Chiang Mai Photo Workshops

Photography = Drawing with Light

Photography, the word, means ‘drawing with light’. If you have no light, you have no photo – no matter how fancy your camera is or how good you are at framing your subject. No light = no photo.

Building on this thought is my belief that the better someone understands light, the better photographer they can be. Every time we run a Chiang Mai Photography Tours workshop I start with teaching about how the camera reads light. I often find people do not understand how this works and rely on their camera’s auto settings to choose a correct exposure. Having an understanding of how your camera reads and measures light, coupled with knowledge of how controlling your shutter speed, aperture and ISO frees you so be far more creative with your camera.

Camera sensors capture images by recording reflected light, much the same way our eyes see. Currently most camera technology cannot ‘see’ the vast dynamic range of light our eyes can. On a sunny day outdoors we can see detail in shadows and very bright areas that most cameras cannot capture in a single exposure. In situations where the light is more even, when the ratio between the brightest and darkest is closer, (on a cloudy day,) it’s easier to make photos where detail can be seen in every area of the image. It’s also easier for the camera to automatically choose a good exposure setting. Being able to control your camera and choose your exposure brings many more levels of fun to photography.

I love teaching people how to understand and use the light meter in their camera. Discovering the flexibility you have when you can decide to measure light with a spot meter reading, and knowing which part of the scene to read it from, leads to far more creative photography. This does, of course, require the camera to be set to Manual. I know full well it is a fairly steep learning curve, but certainly well worth undertaking if you are interested to develop your photography skills.

portrait of an old Burmese man wearing a scarf on his head.

In this setting there is a high dynamic range between the light parts and dark parts of the image. I took a spot meter reading from the light side of the man’s face and set my exposure for this light, leaving the darker areas of the image to be underexposed.

two Asian woman

The light on the subject’s faces is even and well balanced with the rest of the image. The lower dynamic range lets the camera expose the image more evenly.


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