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12-20-2010, 08:10 AM   #1
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Setting Exposure Question

Hello All!

I just recently got a Pentax K-x, and love it so far. However, I'm having problems with pictures being too dark. I'm reading "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson and he keeps mentioning pointing the camera at a specific part of the scene, and setting the correct exposure to do that. Can anyone tell me how to do that with the k-x? All help is appreciated!

12-20-2010, 08:59 AM   #2
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One way:
Put your camera in M mode, select an aperture and set a shutter speed for correct exposure by pointing it to the part of the scene; I assume that you use a fixed ISO
Next recompose

Other way:
Point the camera to the part of the scene and press AE-L (I've never used it so you must read the manual for that).
After that, recompose

your camera has three metering modes; spot, center weight and multi-segment. Spot-metering uses the center of what you see in the viewfinder to determine correct exposure and multi-segment uses the whole image to determine correct exposure; center weight uses something in between
12-20-2010, 09:06 AM   #3
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Also just to give you an better idea of what the author is talking about. As the previous poster stated, there are 3 different metering modes. I suggest trying out all three. Do this by setting your camera to Auto (green mode), go to your backyard, point the camera at various spots that are sunlit and shaded and notice how the Aperture and Shutter speed changes. Do this with all three modes and you will get a better understanding how each metering mode works and why the author said to meter certain spots before you take a photo. Good Luck.
12-20-2010, 09:06 AM   #4
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First of all, your camera will expose differently on spot, center or average. If you have it set on spot, and you are aiming at a part of the scene that is brighter than the average of the total scene, it will expose for that brighter part, which will make the total scene look dark. This happens often when people take snapshots of outdoor scenes in the mid-day sun. The bright sky overpowers the meter, so the land comes out dark. Be sure you have the exposure mode set to average. Try to shoot early and late in the day and keep the sun over your sholder.
If you have the mode set on average and pictures are consistently too dark for your tastes, set the EV compensation at +1/3.
What Peterson is talking about is using the spot metering mode much the way we used hand-held meters years ago. Let's suppose, for example, you have a subject with backlighting. If you use average, the camera will try to figure out an average setting as a compromise of sorts between the strong backlighting and the darker subject. But you probably want the picture exposed for the subject.
There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to keep the mode on average, walk up to where the subject fills frame, press the shutter button half way and without moving the camera, set AE Lock. Then you can back up, compose the shot and it will expose according to the reading you got directly off the subject and locked in.
The other way is to set your auto exposure on spot metering, then aim it at the subject upon which you want to concentrate exposure. If the subject takes up a good portion of the frame, it will expose for the subject. Of course, this means you must center your subject to get your exposure reading from spot metering, which meters in the center of the frame. If you want the subject off center, you can center the subject, press the shutter half way and hit AE Lock for much the same effect as walking up to them to lock in a reading. Once you hit AE Lock, you can recompose and take the shot.

12-20-2010, 10:14 AM   #5
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In modes other than M, you can use the AF/AE-L button. as Ron describes. However, that button does several things and I found its default configuration unhelpful: it also locks focus, and I usually want focus and exposure to be independent. I changed it in the C2 menu, setting 10, to value 4, which simply locks the exposure. Then you can, eg, point the camera at the sky, press AF/AE-L, and that will lock the exposure to the sky and make sure the sky isn't over-exposed. You can then point the camera at the subject and take the picture, half-pressing the shutter button to lock focus as usual. A star appears in the viewfinder while the exposure is locked, so you don't forget.

In M mode, even though the camera won't set the exposure for you, if you half-press the shutter button, it will meter the light and show the result as a number at the bottom-right of the viewfinder, like +3.0. You can adjust the exposure by turning the eDial until the viewfinder exposure reads 0. Then the camera thinks the exposure is correct for whatever it is pointing at.

You can configure the green button to do this for you, with a single press. I think that's the default. With a manual lens, the AV button does it, which leaves the green button for other uses.

You can also just take a picture and review it on the LCD screen. It'll usually be obvious if the exposure is wrong. Using built-in aids like the histogram and light/dark areas helps too. You can then adjust the exposure in M mode by changing shutter speed or aperture or ISO, and in other modes by applying exposure compensation with the AV button. Trial and error will eventually get you there.

Frankly, if you are having to mess around with the exposure lock or exposure compensation buttons to fix the camera's guesses, it can be just as easy to use M mode and tell the camera what to do directly.
12-20-2010, 11:56 AM   #6
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alright thanks guys. I'm definitely going to try using spot metering and the AE-L button. I appreciate all the help.
12-21-2010, 11:40 AM   #7
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How are you deciding they are too dark? Viewing them on your PC? If so, I'd suggest you start by checking the PC screen is displaying correctly - it would be a shame to start taking lots of photos that on a correct screen appear too light.

This is a simple page that will help you check:

Photo Friday: Monitor Calibration Tool
12-21-2010, 01:48 PM   #8
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I agree with Cats. If anything, I've noticed pics from Kx being slightly overexposed. If you could post a picture you think is underexposed here, it would help.


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