Point-and-Click Tips: Avoiding Overexposure and Underexposure When Taking Pictures Outdoors
Although digital point and shoot cameras are generally automated to measure the amount of light in an environment and apply the proper settings to take a good picture, the camera often makes an exposure decision that is incorrect due to complicated scene conditions. Most of the time, when a shot is underexposed, the details in the shadows can be recovered in Photoshop, while you can't fix a photo if the details are not there as the result of overexposure.
Overexposure: photos that are washed out, too bright, or have blown-out areas.
Direct bright light will create overexposure. To avoid it, as the first measure, make sure the sun is not shining into the lens while you are taking a picture. Sounds like the most obvious thing but you'll be surprised how many people don't think of it. It is recommended to put your subject in a shady area when shooting a sunny day.
Besides washing out the image, the harsh light creates a strong contrast where the highlights are too white and the shadows too black.
Uneven contract can be an eye sore. For example if the object's face is lit from the side the object's nose can create a strong shadow. When lit from above, the face will feature black spots in the undereye area, under the nose and on the chin. The camera can not automatically correct such effects. Use flash on the shade side to even out the exposure to light on both sides!
Underexposure: Photos that are underexposed look dark and lack details. When printed in large sizes they show pixelation instead of solid colors.
The obvious reason for underexposure is poor lighting. But it can also occur if there is a very bright light source in the photo. It can confuse the camera to believe that there is enough light in the scene for a low exposure setting. The result will be a photo that captures the bright area but darkens all the others.
To prevent underexposure you have to move closure to your subject and make sure your subject is the most well-lit element within the frame.
Outdoor photos can benefit greatly by overcast skies or by taking photos early in the morning or in the evening. Taking photos when the sun is at a 45 degree angle will result in richer colors.
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