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  • John Patota

Expose for the Highlights

Updated: Feb 13

See It, Hear It, Do It

In my Fundamentals of Photography class at Sandhills Community College, we start a new topic my showing an example, then discussing the concept and finally getting some hands-on practice.


Isn't that the way adults learn best? When learning something new, we want to go home with a skill that can be applied right away. Not interested in theory.

Students in the Fundamentals of Photography class at Sandhills Community College.

Here, we are learning an essential skill, Expose for the Highlights. Students are using the AE-L (Auto Exposure Lock) button on their cameras to lock the exposure on the brightest part of the scene before recomposing and taking the shot. The AE-L button is handy in any of the camera modes like Program, Aperture or Shutter Priority. Holding down the button tells the camera to lock in the exposure settings, allowing you to then frame the shot the way you like it before firing off the shutter. As an instructor, It's a good feeling when we get to the hands-on part of the class.



I locked the exposure on the light coming thru the stained glass. Page Memorial United Methodist, Aberdeen, NC.

This was was the original image I took inside the Page Memorial church in the small town of Aberdeen, North Carolina. By pointing my camera to the light coming thru the stained glass, and locking the exposure, I was able to preserve the details.


If I had not done that, the window light would have been too bright, or blowout, without any details. Yes, the image is under exposed, but that can easily be fixed in post processing.


After Post-Processing

And here is the same image after post-processing. If you would have been there with me that day, the image above is the way your eye would have seen it. Your eye and brain would have worked together to see details in the bright stained glass and the shadows in the pews.


We recommend using the SnapSeed App for anyone just starting out in photography. Now, how to use SnapSeed sounds like a topic for another Blog. Stay Tuned.

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