SUNSETS, SILHOUETTES…AND BEING SMARTER THAN YOUR CAMERA
Have you ever tried to photograph a sunset that was rich, colourful and spectacular…and ended up with a photo that is pale and washed out?
There are a couple of factors that cause this. First, when trying to create an exposure, the camera aims to produce a kind of ‘standard’ daylight level of brightness. So when things are getting dark and intense, the camera will often try to brighten things up.
Second, when the sun goes down behind a subject it creates silhouettes. A good silhouette can be a great finishing touch to a sunset photo. But to a camera, a silhouette means a large part of your photo is massively underexposed. Again, it will want to let in extra light to prevent this.
So if I was shooting in Auto, my sunset photo (above) would probably look more like this:
Now, it might be simply a matter of personal preference and perhaps you disagree…but I much prefer the darker version. The only way to get the exposure I want is to outsmart the camera and take a darker photo than the camera wants me to. You can do that (up to a point) using AV and TV modes, using exposure compensation. But by far the best way is to use Manual mode, take your light-meter to the middle…and then set the shutter speed a few stops faster, sending the light-meter towards the minus (darker) end of the scale. Exactly how many stops you need depends on the level of contrast you are dealing with.