CES00I – Completely Exposed – Introduction:

by | Mar 1, 2016 | (MON) Completely Exposed |


Completely Exposed – The Series

A fifty-two (52) session series focused solely on understanding, embracing and improving your exposure skills. The series, delivered as a cohesive set of articles, samples and assignments, has one goal in mind: marked improvement in your exposures and your complete understanding of exposure theory over the course of one year.



Thinking About Exposure:

You would think, that with the advent of all the new computerized, hi-tech cameras, we would no longer need to talk about exposure and exposure theory. The reality is, nothing could be farther from the truth. Exposure theory is, as it always has been, the first, most critical component in taking compelling images. I can’t stress enough the importance of taking control over the exposure process in your camera. More importantly I can’t underscore enough the difference between getting the correct exposure and determining the exposure that is “creatively” correct, as well as your ability to tell the difference between the two concepts.

Every photographer experiences that moment of kismet, where all the stars align and that lucky shot appears upon their camera’s preview screen. However, I am not interested in luck, in this series I am going to thoroughly cover the affect of each exposure control, the choices that will drive your selections and the results that you can expect.

Bottom line, at the end of this series, you should be able to look at a scene and know, BEFORE PRESSING THE SHUTTER RELEASE, how your result is going to turn out.

Starting Off On The Right Foot:


Let’s get started off on the right foot…

First things first, let’s make sure we are all on the same page, in the hymnal. When I use the word exposure, I have a very specific definition in mind and it is this definition that we will be using throughout this series:

Exposure is a specific, measurable amount of light, that has fallen upon the sensor, or the film (doesn’t matter which medium we are referring to here, as they all rely upon the same principles and theories), in a specific way, determined by the exposure control settings of the camera being used.

Let’s shorten that up:

Exposure, a measurable quantity of light, on the sensor plane, determined by the camera’s exposure controls.

The above definition and your understanding of it are going to be key for your moving forward with this series. As we progress, I will be providing sample images and outlining the “exposure” decisions that were made, in order to capture that sample image as it appears. For us to be able to effectively discuss these images, we must be able to share the exposure settings that were used and understand what each of those settings mean.

To be clear, we really aren’t concerned with the actual light measurement itself, though we will be concerned if it was too little light, too much light, or just enough. What we are really intent on understanding here is the exposure controls that gave us that said amount of light, for it’s that set of control settings that determine not only the overall quantity of light, but the very specific nature of how that quantity was allowed to reach the sensor, or film and for how long the sensor, or film, was open to that light.

Now I know that I am asking you to take a bit of a leap of faith at this point, but I would like you to consider the three exposure combinations that I have listed below:

  • 1/250 @ f/6.3 – ISO100
  • 1/60 @ f/4 – ISO1600
  • 1/200 @ f/22 – ISO200

The above sample exposure settings combinations would allow us to specifically talk about how these three different images might have been captured, or more specifically, exactly what the settings were for each of these images when shot. You’re probably mumbling right now, “okay I see the numbers, but they don’t really mean anything to me”, don’t worry soon enough they will. For now, consider that the numbers above really mean this:

  • Shutter Speed (1/250) @ Aperture (f/6.3) – Sensor / Film Sensitivity (ISO100)
  • Shutter Speed (1/60) @ Aperture (f/4) – Sensor / Film Sensitivity (ISO1600)
  • Shutter Speed (1/200) @ Aperture (f/22) – Sensor / Film Sensitivity (ISO200)

We will cover the meaning of each of the controls soon enough, for now just accept that these values do exist and that the numbers represented for each of these values have a direct impact on both how a picture turns out, as well as our ability to communicate about capturing that resulting picture in a meaningful way.

The above examples remove any ambiguity from a conversation about what the exposure settings were for an image. It provides the basis for us to be able to technically discuss images and how we went about capturing them or might intend to. As we continue our discussions on exposures and exposure settings, throughout the collection of articles that accompany this series, it will become clear, to you, why I specifically call out the definition of exposure hear and now.


Controls And Range:


You should become intimately familiar with the operation of your camera and its controls.

If you have heard me lecture about exposure settings before, you will likely recall that I take a somewhat non-traditional view of exposure settings, the priority order in which I select them and the reasoning behind to the way that I like to think of them. Let me reiterate that thought process here, for it will be the foundation for how I approach the order and topics within this series. Once we have completed about half of the series, I think my rationale will start to make sense and as you move onward with your shooting, I suggest you adopt the same approach to these exposure controls.

Barring any enhanced features, on a specific model of camera, there are three (3) settings that are typically made on a camera that dictate the resulting image and how the light is recorded in that image. These settings may be made for you, by the camera, or you may elect to take control and set them yourself (much more on that later). In either case here they are:

  • Aperture Opening
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO Sensitivity

Without going into technical details, or long explanations here, these settings have the following characteristics:

  • Aperture Opening, controls the diameter of the opening at the back of the lens, thus the amount of light exposed to the sensor (or film, again medium doesn’t matter in this discussion).
  • Shutter Speed, controls the length of time that the shutter curtain is open, thus the amount of light exposed to the sensor (or film, again medium doesn’t matter in this discussion).
  • ISO Sensitivity, (the following is technically not true, but please accept this description at face value for now, we’ll clean up the details later) controls the sensitivity of the sensor in the camera, or is a rating for a specific film (the values correlate one to one), that indicates how quickly the medium will react to the light exposed to it.

As I think and talk about the above settings for an exposure, I place them into one of two categories:

  • Control (Containing both Aperture Opening and Shutter Speed settings)
  • Range (Containing the ISO setting)

I have very clear cut reasons for dividing the exposure settings listed above, into the above categories, as I have. Years of experience have taught me that, when I am thinking through what I would like my resulting image to look like, that shutter speed and aperture are the two factors of an exposure setting that control that potential result. I am not saying that ISO doesn’t matter in this equation, it certainly does, but it doesn’t have as direct an impact on the resulting image as the other two choices do. More often than not, I am selecting an aperture setting and shutter speed combination, that I know that I want to use, for a specific shot and then I am adjusting the ISO setting to make those two previous choices possible. Thus for me, the shutter speed and aperture “control” the way the shot looks and the ISO makes those two selections work in getting the proper exposure. Don’t worry if this concept seems a bit “distant” at the moment, soon enough we will thoroughly explore the relationship between the three choices and how you can leverage the dependencies between them.

Series Sections:


A little organizational theory at work.

I have broken the Completely Exposed series into seven (7) carefully thought out sections, designed to provide a building block approach to the material. The entire series is designed to guide you on your journey from camera usage novice all the way to exposure theory expert.


The Exposure section, of the series, will focus on the three fundamental elements of an exposure; aperture opening, shutter speed and ISO. The section will start off with an exploration of each of the three settings, their relationship to image composition and to one another. The section will wrap up looking at exposure settings as a whole, the “Exposure Triangle” and the critical difference between correct exposure and creatively correct exposure.

Exposure Modes:
Armed with our fresh understanding of exposure theory, from the previous section, we will continue on, in this section, with an in-depth exploration of camera exposure modes. Even though many cameras today offer a multitude of exposure modes and a variety of scene customized modes as well, we are going to limit our attention to the four (4) fundamental exposure modes that are really the core of all automated exposure systems available today. We will start off looking at the automated modes:

  • Automatic / Program Mode
  • Shutter Preferred Mode
  • Aperture Preferred Mode

From there we will reach the holy grail of exposure modes:

  • Manual Mode

Once we have the modes safely tucked under our belts, we will factor in the camera’s metering system and begin to explore how the meter works and how we should interpret non-standard scenes versus the readings that the camera’s meter is giving us. A part of this exploration will explore camera features such as:

  • Exposure Compensation (EC)
  • Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)
  • Auto-Exposure Lock (AE-L)
  • Auto-ISO

Shutter Control:
The camera’s shutter is where the action is. No literally I mean the shutter is what controls motion and thus the implication of action within your images. We explore using the cameras shutter to:

  • Freeze Motion
  • Allow Blur
  • Pan With Objects
  • And all manner of motion control that the shutter is capable of handling.

Managing motion in your images is the ideal way to convey movement in a scene, stop objects in motion for greater examination or maximize drama in subjects that you would like to receive your viewer’s attention. In this section we will explore all the ins and outs of shutter speed and the technical ramifications of a variety of shutter speed decisions.

Aperture Control:
The aperture control is a subject with a lot of depth, depth of field that is (yes I know, groan). The camera’s aperture control, or I should more accurately say the lens’ aperture control is the mechanism by which you control how much of your image is in focus, in front of and behind the focal plane. I can see the rolling eyes now, “oh no more terminology that I don’t understand.” Have faith, in this section we will explain all the ins and outs of the aperture control and why these details matter to you and your images. Aperture is a critical control setting in image composition and in my estimation provides the control you need to really make on the fly decisions about subject versus background in a scene. We will explore exactly what an aperture is and all those funny numbers that represent your aperture selection. Aperture, when poorly explained, can be quite confusing to the new shooter, we are going to avoid all that confusion and get you started off on the right foot. While all the exposure controls are important, I like to think of aperture as my first choice in creating an image, for it’s with aperture that I can really isolate and draw my viewer’s eye to the subject I intend to showcase. Before we are done with this section, you will have a thorough understanding of aperture selections, the depth of field choices that you are able to make and unique aperture characteristics and considerations.

Deeper Into Exposure:
Now that you are completely comfortable with exposure decisions, settings and the creatively correct choices that exist in making an image, it’s time to explore exposure in greater depth. There are a myriad of techniques to be considered when evaluating a potential scene and if you are armed with advanced exposure knowledge, those choices can open up whole new imaging worlds. We will explore how the camera sees light and how the image is constructed digitally, including a look at white balance, color space and exposure saturation. This section is where we are really going to put you exposure knowledge to the test and begin to push you towards thinking about creatively correct exposure as a first choice when shooting.

Probably seems funny to only start calling out consideration of light at this point in the series and in all reality we have certainly dealt with the concept of light before now. However, at this point in the series we really want to think about special characteristics of light and lighting situations that we may encounter while out shooting in the field. Being able to read light, allows for two important skills:

  • Being able to read and determine the best point of view available in any given lighting situation\
  • Being able to recognize when there are going to be lighting problems in an image and what to do to mitigate those circumstances.

Just because the light isn’t exactly how you hoped it would be, doesn’t mean you can’t get an image, it just means that knowing how to work with the available light will lead you to alternate points of view and alternate exposure settings.

In this, our last section of the series, we are going to address the notion of using filters with some of our exposures. Filters are an extremely handy modification option, that allows us to:

  • Compensate for too much light
  • Compensate for issues with range of light
  • Compensate for oddly colored light
  • Compensate for light in creative and unique ways

This section will have us exploring a variety of filter options, that you can add into your exposures and the technical ramifications and requirements of using each kind. As we are exploring the variety of filter options that exist, we will also explore the quantity and quality changes that those filters might represent in the final image. Bottom line, while they are more work and more money invested, filters allow the knowledgable photographer to get images that otherwise would not be possible.

The Assignments…

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The Goal…

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Series Schedule…

Section:Section Title:Week:Topic:Code
Section:Section Title:Week:Topic:
PreWeek 00Completely Exposed - IntroductionCES00I
OneExposureWeek 01Exposure - IntroductionCES01I
Week 01Exposure - When We Say Exposure...CEW01C
Week 02Exposure - ControlsCEW02C
Week 03Exposure - RangeCEW03C
Week 04Exposure - Three Sides Make A TriangleCEW04C
Week 05Exposure - Finding All The SidesCEW05C
Week 06Exposure - CorrectCEW06C
Week 07Exposure - Creatively CorrectCEW07C
TwoModesWeek 08Modes - IntroductionCES02I
Week 08Modes - ExplainedCEW08C
Week 09Modes - ManualCEW09C
Week 10Modes - PreferredCEW10C
Week 11Modes - AutomaticCEW11C
ThreeShutterWeek 12Shutter - IntroductionCES03I
Week 12Shutter - The Role It PlaysCEW12C
Week 13Shutter - ConsiderationsCEW13C
Week 14Shutter - A Moment In TimeCEW14C
Week 15Shutter - Moments In TimeCEW15C
Week 16Shutter - Making Things MoveCEW16C
Week 17Shutter - Moving With ThingsCEW17C
Week 18Shutter - Advanced OperationsCEW18C
FourApertureWeek 19Aperture - IntroductionCES04I
Week 19Aperture - The Role It PlaysCEW19C
Week 20Aperture - ConsiderationsCEW20C
Week 21Aperture - From Front To BackCEW21C
Week 22Aperture - From Back To FrontCEW22C
Week 23Aperture - Somewhere In The MiddleCEW23C
Week 24Aperture - Concerns: MacroCEW24C
Week 25Aperture - Concerns: BokehCEW25C
Week 26Aperture - Concerns: Creative LicenseCEW26C
FiveDeeperWeek 27Deeper - IntroductionCES05I
Week 27Deeper - Preview Versus HistogramCEW27C
Week 28Deeper - Working The HistogramCEW28C
Week 29Deeper - Dynamic RangeCEW29C
Week 30Deeper - Some Extra RangeCEW30C
Week 31Deeper - Think Like A CameraCEW31C
Week 32Deeper - Shoot To The RightCEW32C
SixLightWeek 33Light - IntroductionCES06I
Week 33Light - The Role It PlaysCEW33C
Week 34Light - ConsiderationsCEW34C
Week 35Light - The Quantity, The Meter And The LieCEW35C
Week 36Light - Explored: Optimum LightCEW36C
Week 37Light - Explored: From The FrontCEW37C
Week 38Light - Explored: Kind Of From The FrontCEW38C
Week 39Light - Explored: From The SideCEW39C
Week 40Light - Explored: From The BackCEW40C
Week 41Light - Explored: As It's MeasuredCEW41C
Week 42Light - Explored: How It's MeasuredCEW42C
Week 43Light - Explored: In The LightCEW43C
Week 44Light - Explored: In The DarkCEW44C
SevenFiltersWeek 45Filters - IntroductionCES07I
Week 45Filters - The Roles They PlayCEW45C
Week 46Filters - A Matter Of FunctionCEW46C
Week 47Filters - Controlling ReflectionsCEW47C
Week 48Filters - Reducing The LightCEW48C
Week 49Filters - Reducing Some Of The LightCEW49C
Week 50Filters - When To Say NoCEW50C
Week 51Filters - Managing ColorsCEW51C
Week 52Filters - Managing Colors In LayersCEW52C