For this exercise I first used aperture priority with zero exposure compensation, and I photographed the back of a black leather chair, a greyish coloured window blind, and a piece of white paper. Here are my images:
Two things struck me about these images: one, how awful they are and two, how similar they are.
Although the histograms are not identical, they are each centred around the mid point. I assume that had I used subjects with less tonal range, then the histograms would have been more alike. The mix of tones in my ‘grey’ image accounts for the more gentle curve of the histogram and the second spike of darker tones.
The histogram that I find most surprising is the one for my black image. The black chair had some stitching detail that caught the light but perhaps more significant, exposure of this image took 20secs. I hand held my camera since I was not conscious of focus, and it is obvious that there is camera shake. I wonder if this movement caused the tonal range to vary, resulting in a wider curve of the histogram than I expected.
Only the paper was plain. I wondered why there were two histogram spikes in this image, but on examining my subject again I can see that shadow on the paper may account for the darker tone.
I was shooting in artificial light and there is an unpleasant colour cast in all my images. The course notes suggest repeating the exercise using the monochrome setting if the colour is unpleasant, and I was interested to see how my images would look:
Here are my ‘black and white’ images:
Again, my images are very similar in colour. In monochrome, I can more easily see the effect of the light reflecting on the chair in the black image and how my subject is not completely black but actually quite a mixture of tones. This, rather than the long exposure, would account for the tonal spread in the histogram.
The histogram (not shown) for my monochrome ‘white’ image shows just one spike in the centre this time. I was aware of my shadow and consciously avoided it so the tonal range is reduced.
This is a significant lesson that has made me wonder just what my camera does to my images in automatic modes and I am looking forward to experimenting with manual in this part of the course.
For the second part of this exercise, I shot the same images using manual mode to expose the subjects more accurately. Here are my images:
You can see here that I now have a black, a grey and a white image. The histograms show, respectively, dark tones, mid tones and light tones, and I have three different images, each resembling the colour of their subject more closely that those images taken on automatic mode.
The exercise said it was not necessary to focus, and consequently my images don’t really show what I saw. On discussing these photographs with my husband, he asked why the black photo didn’t look like our chair, and commented (politely) that he felt his mobile phone camera would probably take a better image. This concerned me. I re-took my image using my phone:
This image was properly focussed and, though not black exactly, it was more like my chair than my previous images were. I decided to try my camera again, on fully automatic mode, using manual focus:
This is a far better picture of my chair, and I understand how my camera has, in automatic mode, averaged exposure out to grey. However, I can’t help but feel disappointed.
I decided to spend a little more time in trying to take an image using manual mode and manual focus that better captured how I saw my chair:
Different chair but more realistic.
More like the real thing.
I found this a very interesting exercise that showed me more about how my camera works and allowed me to start experimenting with manual mode. I was pleased with my final images and relieved that my (moderately expensive) camera takes a better picture than my phone.