Monday, January 12, 2009

C1/C2/C3 - Custom Modes, Revisited

Just a brief update to my previous post on setting up the custom modes on my 40D.

Shortly after writing that post, I read one by wedding photographer, Ryan Brenizer on how he's able to post-process a shoot with an average of two seconds per photo. His big secret is that he's an expert at getting his exposure correct. The second was that he shoots all manual mode.

It's interesting that this never occurred to me. I've been futzing around with different metering modes all this time, usually disappointed with the results. At one point, I was sure that my camera meters dark because spot-metering on someone's face would result in a shot two-thirds to one stop dark. I'm pretty sure now that that was due to caucasian skin being about a stop brighter than middle gray. It was exposing properly, I was telling it that this person's face was gray, when it was much lighter than that.

Most of the time, and I'm sure this is the same with you, I'm shooting several shots in the same room, or same basic lighting. I've been letting the camera determine and re-determine the exposure with every half-click of the shutter. It seems so obvious now that that's a bad idea. When I'd shoot 50 shots in the same room with aperture-priority (Av) mode, I had to individually correct the exposure on every shot. Now, thanks to that invaluable tip, I'm able to spend a little up-front time getting the perfect exposure, then finish the rest of the shoot with the same settings. When I get back to the computer, I need a few minutes with the first photo, then copy and paste those corrections to the rest.

Simple, no?

Now, it's just a tad more complicated than that, of course. Unless you're very far from the light sources, you're unlikely to find a room with consistent lighting across the whole space. I need to be wary of that, and when I determine what exposure I'll be shooting at -- say, ISO 1600, f/2.0, 1/60sec -- I might need to take mental notes that on one half of the room nearer to the lamp, I should quickly adjust to, say, f/2.8.

So, to modify my previous post, I re-set my C1 and C2 custom modes to manual exposure, with a couple of starting points that I find myself often shooting. C1 was for indoor, ambient only, so I chose ISO 1600, f/2.0, 1/30sec. C2 was for indoor, with flash, so I set that to two stops darker, and enabled the flash - ISO 1600, f/2.0, 1/125sec.

It wasn't easy changing the custom modes from aperture-priority (Av) to manual (M) - I had to start over, since the shooting mode is determined by what mode you're on when you're saving the profile. I basically had to start over. No worries.

Next time I'm out in a new shooting environment, all I have to do is take some test shots early on to determine the exposure I'll need. I'll start with C1 mode, find the correct exposure, then save it to C1. Then I'll dial in a shot two stops darker for C2. This should make my post-processing go by much quicker. After only one round of shooting with the new modes, I must say I was impressed. I saw a continuity in the lighting of my shots that I'm not used to. Every shot turned out the same, regardless of whether I was pointing at someone wearing a white or black sweater.

Thanks, Ryan, for pointing out the obvious!

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