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Read Your Histogram
If you haven't learned how to read your camera's histogram, there's no better time. The histogram is a physical display of the range of light captured by your camera. It will change depending on your scene, but it will typically look like a wave with several up and down points across the graph. Areas on the left show the shadows, the middle shows mid-tones, and the right shows your highlights. If you see that your “wave” is hitting the right side of the graph, it means that areas of your photo are overexposed, or blown out. The light recorded for those certain settings is too bright to record detail in the certain areas. To fix this, simply adjust your camera settings so that your exposure is darker. When the “wave” has moved from the right side of the graph and is no longer touching it, then you no longer have any blown out areas.
Highlight Blink Mode
This mode is super handy for quickly checking overexposed areas in your photos. Most cameras have the option to view your photos in “blink” mode. While viewing photos in this mode, areas that are blown out will blink, usually changing from black to white. This can help you find what areas are too bright and if you need to adjust your exposure to fix it. Note that just because there are blinking areas in your photo it doesn't mean you have to capture the scene until the blinking parts are gone. For instance, if you're shooting a car with its headlights on, they may blink in the review, but the rest of the photo may be properly exposed, and it may be unnecessary to change the exposure.
This is an extra safety for ensuring your photos are not too bright or too dark. If you don't have time to see if you've overexposed the scene or you don't have a way to tell if your highlights are too bright, you can bracket your shots. Bracketing simply means you take multiple exposures with different settings. So if you're shooting a scene, and you're not sure if it's too bright or too dark, take another photo that's two stops brighter, and another that's two stops darker.
Use Graduated ND Filter
In many outdoor scenes, the sky is brighter than the foreground. This is a particularly common problem in landscape photography. By using a graduated ND filter, you can balance out the brightness of the scene. A graduated ND is dark at the top, but clear on the bottom and has a smooth transition in between. What this allows you to do is to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera on the top half of your scene, which is where your sky will be. This brings the contrast of the scene down so that you can capture a more realistic and manageable scene.
JPEG is good and all, and there are plenty of reasons to shoot it, but RAW can give you many advantages over JPEG. One of the biggest pluses is that there is a lot more wiggle room for pulling detail out of over- and underexposed areas. Of course there's still a point where an area is simply too bright, but RAW is much more lenient on these limitations.
Image credit: tommasolizzul / 123RF Stock Photo
Written by Spencer Seastrom