My Photo Blog

Seeing What the Camera Sees

The human mind is the ultimate camera processing system, and when we look at a sunset, or any other subject matter, our mind starts adjusting. Lets make this a little bigger and reduce that, pull more detail out of the shadows, reduce the highlights, until we have the perfect image. When we look through the view finder and get ready to press the shutter, our mind has already Photoshopped most of the image, but it’s not what the camera is seeing. The camera has one eye, and no imagination. It can not show detail in the deep shadows, or highlights beyond its tonal range. So, how do we get around this? To start with, use the camera’s live view, and a test exposure on the back of your camera. This will show you the composition and reality of the subject. That was one of the advantages of the large format view cameras. You looked at a flat image on the back of the camera, and not through a view finder. If the subject looks smaller than you expected, you need to think about getting closer, or using a longer lens. Next, look at your histogram to see if you are holding detail, in both the shadows and highlights. If not, adjust for the highlights and use lights, or reflectors to open up the shadows. You could as an alternative, flag the lights that are causing the over exposure and expose for the shadows. Another approach is to bracket your exposure and blend the exposures manually, or with an HDR program. The test photo below is what the camera captured unadjusted. From this point two spot lights were added to open up the shadows along the seating on the back left and one light in the foreground to light behind the sofa. Along with adding light, some of the room lights were partially blocked to reduce light. As important as the lighting is, everything in the scene was repositioned for the best composition. Below is the final photograph with both lighting and Photoshop adjustments made.

2 thoughts on “Seeing What the Camera Sees”

  • Dan, your photography is better than being there. The detail you are able to capture is seen in other photos, but somehow, the way you capture it makes the photo seem alive. I could see the grain of the wood in the coffee table and feel the “welcome” of the room, as well as seeing the paint and shadows of the imperfections on the wall in the factory and stark definition of the machinery in the shop. Things I would not have even noticed, had it not been for your eye and expertise. Impressive.

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