Setting Exposure for Video

Lesson Details

Subject: Shooting

Title: Setting Exposure for Video


Understanding and Controlling Exposure

When you're filming video you'll find that a lot of the time you'll be able to work with your camera in automatic mode so the device is controlling things like focus and exposure. However, for some filming you will want to control those functions manually and in this video shooting lesson, we're going to look specifically at exposure.

Exposure refers to the amount of light that is entering the camera and hitting the image sensor when you're filming either photographs or video. Video is made up of a constant stream of frames and most video cameras have electronic shutters which control the amount of light going to the sensor. 

Setting exposure for shooting video is a bit more complicated that doing it for still photograhs because you're dealing with a moving image

In this lesson, cinematographer Francisco Aliwalis will help you to switch from working in automatic mode to working with manual camera settings.

You'll learn the following:

  • Understanding exposure in automatic and manual
  • How to identify what you're exposing for in your shot
  • The camera features that will help you with exposure
  • Shooting in brightly lit situations
  • Using the zebra pattern function in your camera

Learning to control the exposure of your shots manually takes time and patience but with practice you'll get to know your camera better and to understand how different exposures impact your filming.

Many videographers like to control the exposure of their video themselves becasue they feel it gives them greater creative control. For example, some lighting situations are just too difficult for the camera's automatic exposure functions to handle, resulting in shots either being over or under exposed. Low lighting situations can also be challenging. Learning to control the exposure of your shots yourself will also enable you to achieve much greater consistency in your video overall. 




Type notes for this course below, and we'll automatically save them and sync them to your dashboard.


So let's start off first with exposure. When you’re in auto mode, the camera is automatically reading the general f-stop, the iris level of the scene that it's seeing through the screen but in manual mode, you're determining what your exposure will be. Now that really comes into effect when you're shooting in extreme lighting conditions. You’re on the beach with a bright, bright sky and an ocean that’s reflecting the sun or you're in the desert sun is just bleaching out the water bleaching out the sky.

This is where you might want to go into manual mode. One thing to consider is what are you exposing? What’s the most important element in your shot you're exposing? Nine times out of ten it’s going to be the person. So for example, if that person is on the beach and the sky is just, just blown out and so is there face, you want to reach that level where the face is properly exposed or when you're on the desert and you want to show the person as a dot on the horizon and you want to be able to show the beautiful red burning sky and the sweeping clouds, you want to be able to stop down manually so that the sky is well exposed and perhaps the subject is in silhouette.

So those are the extreme situations when you're dealing with exposures and you need to ride your iris levels. The other aspect to exposures is there are features on some cameras that will guide you and hold your hand for example when you're shooting in extreme situations. So when you're riding the exposure and you're not quite sure if your shot is over or underexposed don't worry not alone. There some help for you and it's in the form of zebras. For example, this camera has a zebra button right over here and if you press zebra it'll be exactly what it's called.

You'll see stripes and those stripes represent the areas where the highlights are overexposed, areas where the highlights have no longer any more detail and that's when you want start riding your iris lower so that the zebras disappear. That's really, really beneficial especially when you're shooting outside in the bright sun and you can't quite see the monitor well or the viewfinder well and you’re kind of squinting through the brightness. The zebra is a really good function to have when you’re riding your iris.

© Michael Rosenblum & Lisa Lambden 2015 to 2020