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Tips & Tricks

A Simple Tip To Help You Get The Perfect Exposure Every Time

By Hanssie on October 15th 2014

“Perfect” exposure is a relative matter, of course. Some people would cringe at the fact that I like to blow out my highlights more often than not, while others would praise my artistic eye in the same image. There is not one universal correct exposure for all situations, obviously, but when an exposure is waaaayyy off, sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to salvage in post, even if you’re shooting in RAW.

In the following short video clip, Matt Granger gives a simple tip on getting the “perfect” exposure every single time, in camera, which will save you lots of time in post (or allow you more freedom and a better canvas to play with). Some photographers rely on their histogram, which is a great way to see the tonal distribution of the image that you just took. Is it too light? Is it too dark? Did I blow out the highlights? Are there dark shadows under my subject’s eyes? A histogram can help you answer those questions. But there’s another way…

[REWIND: A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF YOUR CAMERA’S HISTOGRAM]

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.56.39 PM

Though Matt does have a tutorial in how to understand your histogram, the method he shows us here is to change your camera setting to shoot in black and white or monochrome. (In the video, he demonstrates how to do so with a Nikon and a Canon camera). By shooting in monochrome, it will help you see the tonal variations in your image and help you recognize where the shadows are falling in camera. If you’re going to try out this tip, make sure you shoot in RAW. The raw data will be preserved within the file, but will display in black and white. If you shoot in JPEG and try this method, your image will be saved in black and white.

When I used to go practice shooting with Matthew Saville, he would always shoot in black and white and would constantly be examining each image, and murmuring some geek talk, which I tuned out. Now I see that he was utilizing thins very method! Personally, I can’t wait to experiment with this clever technique. It is a very visual method and much more fun than reading my histogram. If you want to see more tips from Matt Granger, make sure to check out his YouTube page.

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About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Eric Shull

    Great idea Matt! I can’t wait to try this out on my next shoot.

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  2. Jill Schindel

    Very cool trick! I’m hesitant to give it a go as I shoot jpeg casually around the house and RAW for more intentional shoots – worried I’d forget to return to the original full colour settings. That said, I guess you’d review just one photo in B&W in jpeg and then fix it pretty fast.

    I could immediately pick up on the exposure issues in the photos that you displayed, so I think this would be very helpful to me in my shooting.

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  3. Lorenzo Luengo

    Simple and great tip. Never imagined doing that.

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  4. Ian Moss

    Don’t know if this’ll work, but straight out of camera, apart from converting raw to mono.

    https://www.facebook.com/fotography.workshops/photos/pcb.625826130860156/625825994193503/?type=1&theater

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  5. Kayode Olorunfemi

    As someone who does video, the old video cameras I used had black & white viewfinders. Will definitely give this a try for photos.

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  6. Ian Moss

    Combining shooting in B/W with a wysiwyg EVF in an Oly is fantastic for landscapes.

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  7. J D

    Very interesting. I’ve never heard of that before and I am definitely going to give it a try.

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  8. John Cavan

    Interesting idea, I may have to give that a go since I always shoot raw and I can’t help chimping… :)

    I also watched his histogram video and the thing that struck me the most is that he’s advocating “expose to the left” which is the opposite of the much talked about “expose to the right” that Michael Reichmann, of The Luminous Landscape, recommends. I will admit, with the range my Pentax K-5 before and my D800 now has, I stopped worrying about either, but it does show that the jury is still out on this subject.

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  9. William Emmett

    I have been using Sekonic 358 to set my exposure I’m not sure if this will help much. But, I’ll give it a try the next time downtown shooting.

    B

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    • Kayode Olorunfemi

      I started using a light meter a couple of months back and I must say nailing exposure has become easier. One thing I noticed is that my 5D mk3 under exposes by a stop for my liking so I over expose by a stop.

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  10. Dre Rolle

    Intresting. When I started out as a designer I heard this but never thought to apply it to photography. Nice video.

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  11. robert raymer

    I often do this, especially when shooting portraits. Since color is rendered slightly differently by the display on each make and even model of camera anyway, I find that shooting monochrome goes a long way to taking the “distraction” of color out of the equation when deciding how good my overall exposure and contrast is and really helps determine where shadows are and how soft or hard they will appear.

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