Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @F8 1/200th 24mm ISO 100

I’m just back from a solid month in Thailand where I had a workshop most every day I was there, or at least the days I wasn’t shooting the wedding and the two days I was sick.  The response for workshops was humbling, way better than I had any right to expect.  There were many interesting people to meet and many different levels of skill and style types to adapt to.  But nothing could have been more rewarding.  If you want to make BkkSteve happy, then give him a never ending supply of photography students eager to get the most out of their cameras.

So many students in such a small amount of time allowed me to notice trends a lot earlier than I might have.  Two such trends we’ll address here.  The trend to achieve ‘flat’ light across an image.  This inclination is understandable, after all we’re striving for the best exposure and what better exposure is there than to have nice even light across the entire frame.  Right?  Well..   not exactly.

Part of this trend was the desire to every control and adjustment in Lightroom.  If the control is there it must be used.  Right?  Errr…   no.

The “ideal” exposure is to capture exactly what you’re visualizing in your mind’s eye.  It could be flat light, or it could be hard directional light, twilight, morning light, winter light, moonlight, and by now I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture.  There really is no right or wrong when it comes to the art of photography.  There is your vision and the realization of this vision.  Or not.  It depends how successful you are.

Ideally, if you capture what you’re visualizing in your mind’s eye, then you will have zero need to edit the files exposure, levels, shadows, blacks, etc..  Sure, you might want to crop it, sharpen it up a bit, but if your exposure was so ‘spot on’ and in line with your visualization then there will be no need to make adjustments.

So..  ideally, a perfect exposure is one that captures the vision in your mind’s eye and doesn’t need adjustment in post processing.  You end up with this perfect file totally in tune with your artistic vision.  Life couldn’t be better.  Except perfection is a lot more elusive and most of us mere mortals will need to make adjustments in post-processing to help achieve the vision we had in our minds eye.

There are two additional problems with this.  Until you become an experienced and thoughtful photographer you’re just going to take pictures of what your eyes are seeing without ever thinking about and building a vision in your mind’s eye.  This is my overall primary challenge teaching photography:  Helping students slow down and think about their scene, their subjects, their vision..

My second challenge is helping them remember their vision hours or even days later during post processing.  Taking careful and complete notes is the hallmark of a successful photographer.  Did you know most new cameras let you record audio notes and will then attach them to your image files?  Yep, they really do.  For about ten years now.



Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @F8 1/200th 24mm ISO 100

As we look at this second version of our image we can’t help but think the photographer’s vision included a dull flat light across the entire frame.  Whether or not this is a better image I’ll leave to the viewer.

The image I far prefer is the first one, the image with a hard directional light focused across the prow of the boat lighting up the superstructure and various masts and hangers.  In contrast the hull towards us is two stops overexposed which in my opinion doesn’t direct the eye, instead it makes the eye wander the frame with no real direction.

Exposure is all about light.  Leading the light to expose your visualized composition.  Post-processing merely allows you to complete the composition you failed to capture for one reason or the other.