How to Do Creative Exposure in Film Photography

  • Camera's meter and exposure controls can be used to make landscape images that look as much like the original scene as possible but creative use of exposure is just as important, though. If you're using slide or instant film, extra exposure makes the picture lighter, and reduces the saturation of colors, so that they come out more like pastel shades. Conversely, reducing exposure makes everything darker, and makes colors look richer and deeper on film.

  • Cutting and boosting exposure provides a valuable creative tool. With extra exposure you can make landscapes look light, airy and refreshing, you can burn out highlight detail to white, and focus the viewer's attention on shadow areas of the picture. Cutting exposure introduces a somber note, and concentrates attention on the highlights - shadows turn dense black.

  • If you use negative film, the printing process masks creative use of exposure. To take full advantage of the effects of exposure changes, you'll need to print pictures yourself, or pay extra for a "custom print" or "hand print".

  • You can also "bracket" your exposure (taking three or more pictures of the same scene with different exposure settings) to be sure of getting what you want. Make one exposure at the setting indicated by the meter, underexpose the next frame and overexpose the one after. In most instances, one stop over- and underexposure is sufficient, but in high-contrast situations such as sunsets, it's wise to bracket at one-stop intervals over a five-stop range: -2, -1, 0, +1, +2. It is hard to predict the results when you bracket exposure but all the shots will inevitably have a mood of their own and each need to be considered on its own merits not simply in relation to "correct" exposure.

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