It’s time to start back up our Photography ABCs as we learn about overexposure! I know some of you have been very excited for this… as am I! Thanks for your patience while we got my oldest used to the routine of full day school… he actually adjusted very well aside from being really tired. Which we’re still working on. Okay, so anyways, this week we’ll be talking about overexposure.
Simply put, overexposure is when there is too much light. It’s kind of like when you walk outside into the bright sunlight after having been inside all day. Your eyes take a few moments to adjust, and until that occurs, you can’t really see much around you — it’s just too bright. That’s because your eyes haven’t closed down yet — the irises are still very much dilated and all of a sudden, a ton of light hits your retina.
That’s why doctors shine a bright light in your eyes at well visits. They want to make sure your eyes are working properly (check out our learn about aperture activity, which is the camera’s way to close out light). And if you’ve bump your head really hard, one sign of a concussion is that your eyes don’t adjust like they’re supposed to.
Okay, well hopefully you’ve got the general idea!
Now, this is a really easy camera phone experiment that will help your kids understand the concept of overexposure. You can do this one of several ways.
Learn about overexposure by recording a video.
Make sure to start recording your video in a dimmer area, and then move the camera to point at a brightly lit lamp, the sky, or something else much brighter. Depending on your camera phone’s capabilities, it will do one of two things. Your camera might adjust the exposure in a moment, thus being only briefly overexposed, or it will stay overexposed for the duration of the video. Either way, you’ll definitely be able to see how the camera was exposing the video for the darker area, and got overexposed when you switched to the brighter spot.
Learn about overexposure by taking a picture.
With your camera phone, you might be able to tap and hold on a spot to “lock” the exposure. If so, lock the exposure for a darker (shadowed) area, and then move the camera phone to point at something bright. It should be very white and overexposed.
Learn about overexposure by using the over/under exposure adjustment in your camera.
Whether you’re using your camera phone or your digital camera, there is probably a setting that will allow you to manually overexpose or underexpose your image. On my camera, I have to tap the three little dots button in the corner of the camera screen, which expands a bunch of options. One of those options is “EV” – this is the exposure value. It should be at +0 or something like that, meaning your image is properly exposed. To experience overexposure, change it to +2. That will make it two stops brighter than the camera wants to make it.
Did you notice how the image changed in that last screenshot, by the way? My black keyboard looks light gray, the keys are even completely blown out (meaning, they have no tonal detail, it is just pure white (to learn about the tonal ranges, check out my learn about grayscale activity, complete with printable coloring page). But to make a long story short, the lighter the tone, the quicker it will “disappear” when something gets overexposed. So, a yellow smiley face would “disappear” into white before a dark brown horse.
Pretty cool, huh?
I bet you can come up with some other ways to learn about overexposure. Let me know your creative ideas in the comments below! You might also be interested in my post where we learned about exposure (both over and underexposure). Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about negatives.
Join Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography! We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids
Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.