Friday, July 26, 2013


I have talked about this before, but it is worth repeating. 

All cameras have what's called a built-in light (or exposure) meter. The good news is that 
they usually do exactly what they are engineered to do. The bad news is that what they 
were engineered to do is often not what we want in our photographs. To keep it simple, 
if we photograph something dark or black, the meter will try to lighten it up as close as 
possible to gray. If we photograph something bright or white, it will try to darken it as 
close as possible to gray. That doesn't sound good, huh?

The good news is that there is a simple way to override your built-in meter. It's called the exposure compensation dial on your camera. Look for it in your camera manual. It will 

either show you something like -.3, -.6, -1 or +.3, +.6, +1, etc. On some cameras, you'll 
see a scale that looks like this: -3. . .-2. . .-1...0...+1. . .+2. . .+3, etc. All these numbers 
mean is that if you move your exposure compensation dial toward the minus side (from
zero, or 0), your are underexposing your picture, or darkening it. If you move it toward 
the plus side (from zero, or 0), you are overexposing your picture, or lightening it. 

Now, here is where this really becomes meaningful and useful, even to the most amateur 
or beginning enthusiast. Let's say you are photographing rows and rows of beautiful white aspens.The meter cannot think; it does not know that you want to photograph white 
aspens. It is engineered to give you "gray" aspens. And, trust me, It will give you gray 
aspens, as in this photo.

Psychologically, we are programmed to "see" aspens as white. These Aspens, 
therefore, may not look gray.......until, you compare them to these....

The very simple solution, to bring these Aspens back to white, is to move your 
exposure compensation dial toward the plus side, anywhere from a +1 to a +2, 
until it looks right to you. This image was shot at approximately a +1.3. 

Think of it this way: minus means less; less means less light; less light means 
darker. Conversely: plus means more; more means more light; more light means 

Experiment and have fun with it. You will need to use this in 2-3 months when you 
photograph snow, skiers in the snow, people in the snow, etc.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Why buy an expensive camera, then use it like a point & shoot? Don't listen to the salesperson who says, "All you have to do is shoot; the camera does the rest." If you believe that, ask yourself how many bad photos you came back with during your last vacation. The camera takes pictures; we create images.

A lot of photo enthusiasts come to me for 1-on-1 in-the field lessons. Many of them want to get better before their next vacation or out of town trip. Whether they're leaving for a trip, or just want to improve their photos, I help them raise the bar for themselves. 

Such was the case when I recently met one of my students at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Among the different tips I shared with her, one of them was how to go from "taking pictures" to creating images. I taught her how to make one key in-camera adjustment to enhance her photographs. She was so excited when, after a couple of hours of connecting the dots, she could see the difference in her camera monitor.

I was so proud of her achievements that day. See for yourself. 

We came across this nice scene at the Gardens. She "took" a picture based on what her nice DSLR camera thought she needed for a "correct" exposure. This is what she got.

I then showed her how to make an adjustment to her camera to get the "desired" exposure. 
I was teaching her how to create an image, rather than just taking a picture. The result was dramatic. This is what she created!

Big, big difference, right?

The "before" photograph is a good example of what I believe is the #1 killer when all we do is "take pictures." This happens so often during our vacations, day trips, family outings, trips to the zoo, etc. 

If you are in the Boulder/Denver, Colorado area, contact me to learn more about getting the best results from your camera. Visit me at