Determining Proper Exposures for Outdoor Glamour Photography

by | Apr 18, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“To me the face – the eyes, the expression of the mouth – is the thing that reflects character. It is the only part of the body that permits us to see the inner person!” Philippe Halsman

The term Lighting Ratio describes the difference between the main light and fill light and their relative strength can be measured with a light or flash meter.

In camera meters measure light reflected by the scene being photographed. Hand-held incident light, like my Gossen measure the amount of light falling on the subject. A spot meter measures a narrowly focused area in a scene but still measures reflected light. If you have time, please check out my post “Using a Handheld Meter for Portraits.”

If you take a meter reading for a subject of 1/500 sec at f/11 and want to use a slower shutter speed and choose 1/125 sec you will have to adjust the aperture (make it smaller) so the same (equivalent) amount of light falls on the sensor. By selecting either Aperture or Shutter priority exposure modes, your camera calculates the equivalent exposure for you, eliminating any guesswork.

How I made this shot: The above available light portrait was made using a Canon EOS 50D with an EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens and an exposure of 1/30 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 200. The wonderfully useful EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens has been discontinued but you can pick up a used one on Amazon for approx. $115, as I write this.

The Brightness Range exposure method suggests taking two different readings from the scene you’re about to photograph. The first one is a reading off the highlight area where you want to make sure that detail is held in the portrait. A second reading it taken from the shadow area of the scene, again where you want the detail held. Your camera setting will be based on taking an average of the two readings and that may be close enough to give you the exposure you want, although to be absolutely sure you might try to bracket your exposure.


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My book Available Light Glamour Photography that is available from Amazon with new copies selling for $17.43 and used copies available for just $12.79 as I write this. Kindle copies are $16.56 for those preferring a digital format.