Compensating for Light and Dark Scenes | Transcription

In this video, I want to talk about what to do to compensate for scenes that are naturally bright or scenes that are naturally dark.

When we approach a scene that is naturally bright or naturally dark, the camera is going to give us kind of strange readings. And here is what I mean, when you’re at the beach. Let’s say you’re shooting, it’s a bright day, you have bright sand, you have bright skies, you have a couple that’s dressed in lighter attire. Everything about the scene is very, very bright.

Now when the camera sees this, the camera is not really going to understand and remember internally in the camera, basically every scene on average is going to equal this gray or this 18% gray color. What that simply means, you don’t need to memorize 18% gray, it just means that on average cameras are programmed to think that “well, if we average all the bright areas and we average all the dark areas, we kind of come out with this middle grayish in our scene.”

If your scene is naturally brighter than that, the camera is going to tell you that the scene is overexposed. If the scene is naturally darker than that, it’ll tell you that it’s underexposed. And if you let the camera expose for you, well again, back to our beach analogy.

If we let the camera run the exposure what we end up with is an underexposed scene. Because the camera is going to tell you that it’s basically overexposed, you’re going to compensate for it. Or if you allow the camera to compensate for it by itself, it’s going to bring all that bright tone down.

In reality, all we need to do is we need to expose for that naturally bright scene, so it looks bright in the camera as well. This may be one stop or two stops overexposed, so long as you’re not blowing out all of your detail, you’re totally fine. On the flip side, you can have a naturally dark scene. And a naturally dark scene could really be anything. It could be a scene like the one we are about to shoot, or it could be, well just say for an example that you’re shooting a groom or someone in a suit.

In a dark suit, if that’s all you’re getting in your composition, everything is naturally black with the exception of their skin tones. So what the camera goes, is it compares it to that 18% gray value and it says “well, this is too dark, I’m going to try to brighten it up.” So either you adjust based on the cameras meter, and you brighten it yourself, or the camera, again, if you’re allowing the camera to adjust the exposure for you, it’s going to brighten it up. And then that black tone, which should be black and should be dark, ends up being more of a gray color and everything ends up being overexposed.

So these are the situations where basically your camera really isn’t going to understand what’s going on, and you need to outsmart the camera. We are losing light quick so we need to set up a shot. Now what I’m going to go for in the composition is I’m going to get low, I’m going to shoot with the road line. And you can see that there is a little highlight right on the center of the road. Once the sun moves out of position, we lose that. What I’m going to do is place them right on that highlight. We are going to get low and shoot with the leading line that goes into our couple, and we will get this entire scene in the frame. I’m also going to get low so we can place the couple against the strong highlight in the background. That way the brightest areas of the image is where the couple is. It’s going to draw attention right to that point.

We are going to go ahead and get started guys, why don’t you step on in. Okay what I want guys is you guys to turn into each other, so fully close up. There you go. And then, that’s perfect, just like that. And then I’m going to have you drop your toe a little bit Christine, there you go, so we get a little pull on the dress. That looks beautiful.

All right guys, stay like that looking at each other. Okay, now in scene like this, we are shooting in a very dark scene, don’t be surprised if this scene is going to be one stop underexposed, or even two stops underexposed, because I’m exposing for the highlights. I want to just get the catch lights on the tree, and so this is exactly what we are talking about.


Quick Tip: Okay hold the phone. Pye is saying that this scene is rather dark, but to us in the video it looks a little bit on the brighter side, doesn’t it? So what is he talking about? Well, it’s simple.

At this point, you’ve learned how you can expose for highlights versus shadows, right? So what you see on the video is that the camera is exposed for Pye’s skin, which is actually in the shadows. So this scene looks pretty bright, because the video is exposing for shadows. But in reality, the scene is actually pretty dark. Because most of the scene consists of shadows from the trees, and the leaves, with just spots of lights coming through it. Now, Pye placed the couple in a bright area of highlight and he’s going to expose for that highlight area to get the proper exposure. And with that exposure, you’ll see just how dark this scene actually is to the camera. Because most of the trees are going to be in the very deep shadows. So the camera takes a scene like that and thinks it’s quite dark. But the final results it’s all going to depend on how you choose to expose it.


In scenes like this, you need to know what you’re looking for. And I do want the trees. I do want everything to be dark, except for these highlight areas. So, kind of outsmart the meter in these types of situations because this is a dark scene, we want it to have that appearance, except for these strong highlights coming through which are going to draw our attention.

Now, I’m going to go ahead and get low. Okay, so we’ve got a gorgeous scene here guys. The back light is absolutely amazing. Everything looks awesome. Our models look awesome. So I’m going to take this opportunity to get a few more shots on different lenses.


Quick Tip: Be sure to watch that bonus chapter content. Because in that area you get to focus on how Pye shoots and interacts with his subjects. Communication, posing, interacting with your subjects; they’re just as important, if not more important, than all of this technical mumbo-jumbo.


So when you approach a scene, I want you to think to yourself: if the scene is bright and it’s suppose to be bright then realize that before you take the shot, because the camera is going to give you a meter reading that basically shows that it’s overexposed. When in reality, it’s just a bright scene. Same thing if it was just a dark scene. If the meter is underexposed, but it is a dark scene to begin with, well don’t worry about that. In these kinds of cases, we really want to just outsmart the meter. Understand that we are shooting either an overly bright or overly dark scene, and that’s totally fine.







Chapter 7: BONUS

Total Course Run Time: 6H 30M 21S