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on Jun 24, 2009 in Tech Tips

Moose's Infamous Teddy Bear Exposure Compensation Test

My kid’s teddy bears see as much of our backyard as I do since they’re out there always being photographed. I have two, one black and one white that are twelve inches tall that I use. They have taught me much and they can help you quickly learn how and when to use exposure compensation. The goal of the test is to provide you with a set of images where you can visually see the effect of exposure compensation on a variety of tones in a variety of situations that you can set in your mind for real life situations.

You’ll need to have a black and white subject for the test, I recommend stuffed animals which have glass eyes (able to reflect catch lights). You’ll also need to have a number of situations where you can photograph the subject, paper and pencil for notes on each frame and a zoom lens in the 75-300mm range, 80-200mm will do.

Dialing in the compensation can be done in a variety of ways which varies slightly with each camera body. With most, you simply press the exposure compensation dial and dial in the desired compensation value. Others like to change their ISO to over or under expose. A method I use when I know I’m just compensating for just one photograph is to move my lens off the subject and watch my shutter speed until it changes to the desired value at which time I hold in the memory lock and reframe for the photo. Whatever method you use, employ it in the test and get into a routine of doing it the same way all the time.

Make sure you write down frame number, the situation, subject, base exposure and most importantly the amount of exposure compensation used for each exposure. DON’T trust it to memory!

A helpful hint, shadows on the subject and background can be made by you using a towel or sheet of cardboard. Place them to block light where and when needed. This can make the test go faster if you leave the camera and subject the same and just change the lighting patterns to fit your needs.

Situation 1: Full shadow on subject and background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 2: 50/50 shadow on subject, full shadow on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 3: Full sun on subject, full shadow on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 4: Full shadow on subject, 50/50 sun on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 5: 50/50 shadow on subject and background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 6: Full sun on subject, 50/50 sun on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 7: Full shadow on subject, full sun on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 8: 50/50 shadow on subject, full sun on background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop
Situation 9: Full sun on subject and background
White Bear Black Bear
Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop Underexpose by 1, 2/3 & 1/3 stop
Expose as the meter suggests Expose as the meter suggests
Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop Overexpose by 1/3, 2/3 and 1 stop

So what does this provide you with? Sleeve the images in the order they were taken. Look at them on the light table over and over again. Learn to see the different lighting patterns and recognize what exposure you like. Make a mental note, or written, of the exposure method and compensation if any that produces the exposure you like. There is no right or wrong exposure as far as I’m concern, only the one that communicates what you see to others.