Amateur Photographer: Svetlana used -0.3EV

I HAVE included Svetlana’s snow scene so we can begin thinking about how we will deal with the snow of our own. It can’t be too far away! Svetlana used -0.3EV exposure compensation here, which seems quite the opposite of what we might usually do. Camera metering systems would usually look at a snow scene, see lots of brightness, and close down, making the snow a dirty grey. With the exposure compensation I should think that grey was very dirty, and that she has had to do some work to lift the image. And work she has, increasing the contrast and brightening the tones to the point where the highlights have burned out and the noise from an image shot at ISO 200 is very noticeable.

This is one of those occasions where we really do need to get things right in-camera. Snowy days like this are usually quite low in contrast, and to capture that accurately we need to get exposure dead-on. I would usually expect to dial in +1.3EV on a bright day, and on a day like this about +0.7EV - just enough to lift the snow to a bright tone, but not as bright as white. Heavily clouded days don't tend to have whites.

Despite all that, I rather like Svetlana’s image

It depicts a scene we all recognise, and we can imagine the feel and the sounds of the scene. Final night at school Gene LandsbI LOVE a bit of backlighting. It is almost guaranteed to create atmosphere, whatever you are shooting. When shadows deprive us of detail we go looking for something else, knowing that it isn’t the facts of the scene the photographer is showing us. And usually all that is left is the atmosphere.

Amateur Photographer: Svetlana used -0.3EV

This lovely shot owes its atmosphere to more than backlighting, of course, but the way the light is catching the girls’ hair is really the subject of the shot. I love the story in the image (one that we can each invent for ourselves using the clues before us) and the way we can see the close friendships that exist between the girls pictured.

However, most digital cameras, in my opinion, produce JPEGs that aim for instant impact at the expense of balanced tonality. It is often useful to turn down the contrast settings, or to use portrait mode, if you want smoother midtones. Here the hard contrast has created too much difference in the tones of the girls’ hair and the background trees. Their clothes, and the girl’s feet, are also rather too dark.

While I don’t much mind the flare from the light on the left of frame, I do find the structure at the top right very distracting. Gene could have repositioned himself to avoid it. The girls don't look as though they are about to go anywhere, so the shot could have been taken again from another angle and with a different lens that would help to keep that framework out of view.

I've created a slightly cropped version that shows the differences I think low-contrast camera settings and a different angle may have made. Well seen, though, Gene - you’ve made a wonderful photograph. I’m just being picky.

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