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Perfect ExposureTaught by Michael Freeman

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Recent developments in digital technology have transformed the ways in which exposures can be manipulated

  • Course suitable for all abilities

  • The skills and confidence to be able to handle any lighting condition

  • Knowledge of why exposure sorts the good from the excellent

  • Thorough understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity.


Choosing the exposure for a photograph is both alarmingly simple and infinitely complex. Simple because there is just one dosage of light that will be right for you, controlled by just three settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. Complex because it affects everything about the image, what you wanted it to be, and its effect on your audience. Understanding how and why exposure works as it does is worth every effort, because it is not an automatic process, whatever camera manufacturers claim. There is no universally ‘right’ exposure for any situation, but there may be one ‘right’ exposure for you personally.

Learning outcome: On this courses  you will get bi-weekly video tutorials and assignments as well as my personal help and feedback on your work. This Perfect Exposure Course will equip you with the skills and confidence to be able to handle any lighting condition, however unusual, both technically and stylistically. The course book to accompany these four weeks is my Perfect Exposure.

This is an 8 week course,  with one lesson ever 2 weeks. This is to give students plenty of time to complete their assignments and allow them to gain maximum benefit from the course. 

The Curriculum

  • 1. How to Measure and Set Exposure

    Cameras offer an increasingly sophisticated range of methods for getting the exposure in some way ‘correct’, but though the result is a wonderful choice, there’s also a chaotic array of methods and jargon. My job here is to cut through this nonsense, and my model is, as always, the way professionals like myself think and work. What average brightness means Highlight clipping & warning Basic camera metering: centre circle, spot and weighted Advanced camera metering: smart and predictive Auto metering modes Aperture priority Shutter priority Program Exposure compensation Manual metering Bracketing Check the histogram After the shot Live View Handheld meter & incident readings Grey card

  • 2. The Exposure Triangle

    There are three camera settings that each control the brightness of the image you capture—aperture, shutter speed and ISO—and this lets you choose a combination to get any particular exposure, hence the expression exposure triangle. Using it efficiently means knowing clearly what your priorities are for any shot. Apart from controlling the light, the aperture and shutter speed each do another job for the image. Aperture affects depth of field while shutter speed affects motion blur, and you may want less or more of either in any specific shooting situation. ISO raises the sensitivity when you need it, but the result is noise, which has no redeeming qualities, so this just increases the compromises you need to make when light levels are low. Balancing aperture, shutter speed and ISO Aperture = depth of field Shutter speed = freezing or blurring motion ISO = noise Using camera modes Auto ISO Know your limits Hand-holding speed Minimum shutter speeds for motion Minimum depth of field for a subject Your noise tolerance Deciding priorities

  • 3. The Twelve Exposure Situations

    Regardless of subject, there are just 12 basic lighting situations in photography, and each one needs a particular set of techniques. Become familiar with them and you will quickly be able to assign any scene in front of you to one of these—and know what technique to apply. Dynamic Range: Scene & Sensor Group 1: The Range Fits 1 average 2 bright 3 dark Group 2: Low Contrast (range fits easily) 4 average 5 bright 6 dark Group 3: High Contrast (over range) 7 no obvious dominant tone 8 large bright subject 9 small bright subject 10 edge-lighting 11 large dark subject 12 small dark subject

  • 4. Exposure and Style

    In the last two lessons we looked at finding the exposure that essentially best suits the situation. Now I want to move things on to the next level, which is to take all of this and temper it with judgment and creativity. In exposure, there is no wrong and there is no right. If you embrace this, you can start to experiment with different styles of imagery that go beyond the obvious and average. Like any artist, you then have to rely on your judgment. Style in exposure depends heavily on deciding what the most important tones are in the picture—and then choosing how you want them to appear. Key tones Memory tones Know what you want Light and bright High key Sombre Low key Shadow detail Silhouette Don’t obsess Decision workflow

Meet your expert tutor

Michael Freeman is the world's top author of photography books, drawing on a long career as a widely published international editorial photographer. He has published to date 133 books, of which 66 ar...read more

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