Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Measuring exposure



Part 1: produce between four and six photographs which are deliberately lighter or darker than average, and say why in your written notes.

Part 2: take five or six different photographs, of any subject, but for each one make five exposures, arranged around what you have measured as the best exposure.


Part 1:


I wanted to intensify the colour of the sunset sky and achieve a silhouette effect with the tree, whilst still maintaining some detail in the foreground. Underexposing by 1.0 EV gave the effect I wanted.

Sunset -1.0 EV

Sunset -1.0 EV


I took this around the middle of the day when the sun was high in the sky and the colours tended to look a little washed out at the supposed ‘right’ exposure. I pushed the exposure down by 1.0 EV to make sure the black of the scooter came out representative of the actual shade.

Scooter -1.0 EV

Scooter -1.0 EV


I wanted to get half of the face invisible in the dark shade and the other half faintly visible… I was going for a spooky/moody effect. To get the look I wanted, I dialled in -1.3 EV compensation.

Portrait -1.3 EV

Portrait -1.33 EV


This is the one example where I deliberately over- rather than underexposed. I was aiming to get the white of the bottles to almost fade into the white background, for a cool and minimalist aesthetic.

Bottles +2.0 EV

Bottles +2.0 EV

Part 2:

In this part I used a range of exposures from -0.67 EV to +0.67 EV, as my camera only does one-third stop exposure compensation and not half-stop compensation as suggested in the exercise brief.


In this set I believe the first two (underexposed) look most natural, and the remaining three look too bright to my eyes. My preference would be for the darkest, the -0.67 EV version.


Here I think the middle three all look acceptable. The -0.67 EV version is starting to get a little too dark in the shaded parts of the image to see the details, and similarly the +0.67 EV overexposure is starting to blow out the whites. If I had to choose the most pleasing version, I’d go for the slightly underexposed -0.33 EV image.


On this grey and overcast morning I actually found most of these a little too dark, up to and including the supposed ‘best’ exposure at 0 EV. In the two overexposed shots you can finally get to see some of the detail in the brickwork that is otherwise hard to make out. My preference is for the +0.33 EV version, as the +0.67 EV version starts to make the sky a little too bright.


Here I think the 0 EV and the +0.33 EV work best, with a marginal preference for the latter. In the underexposed shots the detail of the castle walls is getting lost, which would be OK if you were going for a silhouette look (in fact you’d underexpose even more).


In this final set I preferred the two underexposed images, as from 0 EV onwards I see the image tending towards being overly bright in the light areas.

What I’ve learned:

This was a fascinating exercise. I’ve realised now not to rely on what the camera believes is the ‘correct’ exposure as often the effect you want to achieve is significantly different (as in part 1) or in fact the camera just makes the wrong call, or at least different to the one I’d have made (as in part 2). As I shoot predominantly in RAW these days, I do think I can give myself a certain amount of leeway for adjusting exposure after the event, but in the main I do aim to get it right in camera. Now I will think more about what type of image I want to produce and what decisions I need to make on under- or overexposure that will help me achieve the previsualised aim.


5 thoughts on “Exercise – Measuring exposure

  1. Hi, good to see you’ve made a cracking start on this module – nice pics. I shall watch with interest! C.

  2. Tell me about it… I checked out the third Light exercise today (think I’ve got shots in the bag for the ISO one) and noted with dismay that it requires “very clear weather”…!

    I feel an assignment extension request coming on already… :-/

  3. Pingback: 27/365 What the camera says is right, isn’t always right… | Life 365 Photo Project

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