Exercise 4.1

  1. “Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.”
  2. Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid- tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.”

    Auto Mode

    1) A White Wall. You can see that the histogram is actually a little off centre here, but it was a very sunny day. To be honest it wasn’t until afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have set the white balance to direct sunlight, I’m guessing this might have helped.


    2) Grey Paving. In our notes we are told that a variation in tone can cause a slightly wider histogram – and here it is


    3) Black Trousers. The histogram is firmly in the middle, and the trousers appear bleached out compared to their ‘real life’ colour.


    Manual Mode

    Well, I’m sure for many actual photographers having proper control is really their preferred way of working, however for me, I’ve never used it before and its a bit daunting! Happily the way the course is written, everything has laid the ground work for me to take off the ‘training wheels’, so here I go…

    1) A White Wall. 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    Wow! I can’t believe the difference. This is SUCH useful information both for this course and more broadly for my student work… Whenever I have photographed artwork,  I’ve never understood why the paper always looks grey. The alternative is of course to use the scanner, but this sometimes bleaches out the detail, and you can lose subtlety. Back to photography – the histogram is peaking right at the limit, and I don’t know if I have overdone it here, but you can still see the texture of the wall and some variation in tone.


    2) Grey Paving 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    I kept the settings the same to understand how this works for a mid tone – and here’s a nicely centred histogram to match


    3) Black Trousers  1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    This first image is taken without changing settings, so I could understand more fully what is happening. Obviously its now very dark and all detail is lost, which is echoed in the sharp spike of the histogram.


    I did just explore whether it was possible to rescue this in photoshop – it was, but of course I want to learn how not to rely on post processing


    Here’s my second picture which is 1/40  f 36  ISO 400 and I think this is reasonably successful


    And a final experiment 1/40 f 9 ISO 400 The histogram is a sharper spike, and I suspect technically this is too dark, however it is very close to the actual trousers in real life


    I have learnt a lot from this exercise, as I’ve been struggling to understand how to draw on the information provided by a histogram. I gathered that although some advice tells you a ‘perfect’ histogram is one very like the centre curve of the grey paving, but it depends on the subject. So far I have had the option to leave the White Balance on auto, or change the setting – but with variable results. I haven’t got to grips with exposure, and some of my previous images have been underexposed. This is my first glimpse of how to gain better control – I don’t feel for a second I have fully grasped it, but its an important part of my learning process. I hope to build on this now as I mov through the rest of the course.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s