Photography in Auto Mode Part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: River Nidd at Knaresborough and Ripon from the river, plus blog title.If you’re using your camera on auto mode then you can still learn a great deal about light and good exposures. You can also control it and use it for creative effect and better quality images.

In the previous blog post in this series I discussed what is a good exposure. Now you know what you want your photo to look like, how do you get control over that in auto mode?

How does your auto mode camera guess the exposure?

In auto mode most cameras will try to set an average exposure for the dominant part of the image. It will ignore small areas of very bright or very dark – whether you want it to or not. The camera will take an average from the biggest area of the photo. If most of your image is medium brightness, then this might work out just fine. But if you have got bright sun or high contrast, then it could easily go wrong. That’s why the baby’s face is in darkness in the photo example below.

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: baby on the beach, face in shadow.Try half pressing the button or tapping the screen

On DSLR, compact or bridge camera you can usually half-press the shutter button to see what your camera is going to do. The camera may draw a box around the area of the photo it thinks is most important. Chances are the camera will use these areas for exposure as well as focus.

On a phone you can tap the screen to select the part of the photo where you want it to focus and expose. You can take some test shots and see which part of the image gives you the best exposure, and which part has not turned out so well.

Taking test shots to find the best exposure

These two photos below are taken moments apart but one has exposed for the buildings and the other for the sky. I think they are both failures. There are only very bright and very dark areas and it is all high contrast. There is no area of medium brightness.

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: Ripon cathedral and river, wrong exposure.Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: Ripon Cathedral and river, in silhouetteWhat can you do in this situation? Perhaps take a different photo altogether. You could change your composition to leave out most of the sky or leave out the foreground. Alternatively shoot in RAW and see if you can rescue it in Lightroom, which requires a whole other set of skills!

Take back some control on a bright day

If you are not getting what you want, your best option is to move the camera, and probably your feet as well.

To get the best exposure photo of the baby, I moved around so the sun was behind me. I took her hat off for a moment so there was light her face. Of course that means she is squinting a bit in the brightness.

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: baby on the beach squinting in the sun.So next I moved around again so the sun was off to the side. There is a shadow across her face but it’s only slight. The whole photo has quite an even tone because I have avoided getting the bright sky in the shot. There’s little contrast in the background, which makes life easy.

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: Baby on the beach, side light.A good exposure for landscape shots

One last example is this shot of a river and autumn trees. The river on the left and the trees on the right are almost black. The central water and sky are very bright but there is a big area of trees near the middle which are a medium tone. It’s these trees which make the exposure successful. I exposed for the trees, and the whole photo turned out well.

Getting the right exposure when your camera is in auto mode can be hit or miss. Get some control and pick the right area of your photo for the best exposure. Do you know what you need to expose for? Learn how to guarantee the best exposure. Tips for every kind of camera or phone. Photography in Auto Mode part 6: How to Choose the Best Exposure on Falcondale Life blog. Image description: River Nidd at KnaresboroughSummary

Select the right area of a photo to set the best exposure. Especially for portraits, make sure that your subject is not one of the very darkest or very brightest areas of the shot. Move your photoshoot to an area with even, medium light.

For a landscape you may need to make a feature of the land and leave the sky too bright (“blown out”), or make a feature of the sky and leave the land in darkness.

If you have any questions please get in touch or leave a comment below. I do read them all.

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3 Comments

  1. 9th June 2018 / 9:16 pm

    I have had my new camera for 9 months but still rely on auto most of the time! Thanks for the tips and linking up with #globalblogging

  2. Lauren Davis
    5th June 2018 / 8:28 pm

    Great tips thanks for sharing! I’m always looking for tips when taking pictures 🙂

  3. 4th June 2018 / 10:45 pm

    I’m no good at photography and always use auto. Thanks for the tips. #globalblogging

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