Optimized Exposure

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Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 7,066
Optimized Exposure

A previous thread in this forum included side conversations about the meaning of the phrase, "proper exposure." The thread maxed out while the topic was still being discussed.


Personally, I find the word "proper" suggests a certain ethical or socially acceptable quality that seems out of place when discussing camera settings. The term "optimized" seems a better fit. While it suggests something that is desirable and better than other options, it doesn't come with the baggage of sounding as though a deviation from using an optimized exposure would be wrong in an ethical sense or in a context of acceptable social behavior.

Which brings us to exposure. In the context of photography, exposure is the brightness of the scene per unit area as projected by a lens upon a camera sensor. Exposure is determined by scene brightness, f-stop and shutter speed.

So, how then could we define an optimized exposure? As this thread is in the Open Talk Forum, I'll state up front that I've no intention of suggesting a formal definition; something that could potentially be characterized mathematically. If anyone would like to take up that challenge, I will suggest engaging in that exercise in the Photographic Science and Technology forum.

I will suggest the following as a usable informal definition: An optimized exposure maximizes scene brightness at the sensor without blowing out highlights and within the bounds of the creative vision the photographer has for the photo.

The element of the photographer's creative vision for the photo makes it ultimately a subjective choice as to whether or not exposure is optimized. But that's OK. We'll just have to learn to accept that my requirements of a photo may be different from yours.

That's not so difficult, right? 

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Bill Ferris Photography
Flagstaff, AZ

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