Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Photography Exercise: Experimenting with Exposure

Speaking of photography, I thought I would share what I have been up to lately with my Nikon. Through the Kathmandu University Centre for Art + Design, I have arranged an independent study with a photography instructor. For those interested, KU offers two weekly photography classes -- a studio photography course for degree students and a basic introductory class for non-degree students -- but neither of these options fit my background and interests. Fortunately for me, the instructor offered to work with me independently and offer feedback for my self-designed photography exercises.

For my first exercise, I thought that I would return to some fundamentals: experimenting with manual settings to adjust exposure. I usually shoot in aperture priority mode, which allows me to control the depth  of field while allowing the camera to select an appropriate shutter speed to match. This mode ensures a proper exposure, so I don't really give much thought to exposure on a regular basis.

Time to change that. I turned the dial on my camera to manual mode and then started playing with ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to re-teach myself how these three functions relate. Instead of explaining how they relate, I will opt for showing you how they relate. I photographed the same image using a variety of different settings, changing them in a systematic way. I took these photos around 3pm on an overcast day without a tripod.

I started out by keeping the f-stop at 5.6 and the ISO at 200 while adjusting the shutter speed. That combination of f-stop and ISO made for way over-exposed photos, so only two of them are worth sharing.

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#1: 1/160 S, f/5.6, ISO 200 (bad)

#2: 1/125 S, f/5.6, ISO 200 (better but still bad)

For the next round, I increased ISO to 400 and kept the f-stop at 5.6. Here are the results with different shutter speeds.

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#3: 1/200 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (yikes)

#4: 1/250 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (an improvement over the last, but that's not saying much)

#5: 1/320 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (better but not great -- lacking contrast, maybe?)

#6: 1/400 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (I think I may like this one)

#7: 1/500 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (even better)

#8: 1/640 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (too dark?)

#9: 1/800 S, f/5.6, ISO 400 (yes, definitely too dark)

I had run out of good options with this combination of f-stop and ISO, so I thought that I would try one last series using a lower f-stop to create a smaller depth of field.

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#10: 1/800 S, f/3.2, ISO 400 (too bright again)

#11: 1/1000 S, f/3.2, ISO 400 (still too bright)

#12: 1/1250 S, f/3.2, ISO 400 (oh, I like this one)

#13: 1/1600 S, f/3.2, ISO 400 (a touch too dark?)

I think that my favorite photos are the last two; the light is nice, and the smaller depth of field is good for such a close-up image. But of these two images, which is better? Photography experts out there, if you have any suggestions for more ideal settings that I should have used, please share!

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