The saying 'practice makes perfect' is as valid for photography as any other activity, so in their latest guest blog post the photo management experts at Photoventure put together a collection of exercises that will help you become a better photographer.
1. Spot meter
Modern metering systems have great general-purpose modes, often called Evaluative, Matrix or Multi-area, which do a great job of accessing a scene and setting good 'average' exposure settings in many situations.
However, they're not 100% foolproof and very dark or very light scenes, or backlighting can trick them into over or under exposure.
They're also not psychic and don't know what you're seeing in your head when you take a shot.
Switching to spot metering puts you in control of where the camera meters from and helps you develop a much better understanding of the tonal range in a scene.
A standard spotmetering system allows you to meter from a very small part of the scene and it suggests exposure settings that will render your target a mid-tone.
Consequently, you need to take care with the positioning of this spot, study the scene carefully and decide which is the best area to take a reading from.
It's often helpful to combine spot metering with AE Lock as this will fix the exposure settings (after metering) while you compose the image.
2. Check the histogram
Just like the Levels display in image editing software packages such as Adobe Photoshop, a camera's histogram display is a graph that represents the brightness of the pixels that make up an image.
The scale runs from black, with a brightness reading of 0, on the left to white, with a brightness reading of 255, on the right.
The peaks in the histogram indicate the number of pixels with that brightness and a large peak means lots of pixels have that brightness.
This means that a vary dark image will have peaks over to the left of the graph, while a bright one has peaks on the right.
Meanwhile, a correctly exposed 'ideal' scene has a histogram with a so-called 'normal' distribution with a peak in the middle and just a few very bright and very dark pixels.
Checking the histogram after every shot will increase your understanding of the brightness distribution of an image.
It will also enable you to determine whether an image is under- or over-exposed with the majority of pixels being grouped to the left or right of the graph respectively.
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3. Use a single prime lens
Using a prime, or fixed focal length, lens enables you to forget about the distraction of zooming in and out.
Instead you walk towards a subject, assess it through the viewfinder and then either shoot or move again to find a new or alternative vantage point.
It forces you to explore the subject more fully you'll soon get a better understanding of the angle of view of the lens.
As well as letting you travel light, if you take just one lens with you on a shoot, or day out with your camera, you'll really get to know that focal length and in the future you'll be able to decide which lens to mount on your camera just by looking at the scene and framing an image in your mind.
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