Managing Exposure

Yesterday I gave a presentation at the weekly meeting for the University of Surrey Photographic Society. After discussing the content with the president I chose to go with a few slides on my methodology for landscape photography. It’s not that I consider myself an expert, but this is one topic that I’ve devoted more attention to in the last few years, and I thought a few others may find it useful.

I chose to focus on the problem of managing exposure. So I felt I had to start with a brief intro to the zone system, and how it can be applied simply to a modern digital workflow. I talked a bit about spot metering and the manual exposure mode, both of which most people would not normally use. Finally, I went through the more common options for dealing with a large exposure range, including exposure blending, grad filters, and some post-processing options.

Since I was asked for the slides, I thought I’d make them publicly available. Following a few minor fixes, and the addition of the classic Adams references,  the slides can be downloaded from the following link: [photosoc2014-handouts].



  1. Good one.
    It’s nice to see something that values the Zone system – if there’s one thing that was particularly effective in making me get a better grasp of exposure it was working through the principals of the zone system.
    Personally, I have moved away from using grads so much – my eye tends to notice them in the end result – especially where the horizon line is not supportive of them (I probably need to take more care).

    • Hi Stephen! Thanks for your comment; I have also found that getting to grips with the zone system changed the way I look at exposure. For me, things really clicked when I realized that this started with the end product: the print, and worked back from there. I definitely see what you mean about grads: I find them very annoying in many (otherwise beautiful) photos. They’re not a solution to everything, that’s for sure. I’ve found two things that help: soft grads, and using a lower density than I would initially think.

      • Hmm. I never thought about the effect it would have on >35mm format. I know the ‘hardness’ is a function of aperture and I think focal length, so maybe that’s related (if memory serves me right, on mf you’d normally need smaller apertures for the same depth of field, so a hard grad would have a harder transition).

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