I was trying take a photo of a room at dusk. No artificial lights and the room was quite dark - it was difficult to read but not pitch dark. I adjusted the parameters so that the exposure meter in the camera was balanced at center. I was expecting the photo to have lot of lot of dark tones. But photo came out as well lit. In fact, in the photo, room appeared brighter than it actually was. What is happening here? And What can I do to capture the dark shadows?

I was shooting with a Nikon D7200 and a 50mm, F/1.8 lens


Cameras by default try to make the average of photo to be 18% gray (as light, not as colour). So your camera do not know the room is dark and try to lighten it. To avoid this you can try in fully manual mode and set the exposure to -2EV (for example) or in T,A modes you can use exposure compensation with the same value.

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    The reading relative to which the exposure value is compensated for would depend on the metering. So depending on what's being shot (reasonably evenly dark room vs overall dark room with a light source in the frame), switching from matrix metering to center-weighted or spot metering could also help with this.
    – G_H
    Nov 29 '18 at 12:03

What to do depends on what you want to show. There's one exposure set if you want shadows to be lightened, another if you want shadows to be dark grey, and another if you want them to be full black. And no camera can guess photographer's will (wouldn't that be boring?)

As G_H states, the exposure metering mode used is fundamental. If you set it on average, you'll get the exposure for the whole scene, thus, camera's built in light meter will show 0 exposure value for your dark ambience. That means, if you set your camera so exposure meter is set on 0, ambience average light will be set as mid exposure, resulting in an overexposed photo. You can simply set exposure to a lower than 0 value, but, if I was you, I'd prefer setting camera mode to manual, and exposure metering mode to spot, then pointing to the illuminated part of the scene (assuming you have an scene where there's something barely illuminated and rest is obscure), and arranging camera settings so light meter is: at 0 if I want the illuminated to be at medium light on photo, or at around +1 if I want it to be taken as highlights. After doing this, I would frame and shoot.

When setting exposure on darkness, other factors as depth of field, iso noise and sensibility to camera movement must he taken in account, but that's something you'll easily find help about if needed.

Fortunately, we have digital cams and generous sd cards, so you can try as much exposures as you want.


Here's what I would do:

Set your mode to full Manual. Make sure that your ISO is as low as possible (to get the best quality of the image) and not set to automatic (or else your camera might increase it without you knowing). Put the camera on a tripod or some solid surface, since you might need slightly longer exposure. Read about your lens, find out what is its "sweet spot" and set the aperture to that value (to get the sharpest image possible). Then set the shutter speed so that the exposure meter is in the center and take the test shot. Look at the result and adjust the shutter speed accordingly.

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