing the distribution of tones from light to dark in an image. For most shots you want a bell shaped histogram with the majority of pixels toward the middle of the graph, although this does not necessarily hold true for pictures that have significant light or dark areas.

animal photography

“Untitled” captured by Romanbronze (Click image to see more from Romanbronze.)

Another feature most cameras provide for checking exposure is an image playback mode where the massively overexposed parts of the image flash on screen. Massively overexposed means a region of an image is so overexposed that it has gone to pure white—this is referred to as clipped or burned out.

Overexposure to the point where significant portions of the image are clipped is something you should avoid at all costs. Once a portion of an image is clipped, all information in that part of the image is lost; nothing can be done in tools like Photoshop to recover it. It should be noted here that it is fine to clip specular highlights, like those caused by the sun reflecting in the animal’s eyes, but clipping large areas of detail should always be avoided.

The problems associated with clipping mean that it is generally safer to slightly underexpose a digital image than it is to overexpose it, as this will retain more detail in the highlights. Underexposed images can be corrected easily in Photoshop, but if an image is significantly underexposed, the corrected image will have an undesirable grainy texture called ‘noise’. Slight overexposure can also be corrected in Photoshop but only when clipping hasn’t occurred.

Poor exposure can ruin once-in-a-lifetime wildlife shots. Use these tips to ensure you get a correct exposure every time.

About the Author:
Ben Juby (digital-nature dot info) is a wildlife photography enthusiast and freelance web developer.

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The Creative Process Behind a Crossfit Photo Shoot (Video)

Posted: 13 Jun 2014 05:02 PM PDT

The initial moments of a photo shoot can be daunting when first viewing the location and subject. But a bit of planning makes things easier. In this video, Corey Rich shows us his creative process as he shoots a personal project at a local CrossFit gym:

Do Your Prep Work

The first step in any photo project is the planning. Choose a location, get permission, and decide what you’re hoping to get from the photo shoot. Rich wanted to shoot a personal project at a CrossFit gym. He first gained permission for the shoot by promising exchange of the final images in return, which could be used for promotional purposes. A week before the planned shoot, he scouted out the location looking for backgrounds and considering the lighting of each area. He even drew out a map of the area for later reference.

photo shoot background

It’s helpful to draw out lighting diagrams and shot lists before your shoot begins.

Choose Your Equipment

Know the location and the kinds of shots you want ahead of time. This way, you can prepare the right camera and lighting gear. For this shoot, Rich brought in an assortment of lighting options including Nikon SB-910 Speedlights and a 1×1 Bi-Color LED Litepanel. He also brought a Roscolux 1700 Fog Machine 120V in order to enhance the natural light rays of the room.


Be Flexible

Start with a plan, but be willing to change it as you go. Shooting with a Nikon D800 and a 24mm-70mm f/2.8 lens, Rich started out in front of one of his best options for a background and lighting. He initially felt that the photo was too complicated. He stripped out elements and changed props until it was simple enough. The smoke machine was turned on for about two seconds and then fanned out in order to capture the natural light from a nearby window. When the skin color was not quite right, Rich used the Litepanel to warm up the light and match the skin tone of his subject.


Overall, Rich truly focuses on the creative process. He encourages photographers to find the interest in their photo shoot.

"Be opportunistic. Look for the most interesting backgrounds and then put your subject in that environment and work with your subject… Just really focus on evolving the moment into something interesting."

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How to Create Artistic Headshots Using Ice Lights (Video)

Posted: 13 Jun 2014 02:29 PM PDT

Fashion photographer Lou Freeman has been a leading figure in the glamour world for nearly three decades. Over the years, she has come up with her own unique way of creating beauty images with what she calls “beauty box perpective.” Watch as Freeman uses four Westcott Ice Lights as a beauty box to create stunning head shots:

During the featured photo shoot, Freeman creates a beauty box by connecting four Ice Lights using small bungee cords and two light stands to form a square. The framed lighting device lets Freeman achieve the look of a ring light with much softer effects.

beauty box lighting

4 Ice Lights create a ring-like light

Freeman prefers to light her subjects with light from all around. She likes something that has a cool, soft luminescence and often uses Kino Flo panels and Diva-Lites.

She likes the beauty box created out of Ice Lights because it gives her just enough room to shoot through it with her camera. The color temperature is pure daylight and offers a soft, even quality of light.


Freeman’s portrait lighting setup uses four Ice Lights as a beauty box.


Ice Lights create interesting catchlights in the model’s eyes.

Freeman says her beauty box is a little too bizarre if you want to shoot commercial head shots, though. You’ll likely want to keep the catchlights in the eyes more natural looking. But, she says, if you’re going to shoot art, beauty, and fashion, then give this method a try.

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This Creepy Abandoned Mall is Straight Out of a Zombie Movie

Posted: 13 Jun 2014 12:40 PM PDT

Once the world’s largest shopping center, Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio now looks like it was pulled straight out of Resident Evil or The Walking Dead:

Rolling Acres Mall opened in 1975 and eventually grew to house more than 140 stores before its popularity began declining due to rumors of gang violence and the loss of all five of its “anchor” stores (Target, Sears, Macy’s, JCPenny, and Dillard’s) and many other stores besides throughout the early 2000s. Now, despite still hosting a Storage of America facility and a Pinnacle Paper Recycling facility, the mall has fallen into rampant disrepair.

Reportedly, Rolling Acres has now become a favored location for geocaching, speculating about impending zombie apocalypses, or hatching plans to hold grand paintball battles and the like in those dilapidated courtyards. It seems it would also make for a great photo shoot locale.

How do you think this abandoned space should be used?

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Tips for Making Your Selfies More Interesting (Video)

Posted: 13 Jun 2014 10:27 AM PDT

Let’s face it, selfies are one photography trend that probably isn’t going away anytime soon; the least we can do as photographers is try to make them less narcissistic and more compelling to an audience. In the video below, Bryan Peterson suggests a different approach for you to take a self portrait that helps to inject a little humor into it, as well as improve your composition:

What Peterson aims to achieve is to make photographers, regardless of their skill level, more aware of the way they are taking a self portrait and encourage them to get a little more creative than just holding their cameras out at arm’s length and snapping a selfie. His advice?

  • Start with a compelling background. For this photo, Peterson goes to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.
selfie tips

Turn on the self timer or grab your wireless remote and start creating selfies that are not just about you.

  • Create an interesting photo before you put yourself into it. Peterson experiments with shutter speed until he gets a nice looking test shot with eye catching lighting.
  • Make yourself less pronounced in the photo. In this case, Peterson got into the lower righthand part of the frame and pretended to climb the building during a 4 second exposure. Think of fun ways to be in the picture without your face taking up most of the image. Try blurring yourself by jumping, running, or twirling. Or get into a part of the photo where viewers won’t expect you to be.


“I don’t need to remind you that the big thing to do today is to take a selfie. What I would like to remind you of is to perhaps put a little bit of time and thought into what kind of selfie you are about to shoot.”

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

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