Learn Center: Tips for Exposing Great Summertime Photos

An example exposure of a beach scene with beach umbrellas and sandy beach which is properly exposed.

Beach & Snow Mode

An example exposure of a beach scene with beach umbrellas and sandy beach which is not properly exposed.

Auto Mode

Don’t get overexposed!

Too much light is rarely a bad thing when it comes to digital photography. However, harsh summer sunlight can blow out the color in your images if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are many ways to manipulate light with your Olympus digital camera.


Beach Scene Mode

Shooting a landscape of the beach? Usually bright sand is a challenge to the camera’s automatic Program or Auto mode. Try using your camera’s [Beach & Snow] Scene Mode to capture true-to-life images at the beach. With this setting, the exposure is automatically compensated to represent the true tonality of bright sand. If the same image were shot in Auto or Program the image would result in a darker representation of the sand since the camera’s exposure system attempts to create a mid-tone exposure.

If you don’t have the [Beach & Snow] Scene Mode, try manually adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation. The basic rule of thumb for manually adjusting exposure is (-) exposure compensation darkens the image; (+) exposure compensation brightens the image. For example, if the sand looks darker then it is, try setting the exposure compensation to the (+) side. Take a few at different (+) settings to ensure you get the results you want. If recreating the true shade of the sand is not the issue and some of your images just look too bright, adjust exposure to the (-) side. If you’re not sure how to access the exposure compensation feature on your camera, check your owner’s manual.

Poorly exposed photo where the subject isn't lit well enough to stand out against a bright background.

Auto Mode

Well exposed photo where the subject is lit well and stands out against a bright background.

Fill-in Flash

Exposure Compensation + Fill-in Flash

Once you’re comfortable adjusting exposure compensation, you may want to experiment by adding fill-in flash to your exposure adjustments. While exposure compensation can help brighten shadows or minimize overexposure, it won’t completely eliminate the harsh shadows that sunlight can cause. Set your flash so that it will fire, and the splash of extra light will eliminate unattractive shadows on your subject’s face.

Try Bouncing Light with a Reflector

Want to add more sunlight light to your summertime scene? Try using a reflector to open shadows and make photos of people or objects look less harsh in your photos and videos. Of course, there are many reflectors that you can buy, but there are economical solutions as well. A large white piece of poster board or foam core can be used to “bounce” sunlight into shadows in a shot, resulting in a more pleasing image. You may need an assistant to position the board for you while you shoot – professional photographer’s assistants do this often.

Read more about controlling sunlight in this “Ask Olympus” feature:

> Do you have any tips for controlling light when
shooting people in sunlight?

Poorly exposed photo where the light metering is averaged between the sky, foreground and background.

ESP/Digital ESP

Well exposed photo where the light metering is balanced between the subject and background.

SPOT Metering

Metering Modes

You can often counteract the effects of bright sunlight and shadow by trying different metering modes. Most Olympus cameras provide at least two metering options, ESP and [•].

ESP/Digital ESP: Meters the brightness at the center of the monitor and the surrounding area separately to capture an image with balanced brightness. When taking pictures against strong backlight, the center of the picture may appear dark.

Spot Metering [•]: Only the center of the monitor is metered. Recommended for taking a picture against strong backlight.

Final Summertime Safety Tip

It may seem obvious, but with bright summer sunlight comes heat - so remember to store your camera in a cool place. Never leave in direct sunlight for too long, and don’t lock in your car for extended periods.

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