Part 1 – Four to Six Phoptographs Which are Deliberately Lighter or Darker than Average
Fig. 01 is deliberately lighter. I have used a small flashgun on camera to fill in the shadows and to make the subject stand out from the background. The subject has his back to fairly early morning sun so his face would have been in shadow without the flash. To achieve this with artificial light I would have needed to expose for his face and this would have blown out the highlights in his hair. I have been experimenting with this technique after studying Martin Parr’s work (here). I am still a long way from finding the right background and foreground balance but overall I like the technique.
Fig. 02 is deliberately darker. I have underexposed by 1 stop to increase the colour saturation and to leave as much as detail as possible in the lighter areas of the pavement. I have sacrificed detail in the climbing plant on the right back wall but this could easily be brought back in Photoshop. The picture was taken in bright afternoon sun and, in my opinion, the automatic settings on the camera would have over-exposed the shot. When conditions are bright I will often, maybe even usually, under-expose by 1/3 or 1/2 a stop to increase saturation. This also has the benefit of capturing detail in the highlights so, if I want to adjust back to an average or over-exposed shot I have plenty of data to work with.
Fig. 03 is deliberately darker. I wanted the detail in the clouds to be retained and for the young crop to be spring green. I prefer a picture like this to be saturated and on the darker side of “average”. This highlights the fundamental problem with this exercise as there is obviously no possible definition of “average” in this context. There is a strong element of personal preference involved.
Different type of subject but fig. 04 is the same approach as fig. 03. It is deliberately darker with the intent of increasing saturation and to get the effect I was looking for with the strong colour of the red bricks and the green box.
Fig. 05 is deliberately lighter than average. It was taken using a flashgun in a cold-shoe soft box to the top left and two sets of small LEd light to the right to fill in some shadow. I have set out to blow out the plate to the left but to leave the food strongly coloured. It is in effect over lit and over exposed to get this effect.
Part 2 – Five Different Subjects x Five Exposures at 1/2 Stop Intervals
The above five subjects have all been bracketed at 1/2 stop intervals starting with -1 and ending with +1. There are no significant surprises. In full size I would prefer the -1/5 a stop to the +1/5 a stop and the “average” is generally acceptable. I have noticed that images prepared for the web are often better when slightly over exposed and I think this is the case with the flower and the letter box above although +1/3 of a stop would probably have been about right.