Thanks to its warm, golden colours and varying weather, Autumn is a very photogenic season. However, the different locations you can shoot in coupled with weather and light changes can occasionally make setting the correct exposure tricky. With this in mind, here's a quick check list of ways you can ensure your exposure's correct every time.
Photo by David Clapp
1. Use An ND Filter
Placing an ND Filter over your lens will balance the brightness levels of the ground and sky so that sky detail can still be seen without the ground appearing underexposed.
2. Check Your Histogram
Even though digital cameras do have good built-in meters you still need to keep an eye out for burnt-out highlights as you'll lose detail in these areas. A good way to check if your image is correctly exposed is with the histogram.
A 'good' histogram that shows an even exposure will peak more towards the middle and get lower to either end. If the graph is occupying mostly the left-hand side it means your image has more dark tones than light (underexposed) and if it’s shifted to the right, there are more lighter tones (overexposed) which means you could have really bright areas that look blown out.
Also, as a side note, when you playback your images there’s an option you can set that makes the highlighted areas 'blink' so you can pinpoint their exact location. Check your camera's manual for the instructions on how to do this.
Photo by David Pritchard.
3. Work On Overcast Days
Overcast days give you the perfect conditions for capturing autumn shots in woods and forests. Why? Well, on sunny days it can be hard to keep contrast to a minimum and you can end up with large areas of dark shadow and patches of bright, dappled sunlight that's broken through the forest's canopy.
4. Meter From The Right Spot
Positioning yourself so the yellow and orange coloured leaves can be backlit will add extra punch to your shots, but again, your camera can get confused by the variety of light sources around. As a starting point, you can meter for the mid-tones but it's best to take a meter reading from the leaves to ensure they are correctly exposed. Also, by doing so the background, which you'll want to be thrown nicely out of focus, should appear darker, allowing your subject to 'pop' from the frame.
5. Use Exposure Compensation
Mist and fog are common conditions to be shooting in at this time of year but you may find you have exposure problems once out in the field. This is because camera meters are often fooled into underexposing misty scenes so they come out looking very grey, rather than light and airy. You can fix this by using the + compensation option. How many stops you need to move up by will depend on the scene and how many EV steps you can go up by will depend on the camera you are using.
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