Light is Your Crayon

Remember: all cameras average the existing light. What that means is, just because
you can see it . . . doesn’t mean the camera can. The human eye is far more
sophisticated than the most expensive camera money can buy. If . . . for example,
you stand someone in front of a bright window, your eye can still tell who that person
is . . . but the camera can not, at least, not without help. Your eye will zoom into a
person’s face and ignore that bright light around them, but the camera will not.
The camera’s whole purpose in life is to make an image that is 18% gray. Long ago,
someone decided that 18% gray was as close to the human eye, as a camera can get.
But if for example, 80% of the picture frame is filled with light that is brighter than
18% gray, what does the camera do? It tries to average out the given light. It will
take your best friend and makes him or her, a silhouette. Don’t get mad at the
camera, it’s only doing what it’s been told to do.

Use a flash indoors 90% of the time. The only reason, I don’t say 100% is because
some events won’t allow a flash indoors. If that’s the case, get a higher speed film
(400 or 800 ISO) and use a tripod. If you can’t give a subject more light, give it light
for a longer period of time. If you use a flash the camera speed is usually about
1/125th of a sec. or faster. But if you’re not allowed to use a flash for example,
you may shoot available light at 1/30th of a sec. or slower. (That’s why I suggest
the tripod.)

Personally, I like using a flash. I probably use a flash, even outdoors, about 80%
of the time (when I happen to be shooting people, that is). Why? Just because there’s
plenty of light, doesn’t mean that it’s the right kind of light. Bright light (like at high
noon) causes harsh shadows. I can give a short burst of flash (commonly called:
“Fill Flash”), and suddenly my colors are more vibrant and the shadows are less harsh.

Remember, if you want a subject to actually be white (a wedding dress for example)
you will have to give the shot more light than the camera suggest. If you want it to
actually be black, (a black horse for example) you will have to give the shot less light
than what the camera is indicating. If you shoot indoors, use a flash when you’re
allowed to do so. If you shoot outdoors, try using a flash, it might surprise you.

You have to make the decisions about how to expose your photos, not the camera.
The camera is only a guide, but it has no artistic taste. It will only do what it knows
how to do, which means it will give you an average exposure. If you want your shots
to look extraordinary, don’t rely on just an average reading. There are 26 letters in
the alphabet, but not every combination makes a great novel. What you do with those
26 letters determines if you are a great writer. What you do with the information your
camera gives you, determines whether or not you are a great photographer.