Monday, January 13, 2014

Day One, in every way

This is day one of the 100 Blown Highlights Blog, but also Day One of my 100 Day Challenge.  I started this challenge because as a photographer I realized that I wasn’t growing as much as I wanted to.  Two simultaneous things gave me pause: the first was the realization that I was producing images that were being used professionally-- as CD covers, brochures, corporate headshots, and even the cover of a print magazine.  The second was that I didn’t feel that I could reliably produce a professional image on demand.  I understood the craft well enough to produce the great images, but not well enough to be consistent.  Truthfully, I was better at putting my camera in front of great subjects than creating them myself.  It was time to take my skills to the next level.

I decided that I would learn one new thing about photography every day for 100 days.  And I’m sharing them with you.  That’s the structural skeleton of 100 Blown Highlights, though I’ll probably include bits and pieces of other photography-related stuff.  Whether this blog will continue after 100 days is anybody’s guess.  It’s gonna be a lot of work just getting a 100 posts out there.  On top of the learning.

The skill level of these "learnings" is going to be Intermediate to Advanced.  This isn’t a tutorial-- it’s not going to be a step-wise, highly organized seminar on how to improve your photography.  Because this is about my learning... filling in the gaps and shadow areas in my own understanding and skill set.  But I hope, and trust, that it will be helpful for expanding other people’s skills as well.  So let’s get started.

Day One, Learning One:

The Sunny 16 Rule.  Some folks would consider this a beginner’s concept, but to be honest I’d only heard the term; I never really understood how it was useful.  Maybe it’s the same for you.  So I’ll start with a pop quiz:  it’s a sunny, clear day and you're shooting in Manual Mode in the sunshine.  But you want to shoot at f/5.6 not f/16.  What do you set your shutter speed and ISO to?  If the answer isn’t at the tip of your fingers, read on.

The Sunny 16 Rule states that on your average sunny day, if your f-stop is 16, your shutter speed and ISO will be the same.  For example: f/16 + Shutter Speed 100 + ISO 100 equals a perfect exposure.  Example Two:  f/16 + Shutter Speed 400 + ISO 400 equals a perfect exposure.  The shutter speed and the ISO always match up.  Go outside and see for yourself.

Honestly, this isn’t all that useful a rule, but remember two things:  every professional photographer knows and understands this rule; and it starts you thinking about the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  In order to apply the rule you need to understand how these three work together not just intuitively, but mathematically.  More on that to come.

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