Tim Wheeler explains how you can improve your success rate when photographing dark and light objects.

Most camera iight meters are good enough to produce perfect exposures most of the time. But there are a few situations that almost all cameras struggle with. In these cases you'll get better photographs if you override the meter’s indicated exposure.

Meters in modern cameras work by reading the brightness of a scene, and calculating the exposure required. If the scene is an even mixture of light and dark areas, the suggested exposure will usually be correct. However, if the subject is mostly light toned, for example a completely snow covered scene, or all dark toned, for example a painted black wall, your meter will not provide the best exposure.

For bright, or light toned, subjects the camera will tend to darken (or underexpose) the scene. Conversely, for dark coloured subjects  the camera will tend to lighten (or overexpose) the scene.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to adjust the meter. Most cameras include an exposure compensation button which lets you increase or decrease the exposure as much as you like.

Most cameras allow you to increase and decrease the exposure in half- or third-stop increments up to three or four stops.

The exposure compensation control is usually marked with plus and minus symbols inside a square.

If you're photographing a light-toned scene, where the majority of the picture is made up of white subjects (eg white sails against a light sky), try setting the exposure compensation to +1. This will brighten the image by a stop and will prevent the scene from appearing dull grey.

Dark-toned scenes are less common, but say you are photographing a someone in a dinner suit against a black wall, try reducing the exposure to -1. This will stop the meter frop rendering the scene mid-grey.

Tim Wheeler will be hosting a guided photography tour on the upcoming Lycian Coast Yacht Rally in Turkey in Sept 2012. The Rally sees up to ten cruising yachts taking part in short races along the historic and stunning Lycian Coast of Turkey from Marmaris to Antalya. A traditional Turkish gulet (pronounced goolet) will sail as spectator vessel for the two-week cruise. Modern gulets are based on vessels that have sailed these coasts for centuries but are these days kitted out with all modern conveniences including air conditioning, en-suite facilities, huge common areas and afterdecks for alfresco dining. Tim Wheeler has more than 35 years experience as an advertising and commercial photographer and teaches photography at Raffles College of Design and Commerce, the Australian Centre for Photography and CATC, as well as running workshops in his own studio on the lower North Shore in Sydney. He is a member of the ACMP and a past Chairman of the Professional Photographers Association of Australia. He is also an avid sailor.
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Minaret as shot  Minaret correct
For bright, or light toned, subjects the camera will tend to darken (or underexpose) the scene. To counter this, try setting the exposure compensation to +1. This will brighten the image and prevent the scene from rendering dull grey.

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