Exposure Digital Field Guide®

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Understanding Exposure

Defining Exposure


Exposure value

Equivalent Exposures

Exposure Modes

Program auto mode

Shutter speed priority mode

Aperture priority mode

Manual mode

Metering Light

Camera Metering Modes

Spot metering

Center-weighted metering

Scene metering

Exposure Compensation

Exposure Compensation versus Flash Compensation

Bracketing Your Exposures

Using the Histogram

Using the Clipping Information

File Formats




Chapter 2: Working with Light

Direction of Light

Front lighting

Back lighting

Overhead lighting

Side lighting

Intensity of Light

Color of Light

Color temperature

White balance


Tungsten or incandescent light

Fluorescent light

Using a Flash

Fill light

Color gels

Chapter 3: Shutter Speed

Controlling the Shutter Speed

Camera controls

When Shutter Speed Is More Important Than Aperture

Freezing the Action

Superfast shutter speeds

Very fast shutter speeds

Fast shutter speeds

Normal shutter speeds

Slow shutter speeds

Very slow shutter speeds


Chapter 4: Aperture

Controlling the Aperture

Understanding f-stops

Camera controls

Program auto mode

Aperture priority mode

Manual mode

Depth of Field

Defining the depth of field

Controlling the depth of field

Shallow depth of field

Middle depth of field

Deep depth of field

Aperture versus Shutter Speed

Understanding Lens Limitations

Lens speeds


Variable and constant aperture lenses

Macro lenses, aperture, and depth of field

Chapter 5: ISO

Understanding ISO and Light Sensitivity

Digital Noise

High ISO Noise Reduction

Noise reduction through exposure

Noise reduction using software or camera settings

Using a Higher ISO

Chapter 6: Event Photography

Exposure Considerations

Shooting outdoors

Shooting inside

Checking the exposure

Concert Photography

The Right Equipment for the Job




Shooting Events

Shooting Tips

Chapter 7: Portrait Photography

Exposure Considerations


Shutter speed

Considering Lighting and Location



Portrait tones

Working with People



The Right Equipment for the Job



Other accessories

Shooting Portraits

Shooting Tips

Chapter 8: Landscape and Nature Photography

Exposure Considerations

When to shoot

Shoot in Aperture priority mode

Metering modes

Shooting snow

Checking the exposure

The Right Equipment for the Job



Macro Nature Photography

Panoramic Photography

Shooting Landscapes and Nature Photographs

Shooting Tips

Chapter 9: Night and Low-Light Photography

Exposure Considerations

Long shutter speeds

Wide open aperture

High ISO

The Right Equipment for the Job

Cameras and lenses


Photographing Light Trails and Fireworks

Photographing Silhouettes

Sunrise and Sunset Photography

Shooting at Night and in Low Light

Shooting Tips

Chapter 10: Sports and Action Photography

Exposure Considerations

Shooting outside during the day

Shooting inside

Shooting outside at night

The Right Equipment for the Job




Shooting Sports and Action Photographs

Get into position

Figure out which mode to use

Get good non-action action shots

Shooting Tips

Chapter 11: Wedding Photography

Exposure Considerations

The bride and groom

Shooting inside

Exposing for movement

Evaluating exposure

The Right Equipment for the Job

Camera bodies


Dedicated flash


Shooting a Wedding

Getting ready for the bride

Getting ready for the groom

The ceremony

The formal portraits

The reception

Shooting Tips

Chatper 12: Wildlife and Animal Photography

Exposure Consideration

Using Aperture priority mode

Picking the right metering mode

The Right Equipment for the Job




Pet Photography

Shooting Wildlife and Animal Photographs

Shooting Tips

Chapter 13: Creative Exposure

Exposure Considerations

High exposure


Using Exposure to Create a Mood

Using ISO Noise Creatively

Appendix A: Software

Adobe Camera Raw


Library module

Develop module

Appendix B:How to Use the Gray Card and Color Checker

Exposure Digital Field Guide


About the Author

Alan Hess is a San Diego based commercial photographer specializing in concert and event based photography, but has photographed everything from portraits to products. He is the author of two previous Digital Field Guides, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 Digital Field Guide and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 Digital Field Guide.

His concert and backstage images have appeared in numerous online and print publications and have been used for promotional purposes and music packaging.

He is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and Nikon Professional Services.

Alan is a key contributor to the Lexar Pro Photographer Web site and has written articles on concert photography and technology. Alan has taught concert photography at Photoshop World and has taught photography, digital photography workflow using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom at Essy’s Studio in San Diego.

Alan can be contacted through his Web site where he writes a regular blog.


Acquisitions Editor

Courtney Allen

Technical Editor

Haje Jan Kamps

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Kim Heusel

Editorial Director

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Editorial Manager

Cricket Krengel

Business Manager

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Vice President and Executive Publisher

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Quality Control Technician

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Proofreading and Indexing

Cindy Ballew
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Special thanks to my wife for her amazing patience as I wrote this book. I know that I am not the easiest person to get along with when facing deadlines.

I would like to thank my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, and all the nephews and nieces for being the supporting family that everyone should be lucky enough to have.

Thanks to all my family and friends for allowing me to always be pointing a camera at you and letting me use the photos in this book.

Special thanks to Brian Ross, David Baron, and Maya at PR Photo — you all opened new doors and shooting opportunities for me, and I thank you.

My deepest gratitude to Courtney and Cricket for all their guidance; this is our third book together and I am glad for all your help. Thanks to Haje Jan Kamps and Kim Heusel for all their hard work as well.

For Nadra


This Digital Field Guide is not camera specific or even brand specific, it is all about exposure, but what does that actually mean? Exposure is a very simple concept — allow the light sensitive sensor (film) to be exposed to the light that is reflected from the scene you want to capture. That’s the basics of taking a photograph. When you press the shutter release the camera opens the shutter and the light travels through the lens and is allowed to reach that sensor and you have a photograph.

As photographers you get to control the amount of light that reaches the sensor by controlling how long the shutter is open and how big a hole the light enters through. You also get to decide how much the signal from the sensor is amplified and it is those decisions that are the essence to taking photographs and getting a proper exposure.

I get a lot of questions about photography both through my blog at and in person when out photographing. Most of the time the questions are about how I managed to capture a certain image or what settings I use for my photos. The answer is pretty simple: I use the best exposure settings for the situation.

In this book, I start by covering exactly what an exposure is and what controls you have to adjust it. It explains how your camera measures light and what each of the settings mean, as well as which of the metering modes works best for different situations. It also covers the exposure modes found on most cameras and when the best time to use them is.

Next up is all about light. Because photography is capturing light, it is important to understand the direction, color, and intensity of light in any scene. It is only after you can see and understand the light, that you can really go about capturing it. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are also covered in detail. Each of these sections not only cover the controls you have at your disposal, but the pros and cons of each one.

After the generalities of shutter speed, aperture and light are covered, it is time to get a little more specific starting with event photography, which includes one of my favorite photographic subjects — concert photography. I also cover outdoor events, indoor events, and those that take place all day long. You will learn about the exposure considerations and what can be done to get the best images possible.

Next is all about shooting people, from individual to group portraits, from shooting outside to dealing with studio lights. How to deal with the exposure problems that arise when shooting portraits is covered along with the best ways to check your exposures are all covered here.

Shooting landscapes and nature is also covered — from the exposure considerations when shooting landscapes and nature photography to controlling the depth of field to make sure that the whole landscape is in focus and even what the best times to shoot landscapes are.

Low light and night photography is up next. By definition, low light and night photography deals with photography when there is minimal light. Photographing light trails and fire works as well as how to shoot those beautiful sunrises and sunsets are all covered, as well as a look at the best way to shoot a silhouette, a technique that will let you use silhouettes creatively from now on.

While you normally use long shutter speeds when photographing in lower light, when it comes to sports and action photography, the opposite is often true. You use very short shutter speeds to freeze the action. How fast of a shutter speed is needed and what are the consequences are covered in this chapter. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting your kids playing a soccer game or if you are on the sidelines of a high school, college, or professional football game, the basics are the same.

Everybody loves a wedding; it is a time of joy and happiness…unless you are photographing the event. Wedding photography can be a very stressful experience for a photographer, with only one chance to get it right. Weddings can also be a real challenge when it comes to getting proper exposures due to the traditional bright white dress and dark tuxedos. In this chapter I cover the problems and the solutions with shooting weddings that will hopefully help if you ever find yourself as the wedding photographer.

Wildlife and animal photography is another favorite to photograph. It can range from photographing pets to taking a trip to the local zoo or an animal park, but the skills you need to get great shots are the same.

Finally, you get a look at some creative exposure options — the different ways to achieve your artistic vision and some fun ways to experiment during the image creation.

Because this book is all about digital photography I also spend some time at the end covering some of the software options and a bit about what can be done in post processing to adjust your exposure. However, even with the advances in software and the amazing things that can be done on a computer these days, remember it is still best to get the exposure right in the camera first.

This Digital Field Guide includes a new feature; a gray card/color checker that can be removed and used to help you get true and accurate colors in your images.

One quick note: this book is made specifically to go with you. It isn’t some tabletop tome that can’t leave the house, its made to go in your camera bag, so dog ear the pages, use a highlighter to underline the parts that are important to you, but the main thing is for you to take the book with you, use it as a guide when out shooting. And, if you really love the book and don’t want to get it worn and torn, I have no problem with you buying two.