Digital Photography Basics

Eastern Sierra Sunrise

Sunrise on a peak in the eastern Sierra, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Sunrise on a peak in the eastern Sierra, Inyo NF, CA, USA

I made this photograph yesterday morning during my first Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop. It’s just so beautiful over here! We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the second one.

With sidelight like this, a polarizing filter can actually lighten a reflection if it’s adjusted correctly. By lightening the refection and darkening the sky the polarizer helped to balance the contrast of this scene, and from there it was relatively easy to process this image in Lightroom using Highlights, Shadows, and the Graduated Filter tool.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: A Landscape Transformed; Autumn Snow

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

Digital Photography Basics: Adjusting Exposure

Most camera's light meters would read the dark areas in the background and overexpose these dogwood blossoms. To correct for this, you need to either override the meter with exposure compensation, or adjust the exposure manually.

Most camera's light meters would read the dark areas in the background and overexpose these dogwood blossoms. To correct for this, you need to either override the meter with exposure compensation, or adjust the exposure manually.


In the first part of this series I explained one of the most fundamental aspects of digital photography: reading histograms. In this edition I’ll delve into the next step: how to adjust the exposure when the histogram doesn’t look right the first time.

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Digital Photography Basics: Reading Histograms

Understanding how to read a histogram is the best way to judge exposure in high-contrast scenes like this.

Understanding how to read a histogram is the best way to judge exposure in high-contrast scenes like this.



With film, exposure always involves some guesswork—you can never be sure you made the correct exposure until you develop the film. But with digital cameras you can tell immediately whether the right amount of light reached the sensor by looking at a histogram. This ability to instantly evaluate exposure is a game changer—the single biggest advantage of digital photography over film.

But many photographers are still guessing about exposure because they’re unable to decipher the histogram’s cryptic messages. Instead they judge exposure by how bright the image looks on their camera’s LCD screen. But while those little screens are extremely useful for many things, evaluating exposure isn’t one of them. There are too many variables: screen quality (usually bad), the LCD brightness setting in the camera, and the amount of ambient light.

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