Photography News issue 25

Technique 57

Photography News Issue 25

Photo school Camera class Everyone has to start somewhere, even pros, and here we look at the core skills every beginner needs. This month, we explain creative spot metering and how to make silhouettes in Lightroom

Software skills Create a silhouette in Lightroom

Words & pictures by Kingsley Singleton

Because of the way that Lightroom lets you easily control the overall exposure of Raw files, as well as individual parts of the tonal range, you can create lots of interesting exposure effects. Silhouettes are a good example of this, and while it’s easy to tweak an image that you intended to silhouette in shooting (as we’ve done here), you can use the same steps to turn a regular subject into something more exciting, too. So long as you have right kind of picture – one where your subject is positioned against a brighter backdrop, you’ll just need to push the sliders a bit further. Here we’ll be using the clipping warnings overlay, but you can also try holding the Alt key as you move the sliders which will show you how the tones in the images are reacting to your changes. If you need to take things back to the start, just double-click the name of the slider to zero it.



Spotmetering on a skin tone (above) Here the multi-segment metering reads the whole scene as usual, and because the background is bright, it underexposes the subject at 1/320sec at f/2.8. Spot metering on the subject’s skin tones – her face – resets the exposure to 1/60sec at f/2.8, giving a more accurate exposure and a high-key look to the background. Spotmetering on a bright part of the scene (below) Here you can see the effect of spot metering on a bright part of the sky and this gave an exposure of 1/200sec at f/11 forcing the darker subject into a dramatic silhouette. The multi-segment meter measured light from the whole scene and gave an exposure of 1/30sec at f/11 so the whole effect is much more airy.

1. Control the exposure Open your picture and turn on the highlights and shadows clipping warnings by pressing J, so you can see what’s pure white and pure black. Next, move the Exposure slider left to pull back the highlights and make the subject darker, too – it doesn’t need to block out and go totally black yet. In fact, that’s better tackled separately in the next step.



Of the several light measuring modes available on your DSLR or CSC, it’s very likely that spot metering is rarely used. And there’s a good reason for that. The wide, multi- segment (usually known as Evaluative/Matrix) and centre-weighted modes are quicker and easier to use, giving an accurate reading of most subjects and therefore letting the camera expose ‘correctly’. In fact, althoughspot metering can be used to give very accurate exposures, for most photographers it’s used when the other modes aren’t capable of giving the results that they’re after; typically creative exposures, like when you’re shooting silhouettes, or very high-key images. How it works Spot metering measures just a small part of the frame, which could be as low as 2-3% of the total area, assuming that to be a midtone, and basing its exposure on what it finds. This means that, unless you’re shooting a scene that’s primarily midtones, the exposure will vary widely depending on which part of the scene you’re taking the reading from. For example, take a reading from a very bright part of the subject, and the metering will assume this to be a midtone, then use exposure settings that’ll probably

underexpose the rest of the scene. Conversely, spot meter on a dark part of the subject and the camera will assume that to be a midtone instead, with the resulting exposure settings likely to overexpose the rest of the scene. Spot metering in action You activate spot metering just like the other metering modes, using either a dial on the body, or via a menu on screen; the icon is a dot. From there it gets slightly more complicated, but not by much. Looking through the viewfinder, or composing on screen, the camera’s spot meter is usually allied with the active AF point. Move the AF point from a light area to a dark one and you’ll see the exposure setting change, as it reacts to the change in brightness. Easy, right? Now the only trouble is that the area you want to spot meter from is unlikely to be slap-bang underneath the AF point. So what you need to do is take the meter reading, then lock in those settings and recompose before shooting. This is done using the AE-L (Auto Exposure Lock) button, which essentially ‘freezes’ the exposure settings. It’s usually found on the rear of the camera, and on some bodies it’s twinned with the AF-L (Autofocus Lock) button. On Canon bodies it’s shown as an asterisk.

2. Work the highlights and shadows If you need to pull the brighter parts back more, take the Highlights and Whites sliders to the left. Now, for the dark subject, push the Shadows and Blacks sliders left until you see the blue shadows clipping warning start to dominate the subject. There should be plenty of black in there, so don’t be shy!

3. Adddefinition and colour To crisp up the look, andmake the dark subject stand out, you can use the sliders under the Presence heading. Take the Clarity slider to the right to addmore definition to the silhouette, and then use Vibrance and Saturation to control the colour. Here, we pushed both sliders right to liven up the dawn colours.

NextMonth How to use bracketing

Powered by