One of the most common “how to” questions I hear about using cameras is, “How do I make their faces lighter?”  It’s a fairly easy fix, and you’ll feel very triumphant once you’ve mastered it, but it’ll require switching off the fully automatic shooting mode of your dslr camera.  Here’s an example of a typical photo that, if you leave the settings on automatic, the faces will be darker than most people want.

Oregon Coast Family Photographer

These types of photos with faces that are too dark will always end up being the ones that have a really bright background.  The camera, bless it’s little computer heart, is great at determining what most photos should be exposed at (i.e. it will set the aperture and shutter speed so that most things are just as bright and dark as they’re supposed to be).  One thing that it can’t do is read your mind.  The camera is programmed to determine how light and dark to make things, but it doesn’t know that all you may care about is how light or dark someone’s face is.  In these situations, it’s up to you to override the camera, and with that you can say that you’re smarter than your highly technical tool!

The first step is to choose a camera mode like manual, shutter speed priority, or aperture priority.  If you haven’t set the camera off of the automatic mode before, choose the shutter speed priority, set the shutter speed (1/500 might be a place to start), and look for a phrase like “exposure compensation” in your camera manual.  It’ll instruct you how to overexpose (make your photo lighter than the camera thinks you should) your next photo.  If you choose to go fully manual, you’ll just want to set the exposure higher than the camera indicates.  I would encourage you to grab someone and bring them outside and take some photos of them with a bright sky background.  To really see how well this works, get down low and compose your photo with the sun behind your model and the background all sky.  You’ll end up with the sky losing all it’s detail and color, but your subject’s face will be lighter.

Here’s the same photo as above, but this is what it would be like if I’d overexposed it.  The sky is brighter and without detail, but everyone’s faces are much closer to what I like.

Oregon Coast Family Photographer

Both of those photos are pretty much straight out of the camera without editing.  Take that photo and put dash of Lightroom and a pinch of Photoshop, and this is what you get.

Oregon Coast Family Photographer

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