African Violet Photography
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 ~~Exposure:  Camera Settings~~ 
   Exposure  is the process of creating an image on film or digital media.  As the term 'baking' involves more than placing the pan of batter in a hot oven, 'exposure' means more than simply allowing light to strike the film or digital media.  Good ingredients in the proper proportions make the cake rise and bake thoroughly.  In the same way, we must use our camera settings and any available control over the scene to create the 'negative' or digital image. 
    The goal is to provide the amount of light that will record the details we desire.  Again, we will use a combination of lens opening (amount of light entering the camera) and shutter speed (the length of time the light strikes the film) to produce a perfect photo.  These are camera settings that we, or the camera, adjust according to the camera's internal exposure meter.  On cheaper automatic cameras, film or digital, this 'exposure meter' may simply be a  setting, such as portrait, sports, etc.
     An internal exposure meter is usually center weighted: reading reflected light in the center of the lens, or viewfinder if using a TTL (through the lens) camera.  The center area of light is measured as 'most important'.
     On simpler automatic cameras, you may be asked to center your subject.  This allows the internal center weighted meter to measure the amount of light being reflected from what it sees as the most important object in your photo. 
   Center weighted meters work very well.... on average scenes with even lighting from side to side and with subjects that nearly fill the screen.  However, our African violet photos do not often fit this 'average' pigeonhole.   We often have a few small light colored blossoms on a mass of dark foliage... and the meter will set an exposure that gives great foliage but  washed out blossoms.  In this case, the violet blossoms are in the center of the screen, but so small in area that the meter still 'sees' all the larger area of darker foliage and will give an exposure more suited to the foliage.  Remember that your camera is measuring light  from the center of the screen.
     Some cameras offer an option of using a spot meter, which narrows the center spot that measures light.  This enables a photographer to set the meter on the subject, adjusting the camera to give a perfect image of that subject, then moving the camera so that the subject is placed in the photo just where wanted... not necessarily in the center.  Every camera is different; look for a section in the owner's manual for using this Automatic Exposure Lock.  Also, there are separate exposure meters available, and many experienced photographers have called these meters their favorite 'tools to good photos'.  Of course, your camera must allow you to manually adjust the camera.
     Another metering option that I am seeing more often is multi-metering.  This setting will measure the light from up to 8 points from various points within a scene and gives an exposure based on the average amount of reflected light.
     If you have few settings or options on your camera, you will have to 'out smart' your camera.  There are many ways to manipulate the auto settings of your camera by adjusting the light conditions of the scene itself.  Plus you may simply avoiding situations where the results will be less than perfect. 
     Being aware of how your camera measures light and interprets that light is the first step to good exposure.  One advantage digital photography offers is the immediate preview of the image.  With film cameras, we would bracket our exposure:  taking one photo with the average reading, one photo a little lighter, and one a little darker.... and then waiting until our film was processed to see which photo gave the most pleasing results.  So use that preview feature.  Don't assume the shot you took was fine; check to make sure!
    Here too, is an area where keeping your 'critical eye' open will benefit.   When you have a 'perfect' photo, remember just what you did to produce that image.  What settings did you use?  What were the lighting conditions?  Were you near or far from your subject?
    Digital photography doesn't involve 'wasting film', so experiment a bit.... all you are out is time and you will be surprised at the improvement in your photos.
   **Unless noted, all photos shown here are raw images as taken by the camera.  Unless noted, all photos were taken using auto exposure and focus settings.**
Since these photography lessons began, my computer hard drive has crashed and I lost the original photos taken to complete these lessons.  Of course, the original Maverick's Faded Jeans plant is now not blooming enough to demonstrate these principles, so  the remainder of the photos will be with new plants.  Note this plant has blossoms of a different color and value.  These blossoms are easier to photograph as they are close in value to the foliage value.  The previous plant's blossoms were a lighter color that had a tendency to wash out.  A lesson here:  Some plants are easier to photograph!
Hue is the actual color of an object.
Value is the lightness or darkness of that color.
These photos were taken
on a large
table near a south- facing window. 
This first pair
of photos
were taken
on the table side closest
to the window. 

This photo was taken using the camera's automatic center weighted metering.  The blue lines designate the area from which light is metered.  The single light colored blossom was a very small area compared to the darker foliage.
Here the camera's spot meter was used.  I zoomed in on the blossom, set the Automatic Exposure Lock, then zoomed the lens back out until the entire plant was included.
This set of photos was taken on the side of the
table farthest away from
the window...

You will notice that while all
the photos
used a dark background,
the higher amount of
light available
in the high 
conditions allowed a sharper final image.

Here the camera's automatic center weighted meter was used.  Here the lower level of available light, combined with the dark background caused the meter to ask for a great deal of light...and the exposure time was long... so you see the touch of blurriness... due to camera shake.

Same light conditions, but using the camera's spot meter helped the camera ignore the black background and besides rendering the blossom correctly, a shorter exposure time was used, and there is no camera movement recorded.... and this photo is sharp.
      So that these lessons will benefit the greatest number of photographers,  the emphasis is upon 'using what you have'.  If you have a camera with many features, I hope to encourage you to learn how they work and use them.  If you have a simpler camera with few settings, there are many things you can do to 'out think' your camera.
     If your camera does not have a spot meter, here is a useful tip. Moving in close to the subject will give a good exposure by an automatic camera.  The following photos demonstrate there is not much difference between the spot meter and the camera's automatic center metering.  Personally, I like the 'snap' of the automatic setting.  How about you?

This photo was taken with the camera's auto setting... using the basic center weighted meter.

Here the spot meter was zoomed in on the blossom to the left, the Auto Exposure Lock set and then the photo composed.

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