Adjusting Brightness and Contrast

Last week, I showed you a variety of photography backgrounds, and I mentioned that none of the images had been adjusted, and that some of the backgrounds look grey, even though they are actually white.

Here’s something really important to know about cameras and how they work.

Cameras try to average the picture to an overall 15% grey. 

That’s really important to know – so say that a couple of times in your head.

OK – what that means is, the camera is not nearly as flexible as the human eye, and it just can’t deal with dark darks and bright brights at the same time, so something generally has to get sacrificed when dealing with an image that is not the norm, i.e. a landscape or picture of someones’ face.

So the camera makes a decision about how to record the image, based on the 15% grey rule. Which means a picture of the white stage, as part of a composition showing the light tent and the stage and etc is fine, but a close up that is mostly white stage and a bracelet comes out dull.

That is why the grey mirror stage and the slate work so well as a background – they are already pretty much at 15%. The white backgrounds, however, need some help.

Here’s that same series of photos, this time, duplicated, and the second one has been adjusted by increasing the brightness and the contrast just a little.

Let’s look.

Illuminated panel background, before

and after

and the same background – with the High Key setting, before,

 and after. (Oh look – finally – a white background!) A little blown out – but pretty dramatic and attractive.

The canvas sweep before

 and after

 The slate tile before

 and after

The white plexiglass stage, before

 And after.

The black stage before

 And after. Didn’t really improve it  – now the colours are just “blown out.” (Over exposed)

 Clear stage over the sweep.

And after

Mirrored stage, before

 and after

 Mirrored stage with clear stage over it. Before.

 and after.

Overall – in some cases this helps, and in some cases, it doesn’t. But, I hope that shows you how a simple adjustment of the brightness and contrast can help make a photo much better.

If you have any photography questions, please ask them in the comments! 

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