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Help! I Having Exposure Problems  
User currently offlineKlm744 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 112 posts, RR: 0
Posted (14 years 11 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 2493 times:

Ok, please be patient as I am somewhat new to aircraft photography. I have been doing some spotting at Austin Bergstrom airport and have gotten some really fantastic shots. There is one problem though, they are all too dark. I am using a Canon Elan 2 which I purchased used about 4 days ago. I have a 70-300mm Sigma lens (yes, I know its not the best, but it was all I could afford at the time) which I usually keep at 300mm during the photographing. I use shutter priority at 1/1000 sec. I was using 1/250 to start but since my panning is not too smooth most of the images from that roll turned out too blurry(and underexposed). Since I started using 1/1000, I have been capturing the aircraft beautifully. I had the camera set on partial (spot) metering, and received a suggestion to put it on evaluative, I did this and took some more shots and they came out slightly better but still too dark. What I am wondering is why are all of the shots coming out underexposed, is it because the bright sky is throwing the meter off? I find this strange because if I photograph the aircraft with just the plane and the clouds in the shot, it comes out horribly underexposed, very very dark, but it seems the more ground I get in the frame or the more of the frame the plane fills up the better the picture comes out. However, I must say that even the best are not as good as the couple of shots of my truck I took at the end of my spotting to finish the roll, they came out perfectly exposed. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help. One more thing, the aperture settings that the camera chooses to balace by shutter speed are well within the camera's range.

10 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineCYKA From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (14 years 11 months 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2406 times:

The 1/1000 shutter speed is probably your problem. Try shooting at 1/500 instead. Also you need make sure you configured your camera for the proper film speed. If the photos are still coming under-exposed try overexposing by an f/stop or two. The final problem may reside where you get your shots developed. Try going somewhere else. Again, I belive the 1/1000 shutter is way too fast.

User currently offlineJan Mogren From Sweden, joined Dec 2000, 2043 posts, RR: 46
Reply 2, posted (14 years 11 months 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2409 times:

First of all, you can't use spot metering and let the camera set the f-stop combination for the shutter speed. A plane is almost always white and spot metering that will get you underexposed shots.
That goes for all cameras.
Now you say evaluative metering was a bit better but still underexposed? Strange. Are you sure you have the correct film speed set?
What film did you use?

The shots of your truck came out fine? I bet your truck isn't white.

AeroPresentation - Airline DVD's filmed in High Definition
User currently offlineCfalk From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (14 years 11 months 1 day ago) and read 2396 times:

I have the same camera, and used to have the same lens.

Jan and CYKA both have good points. Spot metering may be fine on dark or colored planes, like Southwest, but will certainly overestimate the light source if a light-colored or white subject is being evaluated. I'd switch over to average metering, and only use spot metering if you have to shoot in poor weather. Remember that a camera's metering system assumes a certain light level is "proper exposure", which is typically 18% grey. A sun-lit, bright colored plane will certainly be lighter than this, and the camera compensates to reduce the light level.

Setting the speed priority forces the camera to vary aperture to get the desired exposure. At 300mm, your lens can only open up to f/5.6. 1/1000th at f/5.6 needs a LOT of light - your camera is probably wanting to go down to f/4.0 or even wider, but can't. Result = underexposure.

I had the same problem when I tried settings on speed priority. I ended up finding the widest f/stop I could use without the vignetting being too bad (f/6.3 or even f/8 on that lens), set it at that f/stop using aperture priority, and let the camera work out the speed. That means that you will be working down at the 1/250 range, but I think it's the only solution. LEARN TO PAN (hint: swivel from the waist, and try to overcome the natural tendancy to stop moving the moment you hit the shutter).

If you really need more speed, try the widest f/stop of 5.6, which will get you an extra half or full stop, but you might get some vignetting.

Good luck.


User currently offlineCkw From UK - England, joined Aug 2010, 813 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (14 years 11 months 23 hours ago) and read 2393 times:

You don't say what film speed you are using, but 1/1000 is probably too fast ... and certainly faster than you need. You should be able to handhold a 300mm at 1/500 fairly easily and at 1/250th with a bit of practice.

But I think on the whole the problem is the meter being deceived - I'm guessing the plane fills a relatively small part of the frame (a common problem with beginners) and there is a LOT of sky, tricking the meter into thinking the scene is brighter than it is.

One answer is in your question ... you've noticed the exposures are better if a bit of ground intrudes into the pic. - that's because the meter is seeing something much closer to a "typical" scene. Try taking a meter reading as if you were taking a picture of the landscape over which the plane is flying - now use this meter reading to photograph the plane. Better still, use your spot meter to take a reading of a Kodak grey card, or, failing that, use the back of your hand and open up one stop over the indicated reading. But do make sure the same light is falling on your card/hand as on your subject.



Colin K. Work, Pixstel
User currently offlineAus_spotter From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 286 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (14 years 11 months 23 hours ago) and read 2390 times:

Where are you trying to get shots from? If you are taking them from the "Family Viewing Area" the best time to do this is before noon or the sun will start to cause problems. Don't even bother shooting from here after about 4 unless you like taking pictures into the sun. I've tried taking pictures later in the day from here and have played around with camera settings but have yet to find anything that will allow for a decent photo with the sun nearly directly in front of the camera. Still working on it though....

I use a Nikon N60 with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens (F4-5.6). For all my day shots I leave my camera in full auto mode. For reference though, most of the shots end up being F5.6 1/500sec at 300mm.

Jason Knutson - Austin, TX

User currently offlineKlm744 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 112 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (14 years 11 months 16 hours ago) and read 2378 times:

Thanks for all of the quick responses everybody. To answer a couple of your questions, for the first set of pictures which I used a 1/250 shutter speed which came out blurry I used kodak gold 200. Disappointed that the pictures came out blurry I went and got a roll of Kodak Max 400 and increased the shutter speed to 1/1000. Yesterday when I went back and tried to use evaluative metering I used Kodak gold 200 and tried the first few shots on full auto, and to my surprise the camera picked a shutter speed of 1/1000. Yes Jan you were right, my truck is dark. One thing I noticed though is that when there is more ground in the picture the sky is brighter but it seems like the plane and the ground are too dark, darker than when I only get a little ground with more sky, but that causes the whole underexposure problem. My theory about all of this is that mabye the camera is not compensating for the lens stopping down to f5.6 at 300mm. It seems like the less zoom I am using in the shot the more well exposed it comes out. This is true whether photographing planes or anything else. By the way, every shot I took yesterday was at 200-300mm and underexposed, but the shot of my truck was at 70mm and perfectly exposed. A question to Aus Spotter, I was shooting around 3:00 with the sun practically right above my head, what kind of problems with the sun were you referring to.

User currently offlineJan Mogren From Sweden, joined Dec 2000, 2043 posts, RR: 46
Reply 7, posted (14 years 11 months 16 hours ago) and read 2373 times:

I can think of two scenarios:
1. Some sigma lenses need a chip exchanged to be compatible with some camera models. Yours might be such a lens. Have you tried any other lens?

2. Your light meter is faulty. I beleive any EOS in evaluative metering mode would expose a negative film within it's latitude. Do you know anybody with a good camera, so you could compare meter readings?

AeroPresentation - Airline DVD's filmed in High Definition
User currently offlineCYKA From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (14 years 11 months 14 hours ago) and read 2364 times:

I dont know very much about the latest SLR's but can you select the f/stop and shutter speed manually?

User currently offlineKlm744 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 112 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (14 years 11 months 11 hours ago) and read 2349 times:

Well, I just got back from the photo shop where I purchased the camera. They tested the light meter and found that it was only slightly off. They said that most of my problems were a result of the photo labs automated machine being confused by the white clouds in the shots and then printing the photo darker to compensate. Upon further examining the photos on the back we did find that the shop had printed the ones that I thought were underexposed the worst darker on purpose. But, nevertheless some of the shots were printed normally and they were still too dark. Also I did my own test this morning where I pointed the camera at an object on full auto at 70mm and it suggested 1/60 shutter speed at f4, then when I zoomed in to 300mm on that same object it suggested 1/60 shutter speed at f5.6. The problem is that shouldn't the camera have compensated for the smaller apeture(my lens is f4-5.6) by making the shutter speed 1/30 or something near there in order to not underexpose the image? The people at the shop were stumped on this one, they tried it there and were baffled by the results. So, the owner agreed to pay for a test roll which they shot out on the street in front of the store, and he will pay to have it developed. I think that is great customer service and I hope the results will put this whole situation to rest.

User currently offlineAus_spotter From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 286 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (14 years 11 months 11 hours ago) and read 2351 times:

You should still get pictures that are okay if you are shooting around 3:00. They shouldn't be dark at least. I've had photos that come out dark if I take them too late in the day.

Here's a photo I took yesterday around 2:30pm from the viewing area. Camera in auto mode F5.6, 1/1000sec shutter speed, and somewhere around 200mm.


For prints I normally use Fuji Reala 100 however yesterday I didn't have any in my bag and was using Kodak Gold 100. Since discovering slides I rarely use print film any more. For slides I use Fuji Sensia II 100.

I get my prints developed at either the HEB one hour photo on South Congress and Oltorf (they know me by name) or the Eckerds one hour photo on Riverside. I've had very good quality at both of those places.

Jason Knutson - Austin,TX

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