Dy­namic range is at the heart of ex­po­sure the­ory, and nowa­days it’s much eas­ier to mea­sure

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

test the dy­namic range of Nikon D-SLRs as part of our re­views.

In both cases, dy­namic range is mea­sured as EV val­ues, or ‘stops’, and the se­cret of ex­po­sure mea­sure­ment with your D-SLR is to try to make sure the dy­namic range of the scene you’re shoot­ing isn’t greater than the dy­namic range of your cam­era. You also need to learn what you can do to fix things if it is.

For­tu­nately, you don’t have to get caught up with f-stops and ex­po­sure val­ues and com­pli­cated cal­cu­la­tions, be­cause your cam­era’s his­togram dis­play can tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know at a glance. Our di­a­gram op­po­site shows you how to in­ter­pret what your his­togram dis­play is telling you.

Old meth­ods, old prob­lems

Dig­i­tal SLRs come with a se­lec­tion of me­ter­ing modes to help you get the ex­po­sure right. Ma­trix mode will an­a­lyse the whole scene, cen­treweighted mode will aver­age the light but pay more at­ten­tion to the cen­tre of the scene, and spot mode lets you base the ex­po­sure on a small area.

All three me­ter­ing modes have their uses, but they’re all de­signed to achieve a bal­anced-look­ing ex­po­sure – they don’t mea­sure dy­namic range. They can all pro­duce shots where the high­lights and/or shad­ows in the scene are lost.

In a way, these me­ter­ing modes are a throw­back to a pre-dig­i­tal age, whereas we can now mea­sure and see the dy­namic range of a scene very eas­ily. So you can stick to your cur­rent ways of work­ing out the ex­po­sure by all means, and most of the time they’ll work fine. But there will be sit­u­a­tions where an un­der­stand­ing of dy­namic range, and how to read it dig­i­tally, can pro­duce pic­tures with a range of tones that you might not have been able to achieve other­wise.

Gotta catch ’em all Un­der­stand dy­namic range and you’ll know how to cap­ture de­tail in the bright­est skies and deep­est shad­ows in ev­ery shot

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