Gorilla Exposure

A friend of mine recently emailed me a question...

Hi Derek,
Hope you are well. I'm in Rwanda at the moment and went to see the gorillas yesterday. It was amazing!! but I'm
so disappointed with my photos! The colours (greens in particular) came out really over exposed but I have no idea why. I've attached an example from my friends camera and 2 from mine so you can see and wondered if you might have any idea which settings are wrong...?
Thank you in advance!

Here is my answer...

Hey Mandy,

That's awesome!  What lovely characters!  Were they friendly?

Here is a technical explanation. and a fix you can use, and a fix for your post-processing.

Our cameras are quite clever in that they can look at a scene and work out the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed for a "perfect" exposure.  Or any combination thereof, depending on which mode you are in - Av, Tv, Manual, etc.

The problem is that the camera doesn't understand what it's looking at and so "perfect" becomes a fuzzy, relative term.  In your case, the metering system inside the camera has seen something dark - Mr G - and compensated by making the exposure brighter.  Maybe by slowing the Shutter Speed, or by raising the ISO, or both.

It looks like you have set your camera to Spot Metering and you are shooting in Av mode.  Good!  Here's how to make sure you get perfect results every time.

Use Exposure Compensation.

  • Look in the viewfinder, pointing at the gorilla, and along with the numbers at the bottom is the Exposure Meter  -2...-1...0...1...2
  • Is the needle in the middle - zero?
  • Basically, if it is on the positive side, your pictures will be brighter.  Negative side...darker.
  • You can use this to your advantage.  I can't remember exactly how to change it on your 450D.  I think you press-hold the AV button on the back of the camera while rolling the dial.
  • If you are shooting a dark subject like a gorilla, or Mr Bond in a tux, set it to -1.
  • If you are shooting out in the snow or Bridezilla, set it to +1 or +2.
  • Be aware that this assumes that your subject will be in the centre of your frame when you take the shot!

Hope this helps.  Can we expect a slide show and mission debrief from you at the pub?

Safari njema