Understanding How To Read Light

fog-and-lake.jpg In order to understand how to get the best results in your photography it is imperative that you understand the basics of how to read light and interpret exposure. Learning how to read light is one of the most primary aspects of digital photography, creatively and technically. Once you start to understand light you will then be able to create ideal exposure. This process of creative development is about really grasping how the camera’s ISO, exposure and shutter speed work more in depth, which we will talk about later on.

Understanding more technical aspects to enhance the creative process involves becoming familiar with professional terms and meanings, and being comfortable with them. It’s impossible to help you understand more advanced levels of digital photography without teaching you the equipment. The first place to begin when understanding how to read light is learning about Dynamic Range and Light Range.

Light Range

A light range is an easy thing to remember. It’s as simple as it sounds; it is a range of light. In that range are ‘values’. Values are segments or ‘parts’ of light within a range. And digital cameras record a certain range of light values.

Think of a 1 meter ruler. That ruler (your range) has lots of bits of smaller measurementsruler.gif called centimeters (values). The range you are working with has a lot of values that make up that range. In other words, the ruler which is 1 meter is made up of 100 centimeters. Your ruler is the range of light and the centimeters are the values of light.

On your traditional (film) camera, you can take a photo at a few f stops, for example f2.8 to f 22. That’s a light range. Usually modern digital cameras can get around 5 f stops that make up their light range. Your digital camera is only able to record a limited range of light values (lets say 70 centimeters instead of 100 centimeters to use the visual example of the ruler.)

The downside to this is that the subjects we shoot with lots of light and with high contrasting subjects require more of a light range (more f stops) than what is on the digital camera’s ability. More f stops mean more flexibility in your shooting and exposure.

This is good information to practice with and eventually it will all come together for you. By the way, the article above is an extract from Amy’s guide. If you are a little impatient like me, and want more detail and tips to make your learning curve easier and much quicker, see Amy’s guide. I’ve read it and it’s full of good helpful information on photography techniques.

Contributed by Ami Renfrey