My friend Jin finally gave me a CD-ROM of a bunch of pictures we took high atop the Getty Center last summer, and this one turned out particularly tasty. Late in the day, outside on the giftshop terrace, we noticed a crowd gathering and went to check out what all the fuss was. We were greeted by the rare and breathtaking sight of a giant, amber moon, hanging over the purple dusk of the San Fernando Valley (click image for full, hi-res version).
Naturally, everyone was taking pictures, and luckily Jin had brought her camera. I borrowed it from her and set it to manual, since I knew anyone using the automatic setting (which is 95% of the public) would end up with a picture that looked more like this:
The problem with automatic exposure is that cameras are stupid. Most of the scene is dark, so the camera is going to balance exposure to brighten up the dark areas of the frame. The problem with that is when it opens up the aperture, it’s going to end up overexposing that gorgeous, amber moon, which is the star of the picture! By setting it to manual exposure, I was able to dial down the f-stops and expose properly for the moon (which means I just kept pressing the “down” button, watching the image get darker and darker until the detail in the face of the moon reappeared).
Yes, this is very basic photography stuff, but I’d bet 20 cubits that most people reading this post have never set their digital camera to “manual” and adjusted the exposure by hand. Since that is the single most important “trick” in creating great photos, I hereby demand that every DarthMojo reader promise that as soon as you finish reading this, you’ll grab your camera, figure out how to manually adjust the f-stops and remember to try it out the next time you take a picture. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes and I guarantee you’ll never set it to “automatic” again.
More advanced photographers can move on to the next step, which is to learn how to use the “add Baseships” button so you can produce images like this one (click for bigness):
What have we learned today? That sometimes cool stuff shows up on DarthMojo when you least expect it!
Enjoy your weekend.