Correct Exposure vs. Creatively Correct Exposure

Did you know that most picture taking situations have at least six possible combinations of f/stops and shutters speeds that will ALL result in a correct exposure; not a creatively correct exposure but a correct exposure? But only one, sometimes two, of these combinations of f/stops and shutter speeds is the creatively correct motion-filled exposure.
Every ‘correct’ exposure is nothing more then the quantitative value of an aperture and shutter speed working together within the ‘confines’ of a predetermined ‘ISO’. For the sake of argument we are both out shooting a city skyline at dusk, using a film speed of 100 ISO and an aperture opening of f/5.6 and whether we are shooting in manual mode or aperture priority mode the light meter indicates a correct exposure at 1 second. Are the other combinations of aperture openings (f/stops) and shutter speeds can we use and still record a ‘correct’ exposure? You bet there is! If I suggest we use an aperture of f/8 what would the shutter speed now be? Since we have cut the lens opening in half (f/5.6 to f/8) I will now need to double my shutter speed time to two seconds to record a correct exposure, (1 sec + 1 sec= 2 seconds.) On the other hand, if I suggested that we use an aperture of f/4 what would the shutter speed now be? Since we have just doubled the size of the lens opening (f/5.6 to f/4) I will now need to cut my shutter speed in half (1/2 second) to record the same ‘quantitative value exposure’.

Let’s pretend we’ve invited ten other shooters to join us in shooting this scene and we break into three groups. One third of the group shot this scene at f/11 for four seconds, another third shot the scene at an f/8 for a two seconds while the remaining third shot the scene at f/5.6 for 1 second. You know what? All of us just shot the exact same CORRECT EXPOSURE! Even though each groups f/stops and shutter speeds were different, the end result was the same; the quantitative value of each group’s exposures is the same. I can’t stress the importance of being aware of this ‘quantitative value’ principal. Every picture taking opportunity offers you no less then six possible aperture/shutter speed combinations. And why must you know this? Even though each group has the ‘same’ exposure, the motion-filled opportunity that each group shot may look radically different. Knowing that each motion-filled exposure opportunity offers up six possible combinations is a start but knowing which one or two exposures best conveys or capture the motion before is the key. Once you are armed with this knowledge you can begin to fully explore the truly endless road of creatively correct motion-filled exposures!
The Tower On A Tripod


The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most photographed monument in all of Europe – if not the world. Paris continues to hold the top spot as the world’s number one travel destination and for many that trip to Paris is a once in a lifetime experience so all the more reason to come back with the most compelling exposures and compositions possible! And one sure way to do just that is to embrace the simple law that every scene before you offers up no less than six possible correct exposures! And when shooting dusk scenes in the city or along the ocean where crashing surf smashes against the rocks, the longer the shutter speed, the better, and when I say longer I am talking seconds – FULL seconds, not fractions of seconds – and that also means the need for a tripod.

Compare the two photos above, both the same exposure in terms of their quantitative value yet notice the obvious and very strong visual difference between the two compositions. The traffic flow in the first image (above, left) is ‘abrupt’, cut short by a ‘fast’ exposure of f/5.6 at a ½ second shutter speed. Compare this to the second image (above, right) where an exposure of f/22 at 8 seconds took place-both are correct exposures in their quantitative value, but radically different in their visual presentation. You be the judge, but I would be very surprised IF you were more fond of the first image with the somewhat abrupt traffic flow. The lesson to be learned here is a simple one; how much motion you record in a given scene is 100% dependent on the which of the six possible correct exposures you choose to use-in this case, the longest possible exposure time seemed to be the better choice! Trial and error are an important and vital part of photographic excellence, so don’t be afraid to experiment with various combinations of apertures and shutter speeds. (Don’t confuse this exercise with ‘bracketing’. Bracketing refers to shooting several additional exposures that are over and/or under exposures of what the meter suggests is correct. ) The above exercise is merely about exploring six possible ‘same’ exposures and their various visual effects.

Check out the video below!

You Keep Shooting!
Bryan F. Peterson/Founder BPSOP

Tips and tricks of travel photography

By William Yu


Larong Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Sichuan, China

Summer is the peak season for vacation and traveling. As a travel photographer and photo tour leader, It’s my pleasure to share some tips from my experience and answer some frequently asked questions about travel photography.

1. Set up a system to backup your images every day, and stick to the scheme like clockwork.

Loss of images or accidental reformat of SD/CF cards is one of the devastating mishaps during a photo trip, a good backup system is absolutely necessary to avoid such tragedy. I always carry two small 1TB portable hard drives on the trip for redundancy; one is always with me in the camera bag, the other in my checked-in luggage. Always make copies of images to both drives at the end of each day, then reformat the SD cards in camera for next day’s shoot. This is the ironclad system I never deviate from, no matter how tired or exhausted I am. With this system in place, I assure that the past-day images are always backed up and no chance to confuse myself as which sd card is used or not. You may have your own favorite daily backup system, the key is to follow through daily, no exceptions.


Kirkjufellsfoss, Iceland

2. Do your due diligence in advance and make sure bringing the right equipment.

Not every photo location is “walk in the park”, some sites may need special equipment to get the best shot. It is crucial to do your research and get the right equipment in advance/before the trip. I led an Iceland photo tour in late June this year, one of the most unique photo site is the black sand beach at the mouth of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where big chunks of ices(sometimes big icebergs) from the lagoon wash up on the beach by waves and currents. In order to shoot those ices close-in with 1-2 second exposure to record the streaks of the waves, the photographer have to stand and hold the tripod in the sea water. To do so, water-tight overshoes is a must, without soaking the shoes and feet in ice cold water. Before the trip, I made sure that every member of my group brings the overshoes, so nobody will “hang dry” on this wonderful and unique photo location. Study where you go, and know what to bring.


Shooting ice on the beach,  Iceland 


Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon,  Iceland 

3. Getting your image correctly composed and exposed in the first place, but don’t stop there, the post processing is also full of fun.

Coming back from an exciting photo trip, it’s time to process your images(assuming you’re shooting RAW). I like to have my mind going wild, trying different effects/presets in Lightroom, applying certain software filters, etc, depending on my feel of the image. Creativity and intuition have no boundaries, feel free to play with your images. It’s part of the fun of photography. Take a look of following 2 images of downtown Reykjavik, Iceland, shot from the top of the landmark church overlooking the entire city. The first one is straight out of camera, and I applied Tilt shift effect to the second one via Niksoftware’s Analog Efex Pro, buildings look like miniature models, much more interesting.



Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

4. Avoid the crowd/tourists by getting really close to the subject and/or from a low angle.

“If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough”. The frequently quoted photography teaching by Robert Capa is very true for travel photos. To isolate the subject(s) from the crowd/tourists nearby, it is crucial to physically get closer and fill the frame with subject(s), sometimes it can be easily achieved from lower angle instead of eye level.

This image is shot at Larong Buddhist Institute during Tibet photo tour earlier this year, I picked a busy intersection at the entrance of the institute, sitting down on the sidewalk, with my small low profile 35mm fixed lens Fuji X100T pointing up with silent shutter on, capturing two nons passing-by with natural expressions on their faces. They’re merely 2 feet from me. By shooting up, I intentionally excluded other nearby people in the frame, making the subjects predominant in the photo.


Nons at Larong Buddhist Institute, Sichuan, China


A Tibetan Woman, Sichuan, China

Till next time… Happy Shooting,

William Yu



Use A Single Lens Creatively




2016 South China Traditional Culture Photo Tour





Isolating Your Subject

We live in a hectic, fast paced world. It seems like everyone is always pressed for time. A Mary Chapin carpenter song wraps it up perfectly – ” … everybody’s got to go, got to be, got to get somewhere.” I know this feeling all too well and have consciously made changes in my life to slow down and just breath in many ways. When we slow down we see more. And you really need to see your subject in order to connect with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, pet or thing. If you don’t take the time to get to know your subject, all you are doing is taking a snapshot. So slow down, connect and make your subject shine through your lens.


One way to do that is to isolate your subject. There are various ways to do this. A common way is with selective focus. Shooting with a wide aperture and creating a shallow depth of field is an easy and effective way to showcase your subject and turn the background into a dreamy blur. Keeping your subject a good distance from the background (try 20 feet or more) and using a long focal length will help too. I took the following photo with my Nikon 85mm lens, f/1.8 @ 85mm. The background was a bunch of bushes and trees that were about 25-30 feet away. I found a few dangling leaves with some backlighting. I think the backlighting made all the difference in the world. There were all kinds of leaves dangling, but it was the backlit ones that made me stop in my tracks. It took me a few minutes to find these leaves, but it was well worth the time. I spot metered on the leaves. I wanted to expose for the leaves to show the intricate detail. For me, it’s that detail that makes the leaves both beautiful and fascinating. The combination of backlighting and selective focus made the leaves shine.

You can also use negative space to isolate your subject as in the picture below. I used a combination of negative space and selective focus. I used a shallow depth of field to blur the background and then used negative space to help draw the focus to the tiny blossoms. The negative space on top pushes the eye down to the colorful, tiny blossoms. I shot the following peach blossom buds with my Nikon 70-200mm lens, f/5.6 @ 200mm. The slightly overcast day provided soft light, which was perfect to photograph these delicate buds. I could have shot this tighter like the leaves above, but I think the all that negative space on top made the composition more interesting and even showcased the buds better than a close-up shot. So, consider combining different elements to place the focus on your subject. It’s all in the way you see your subject and how you want to tell your story.


You can also use just negative space to isolate your subject. You don’t have to shoot shallow. The following photo of the pigeon on the bench is a perfect example. For me, the colorful, textured wall was just as interesting as the pigeon. I wanted to show the detail in everything, but still keep the focus on the pigeon. Using negative space was an ideal way to do that. I think the pigeon really stands out in that sea of orange color. I thought the wall looked like an urban forest with the stains and textures. I enhanced the color in PhotoShop to give it a little punch. Never underestimate the importance or power of your background. The background should always be a crucial element in your composition, no matter what you are photographing. Colorful walls make great backgrounds for all kinds of subjects including pets, people, vases, etc. Always be on the lookout for colorful walls. I took the following photo using my Nikon 28-70mm, f/8 @ 40mm.


Framing is an excellent way to isolate your subject. There are numerous and creative ways to frame your subject. Using light and shadows is one way. Take the time to observe the light and shadows in your own home at various times of the day. Every home has windows, so watch for interesting patterns of light and shadows that fall on the floor when a subject is present. I took the following picture of my dog early one morning. I love how he is framed in the beam of light. The light was streaming through my office window, then through my office doors out into the living room. If you look closely, you can see the pattern of light from the window shutters (top right corner). My office has two doors and one of them was halfway closed – hence the beam of light across the floor. When my little dog stepped into the beam of light, my heart skipped a beat. I knew I had to get a picture of that. I grabbed my wide-angle lens because I wanted to get the long light shaft and the entire shadow. Shadows are longer early in the day and late in the day, so be on the lookout for long shadows. They can make a strong impact. This shot required no special setup other than enticing my dog to stay put. The light streaming in through the windows and doors created that unique frame on it’s own. I underexposed the image slightly to make the shadows darker and photographed this using my Nikon 12-24mm, f/5 @ 18mm.


Combining framing and selective focus is another way to isolate your subject. Sometimes you need to use both when you have a challenging scene. I recently visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It is a fascinating place to take pictures. I took several images in Death Row and finally settled on the one below. I used both framing and selective focus to highlight the metal cot in the first cell. I thought that personalized the setting and made a strong impact emotionally, at least it did for me. I also took pictures where the metal gate in front had the focus and the cellblock was blurred. I also took pictures where everything was in focus except the metal gate. I spent a lot time taking pictures in that area trying different focal points and compositions, until I settled on the one that worked for me. Some settings are more challenging than others to photograph. But it’s the challenging scenes that teach you the most. I took the following photo using my Nikon 12-24mm, f/5.6 @ 17mm.



If you take the time to slow down and invest in your subject, you will learn a lot about yourself and become a better photographer too.

Jill Flynn

Jill teaches Pet Photography for BPSOP

The Leading In Rule

Together with my ” Stretching Your Frame of Mind ” workshop I teach around the world, I been told by students way too many times that they, in return, have been told to always have their subject walking, running, or facing into the frame. This is referred to as “leading in”.


It’s a ‘mind bender’ for me! Why on earth would anyone tell you that?  I suppose the reason is that they want you to be a good photographer, and whomever keeps saying this is indeed a good photographer and teacher. If being a good photographer is your goal, then that’s great. If you want your photos to consistently be “up a notch”, you might consider raising your level of awareness. If you want to be more than just a good ‘shooter’, you might want to consider other points of view…like mine for example.

It will be OK!!!

If I put someone looking into the frame, then the viewer will know what that person is looking at. If I have someone walking or running into the frame (giving the subject room to run as they say), the viewer will know where they’re going. Where’s the mystery and drama in that? Sounds pretty boring to me. I want the viewer to wonder what the subject is looking at, and where he’s going NEXT. By placing the subject close to the edge of the frame facing out, two things will happen:


Placing the subject close to the edge of the frame, and minimizing the’Negative Spac’ between the subject and the edge, you’ll generate Tension. The Tension comes from the anticipation of the subject leaving the frame. Second, you’ll imply content outside the frame.

All this is a big part of the Psychology of Gestalt I teach in my workshop. In short, we  want the viewer to take an active part in our pictures.  The viewer will always react to that which is most different. In our reality, making the mind work harder is not necessarily a good thing, but in photography it is.  By leading the viewer’s eye in and out and around our composition, or having them complete an image, or have them consider the scene, they are taking an active role, and when we can accomplish that our images will definitely be stronger.`

Here’s some examples of just what I mean:





Joe Baraban / Instructor at BPSOP
Joe Teaches:
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