In black and white photography its important to create an image with as many tonal variations as possible while also making sure that some areas are pure white and pure black. In my last post I showed how Canon’s Highlight Tone Priority setting can help achieve this on the “high end” but what about the shadow areas? How do we retain some detail in the shadows without everything else becoming washed out?
This is where your camera’s evaluative metering system needs a bit of a jump start. Take this image for example. This great old oak tree is obviously well back lit and the camera’s meter is working its little heart out trying to make everything look like a neutral gray, which throws the entire tree into shadow.
To gain a little more control in a situation like this, your LCD and exposure compensation control become your best friend and you’ve got two ways to go at this. Let the camera meter off the entire scene like normal but dial in some positive exposure compensation, say +1 EV for starters. Take a few more shots and adjust your exposure compensation as needed. Or set your camera for spot metering, meter off the tree and dial in some negative exposure compensation to prevent the background “blinkies”. Play around with this for a few minutes until you zero in on a good exposure that shows some shadow detail without blown-out highlights. Remember, film is free so experiment to your hearts content!
BTW – If you find your image is still a little too light or a little too dark and you shoot in RAW, don’t sweat it. You can fine tune things in “post”. (Did I just say that out loud?)