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Thread: What's going on with my camera?

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    What's going on with my camera?

    Could someone look at the EXIF data on this picture and see if you can tell me what my camera is doing -- or what I am doing wrong? The camera tells me that I have the proper exposure, but it looks like I'm way underexposing. I've checked all the settings, but I don't see anything off. Knowing me, it's something dumb I'm not picking up, but if anyone has an idea, I'd appreciate hearing it.

    What's going on with my camera?

    The picture is here on flickr. If you click on "Actions" at the top of the picture, you'll see "View EXIF data." Thanks.

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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Elise

    I see. from the Exif, that you spot-metered. Do you know from where you took the reading? Was it right in the centre of what we're looking at (which I think may not be the case, given how it looks)?

    Given you did it manually, did you have the needle right in the centre?

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Honestly, I don't know what I metered off of. No one part of the flower is much darker than any other, though -- should I try setting the metering on something else, and see what happens?

    I have to say that I am far from expert on the whole metering thing, so that could be the problem (I hope it's operator error, not something wrong with the camera).

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Just a guess:

    You used spot metering. I am assuming that you picked the petals (the orange area) as your metering point. Since it is bright the meter is really underexposing since it wants it to be rendered gray. I'll probably set it at zone VI and adjust the exposure compensation value to +1. That would translate to either f/16 at 1/125 sec or f11 at 1/250 sec if you want to adjust manually and leave the exposure compensation setting to zero. You have a very nice DSLR in that canon. I suggest you bracket your exposure or just shoot in aperture mode and work your way on the shutter speeds and select the "right" shot that suits your vision of the image. Hope this helps.

    OH, one last thing - as a start, I suggest you use the evaluative metering option (not the spot metering) and let the camera meter select the best exposure for you. When you get the hang of it you can either rely totally on the camera's built in meter or start learning the creative side of exposure control. Based on your flickr photostream I don't think you are new to photography since you're taking awesome shots with your camera. Good luck.
    Last edited by jiro; 11th December 2010 at 08:46 PM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by mythlady View Post
    (I hope it's operator error, not something wrong with the camera).
    Elise

    I think Jiro has just come in with a very well set out comment and suggestion, although see below re my views about staying in manual.

    I think, in this case, that it's not any problem with the camera, which leaves the other factor ... as identified by you! Metering/exposure is one of the most fascinating and frustrating subjects. When I got my 40D, there were several times when throwing it against the wall seemed like the best option as I tried to learn what this was all about.

    I remember a post (I'm sure it was by Colin) not long after I joined CiC saying, basically, 'Put your camera on manual. Be prepared for the frustrations. But stick with it, it's worth it from learning point of view.' I did. I got frustrated (boy, did I get frustrated). But I learnt. Now I shoot only in Manual.
    Last edited by Donald; 11th December 2010 at 08:55 PM.

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Thanks -- I just went outside and took another pic with the metering on evaluative, and it's fine -- whew. Operator error, for sure.

    I realize that this has been happening lately -- since I took a workshop where the instructor wanted us to be completely on manual and to use spot metering . . . I've been concentrating hard on getting better focus on manual, and since I seem to be able to pay attention to only one variable at a time (a real hindrance when trying to be a photographer), I couldn't figure out what else was going on.

    Okay! Time to move on from manual focus and concentrate on the whole metering thing. Maybe I'll achieve a picture in which all the elements come together once or twice before I shuffle off this mortal coil . . .

    ETA: But let me ask this question -- is spot metering what led to the effect in this picture

    What's going on with my camera?

    where the background is basically black (or easily turned to black in PP)?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by mythlady View Post
    Okay! Time to move on from manual focus and concentrate on the whole metering thing. Maybe I'll achieve a picture in which all the elements come together once or twice before I shuffle off this mortal coil . . .
    You will. You will.

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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    There is a "cheat" to this... hehe. If you can buy an 18% gray card place that in front of the subject you want to shoot and you can use the spot meter or center-weight metering mode to read the exposure on the gray card. Make sure that almost the whole card is covering the frame of the camera to get it right. This is now your starting exposure value. Set the recommended reading on manual mode for the aperture and shutter speed and fire away. If you think it's a little bit dark for your taste then increase the exposure by opening the lens (the aperture value) or slowing down the shutter speed until you get the exposure you want. The easiest way is to adjust the exposure compensation to either + or - values.

    The good thing about setting your camera to manual mode is that you will not mess up the exposure if you are shooting the same thing over and over again under the same lighting condition. The aperture and shutter speed are "locked" manually. Since the exposure is locked, you can now concentrate on the composition of your image. You will only change the metering value if you are in another scene or lighting environment. Hope this helps.
    Last edited by jiro; 12th December 2010 at 11:32 AM.

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Thank you! I appreciate your advice.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by mythlady View Post
    ETA: But let me ask this question -- is spot metering what led to the effect in this picture

    What's going on with my camera?

    where the background is basically black (or easily turned to black in PP)?
    Yes - Probably

    It must have been a pretty dark background to start with. You took your spot reading off a point on the flower. So the camera was treating that point as 18% grey. So, what was much darker than that (the background) was assigned very dark values by the camera. The flower, from where you took the reading, was exposed correctly.

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Well, the background wasn't too dark, but it was indoors on a rainy day and there was a full-spectrum lamp shining right on the flower, so it was the brightest thing in the vicinity. It's good to know this, because I could never figure out what was going on when I got those really nice dark backgrounds, so of course I could never duplicate them. Now I have a little more info.

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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    What plays a role here as well, is that the eye still has a larger dynamic range than the camera. A background to a brightly lighted object might seem just 'fairly dark' to you, where the camera will see it as black or very dark.

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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Hi Elise,

    Several quick thoughts (quick because I should be doing DIY jobs), apologies for re-stating what others may, or have said above.

    It is probably largely caused because of spot metering of a subject that would have maxed out the red and green channels with that bright yellow petal, so the meter 'made you' set an exposure too low. I might have 'smelt a rat' (with apologies to any offended rats) given the 1/250 at f/16 at 100iso, that implies a lot of light - or under exposure. I guess it would need 2 stops more.

    Exposure Compensation won't do anything as you're on manual, only thing to do is manually set a slower shutter speed and/or raise the iso to get the two stops. Shoot and chimp the histogram is the first rule of manual, especially when spot metering, at least until you get a feel for it, as I am beginning to now; I changed from centre weighted to spot, but still on Av, about 6 weeks ago for my wildlife shooting, I guess going manual is my next step

    This shot is surprisingly recoverable (i.e. the jpg is quite noise free) - using Levels, try setting the white point to 135 and the grey point to 1.6, then doing a USM with 20%, 50px and 0 threshold.

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    ...Exposure Compensation won't do anything as you're on manual, only thing to do is manually set a slower shutter speed and/or raise the iso to get the two stops.
    Dave, you're right. I forgot to remember that I always shoot in manual mode and the way I use "exposure compensation" is to adjust the shutter or aperture by rotating the dials on my Nikon D70. It has 2 dials, one in front (for aperture adjustments) and the back dial (for shutter adjustments). I can only use the exposure compensation button (and adjustment) if I am either in Aperture or Shutter Mode Priority but not in pure manual mode. Thanks for the correction.

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Ah, thanks for that last bit about exposure compensation -- I was noticing that that had no effect and couldn't figure out why (another "problem with the camera"). It's going to take me a while to figure out what goes into shooting on manual -- it's not just the shutter speed and the aperture that you need to think about.

    Dave, it was very bright light when I took the picture, which is why I was even more puzzled that the picture came out so dark. But thanks to all this help, I think I understand a little better.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by mythlady View Post
    It's going to take me a while to figure out what goes into shooting on manual -- it's not just the shutter speed and the aperture that you need to think about. .
    Elise

    I know what you're meaning. But you need to keep reminding yourself that it is, in fact, just about the shutter speed and the aperture. It's just that you're having to work differently with them - both being totally independent of the other. The key is learning to think about the little needle in the window differently.

    Because I started in manual and got used to it, I get confused if I ever to go in to Av or Tv mode. With everything I do that darn needle keeps jumping back to the centre point, unless I dial in this EC thing, which I've never got to grips with. So, what I'm saying is, it's just needing to think a bit differently about what the camera readings are telling you. It's like riding a bike - Once you get it you never lose it.

  17. #17

    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    May I, please, jump into this excellent thread with another question? I work mostly in AV (although, i feel very comfortable in manual). I've been thinking that exposure compensation is just as good as changing the shutter speed in Manual, but, is it really? Are there more shutter speed options in manual or, in other words, does the exposure compensation "jump" farther than the settings I would get in manual? Am I missing subtleties in my exposures when I use only exposure compensation in AV? I hope that makes sense.

    And, what is that last setting for....? (you know, the one past M)

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by mythlady View Post
    ...it's not just the shutter speed and the aperture that you need to think about.

    Dave, it was very bright light when I took the picture, which is why I was even more puzzled that the picture came out so dark. But thanks to all this help, I think I understand a little better.
    You are totally right on this one, Elise. Even if you have the same "exposure value" no matter what shutter speed/aperture combination you work on, your image will not look the same always. Why? - I think it's because of the way how shutter speed and aperture adjustment works.

    If you adjust the shutter speed you will affect any movement on your subject. Case in point - water flowing on a river. You can either freeze the water movement or opt to let it flow silky smooth on the blurriness. If you adjust the aperture opening you will affect the depth of field of your final image. Instead of having that nice bokeh and selective focus whenever you fully open your lens' aperture blades you will now get a deeper focused area if you try to close the aperture. Definitely this will affect the way you emphasize the main subject on your composition.

    If I am not mistaken many photographers (excluding sport photographers here on my explanation since they always favor fast shutter speed more) tend to favor Aperture Priority Mode (Av on Canon) because they want to control the depth of field on their composition. If the background is not that pretty I would rather blur them out totally so I can let the main subject stand out. If the background is nice then I can include them and set my aperture to a smaller opening like f/8 or f/11. It's more like a balancing act. It will definitely depend on what effect you want to achieve on your shot.

    The easiest way for you to get the "hang" of this is to shoot a stationary object and play around with your aperture settings. Viz-a-viz, for a moving subject play around your shutter speed settings. Record everything on a notebook and evaluate your results. After numerous shots you will kind of understand now that at some certain "scenes" you will automatically say to yourself... "Selective focusing... f/2.8 aperture opening..: landscape image... small aperture f/16. It makes it now easier for you to control your camera instead of the camera controlling you. My another example is if i'm shooting a low-light scene I will always try to set the aperture to the widest available on the lens and then set the shutter to the speed that I can handheld the camera with less camera shake. In my practice I can safely (but not always) shoot at 1/15 - 1/30 sec handlheld. If it is still underexpose then I crank up the ISO setting. Sorry, I had to add the ISO since these 3 are the pyramid of exposure control.

    If I got the explanation mixed up I hope others would chime in to correct me here.

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    mythlady's Avatar
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    Re: What's going on with my camera?

    Thanks, Jiro -- I think that's a very good explanation. I'm actually very used to shooting on Av and understand what you're explaining -- it's just the switch to completely manual that has thrown me for a loop, and my it's not understanding the different kinds of metering that's the problem. I've just discovered that there's a good tutorial on metering on this very site and I will be working on understanding better what's going on.

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