Control the strength of a colour

The objective of this exercise is to demonstrate the impact that exposure has on the intensity of a colour. We were asked to choose one subject with a strong and definite colour, and photograph it five times using the same composition, adjusting the exposure by half a stop each time.

I chose a buoy on the side of the River Trent as my subject and used a tripod to ensure that all of the images were composed exactly the same.

Image 1

I am going to start with image ‘0’ because this is the optimum metered exposure. This image was shot in bright sunlight and has lost a little detail but most of it still remains. The colour in some parts of the image is almost ‘blown-out’, again, losing detail and also richness.

‘+1 stop’ is very over-exposed with a huge amount of detail lost and the colour very faint, compared to the image with optimal exposure. The lighter red parts of the image are ‘blown-out’ and the white has lost virtually all detail, however, the shadows in the image have gained some detail because these parts of the image are probably 1-2 stops darker than the highlights in the optimal image.

‘+1/2 stop’ has less ‘blown-out’ areas but is still over-exposed. The detail in this image is better than that of ‘+1 stop’, but the optimal image still has more.

‘-1/2 stop’ is much richer in colour tones than the previous images, the shadows are darker but still retain some of the detail. A lot of the texture on the surface of the subject is beginning to appear and give the image some texture.

‘-1 stop’ has the most texture and the richest colour tones of all the images. The surface grain has given the image more detail and the shadows have given the image more depth; a much more accurate rendition, with lots of character.


After analysing this set of images, I drew the conclusion that under-exposing an image gives the best colour tones, saturation, texture and detail; especially when shooting in bright light. Although the image is 1 stop under the optimum exposure, the image presents a “truer” white and still holds detail. Ironically, I have found in the past that this can be the case, and as a result I have chosen higher shutter speeds or smaller apertures to ensure a more veracious image.


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