I am new to photography; I have a Canon 600D. The shot below was taken using the 600D and EF-S 18-55 kit lens.

I wanted to get the exposure so that the leaves on the big tree came out right, however I took a few shots in evaluative metering mode and spot metering mode but couldn't get the exposure I wanted.

I wanted to expose for the texture of the leaves on this tree. The texture of leaves on the tree is not the best, what can I do to get it right? The exposure settings were f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 100 and the camera was in aperture priority mode.

enter image description here

  • Looks like a HDR problem to my beginner's eyes... The tree is dark, the sky is not. You're likely going to get either a blue sky with a dark tree, or a nice tree with a white sky. I've read that using HDR could help. It's basically taking multiple pictures with different exposures to get separately the different parts of the image. When you have each part well exposed then you can put the different parts together (either with a camera that allows that, or with a software). (see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7623/what-is-hdr-photography)... I hope it helps a bit... – Andy M Jun 26 '14 at 14:47
  • Try taking the photo at a different time of day ( golden hour en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_hour_(photography)) for better results; the colors will be much better (but YMMV). – Max Jun 26 '14 at 15:08
  • Completely unrelated but please crop and convert this to black & white. The contrast and negative space between the tree and the sky is going to produce a really nice image. – Jorge Córdoba Jun 26 '14 at 17:31
  • You dont need to use HDR on every occasion just because you can. The camera has plenty DR for most situations. It's just in camera jpeg conversion that didnt know what you wanted. – Michael Nielsen Jun 27 '14 at 20:14

For a shot like this, I would either use evaluative metering and dial in an EC to adjust for any issue the sky provided or I'd do spot metering on the outer leaves of the tree. As it is currently, it looks like it metered too much on the shadows and over exposed slightly, leading to a weak black point and wasted dynamic range in an already very wide dynamic range scene.

Be sure to shoot RAW so that you can pull more detail out of the shadows and pull down more sky detail out of the highlights. Your camera will most likely not do well with that kind of shot straight out of camera in JPEG format.

  • would you say that Evaluative mode with EC is the best option here? I found it very hard to get the correct exposure with spot metering as there were so many different shades on the leaves ... – Pratik Jun 26 '14 at 15:30
  • @Pat, I generally use evaluative or center weighted average metering. In this case either should probably be able to produce sufficient results. Spot metering takes some work but can be useful with practice if the average turns out to be too dark or too bright for some key details though. – AJ Henderson Jun 26 '14 at 15:42

You might also try "place and fall" as an exposure technique. In traditional photography this usually means exposing for your shadows and letting the midtones and hightlights fall accordingly. With digital, overexposure is more of a problem than under so you can "place" the brightest part of your scene.

For instance: in manual mode spotmeter the brightest part of the scene. If the meter reads something like f8 1/500 @400ISO then its telling you that setting will expose your highlights (what your currently metering) as somewhere around 18% reflectance (middle gray). Since you don't want your hightlights to be gray, you increase the exposure by around two stops. This would mean either opening up the aperture to f4, lowering your shutter speed to 1/125 or increasing your ISO to 1600, all of which adds two stops of light and puts those highlights in zone 7.

I would start manual mode and learn how ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed work together. If you do then working out tricky lighting situations won't be as difficult.

Recommended reading on basic exposure and on the zone system. The second, though film based, can be helpful in understanding the idea of placing tones within a scene. Also, the author mentions placing highlights with regard to slide film; this is a bit more like digital.


1 - If you want to get a reasonable exposure on the sky as well as the tree, then take the picture on a clear day (it looks overcast here, so the sky is a uniform bright mass), or wait until a different time of the day when the light coming from tree and sky is of a more similar level.

2 - The texture of the leaves here is down to sharpness as much as exposure. Use an aperture with a higher number (f/8 is a good starting point) to improve the sharpness of your lens.

3 - Are you using exposure compensation when in evaluative and spot metering mode? If not then look for how to do this in your camera manual, and use compensation to either brighten or darken your image to taste.

  • actually it is a normal days but the sun was covered by the clouds. I didnt try exposure compensation ... will have to give to give it another shot with the compensation .... – Pratik Jun 26 '14 at 15:26
  • If stopping the lens down lowers the shutter speed below your current then make sure that there's little to no wind and you're on a tripod. Also depending on the lens and your focal length 5.6 might be fine for sharpness. However to my eyes the image looks overexposed and stopping down the lens to f8 (or 11) might do it for you. Then you can digitally "dodge" the tree to bring out details. 1- is also a good suggestion. Try waiting for the sun to be a bit closer to the horizon and behind you. – moorej Jun 30 '14 at 19:39

I think you're potentially confusing metering and exposure here: the way to get this shot looking better is (as commented elsewhere) to avoid the overexposure you've got. How you change the exposure is to some extent irrelevant - it doesn't matter if you do it via using a different metering mode, by using exposure compensation, or by going over to manual mode and ignoring the camera's metering entirely.

This isn't to say that selecting the correct metering mode for a situation isn't an important skill: quickly getting the exposure about right is often crucial - but in the end, it's the exposure that matters, not how you got there.

  • understand what you are saying.. one of my intension of the question was also to know if there was a way to get the shot right with one of the inbuilt mode.. as a beginner i am still a little 'overwhelmend'( for lack of a better word ) by manual mode. However i got more than what i was looking for from this question. Thanks for your input :) – Pratik Jun 29 '14 at 11:17

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