Correct Exposure for Wedding, Portrait and Landscape Photography.

I said in a previous Blog that I would wright a short article on correct exposure using the “some may feel out dated due to technology” Ansell Adams metering system or better known as the zone system.

This way of thinking breaks an image into sections based on Whites through to blacks to allow you as the photographer to obtain the correct exposure, I do feel this still has its place however more for landscape photographer, where you as the photographer wishes to select an area of more impotence for the specific scene you are looking at, this zone system not only means that you expose correctly but also helps to retain details in the highlights and shadows.

You may think that the highlights are the areas that can be overexposed however it’s also vital to retain the detail in the blacks; details can also be lost in these areas if correct exposure is not kept.

Yes, I know everybody will shout out but we have RAW files now so it’s not a problem, well it is, it’s still possible to lose important detail even when using RAW, and a RAW file can only really bring back about 2 stops of information, also believe me, when you photograph anything and the exposure is spot on the image is incredible, even photographing a boll of fruit looks incredible when its correctly exposed.

Someone may say “but we can really on Technology now to get it right for us” we’ll it’s all well and good relying on technology but you still need to know how to achieve perfection because things can become defective and if your photographing a wedding, you need to know all the basics of your art, that’s why artists still are required to learn the basics and learn how to produce their sketches in pencil, it pushes the pupil to look at shading or we would say shadows.

So let’s see how this Zone system can help you achieve correct exposure, I’m not talking about artistic exposure, just correct exposure, there may be times when you want to blow the highlights or darken the shadows but this is about correct exposure.

One of the best things I read was to look at the world around you in Black and white, when you look at the image attached to this article, look at how the colours are altered when produced in B&W, you have white areas, greys and also Blacks, as camera meters are calibrated to 12-13% grey, that’s apparently more correct than the 18% grey you may have heard about, we don’t really know the absolute as all cameras can differ however let’s say 18% grey for this article.

So remember the grey scale I previously posted, this shows us that 18% grey is middle grey on the scale and each change in exposure based on shutter speed, aperture or even ISO can impact on this.

So if we wanted to meter on a part of the scene that was 18% grey we could focus on the grass as this is close to 18% grey when you look at the B&W photo and perfect exposure would be obtained however we could also focus on the Blacks and under expose by about 2 stops which would provide Black because as you can see from the scale Black is roughly 2 stops down from 18% grey and remember the meter on the camera would look at the Black and try to produce 18% and therefore over expose the image so we have to compensate by under exposing 2 stops to bring the exposure back.

It may seem complicated buts I can sure you it’s now and once you begin looking at Landscapes as if they are B&W all will become familiar for you and your skills will vastly improve, another little bit of fun is when you’re out and about checkout people’s faces and see if you can decide where about their skin tone fits within the scale, I shall give you a starting point, the actress Hail Berry is a perfect 18% grey, therefor if you had the opportunity to meter off her face adjusted the cameras exposure scale to the centre you would have a perfectly exposed photograph.

I do hope this has helped you with exposure; I do tend to write as I think but hopefully you would have picked up some extra things to try.   

Take the challenge and see how you get on gaining correct exposure in complete manual settings, you will be so please when you realise, you can do this without letting the camera decide on what it thinks it’s looking at based on mathematical algorithms’.

Please do look at other Tips and tricks in my Blog posts. -

Southwest Wedding Photography Michael Gane of

The FX Works