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Night Photography: This Exposure Hack Changed My Photography FOREVER!

12/22/2023 Matt 0 Comments


Mastering exposure is a crucial skill for capturing stunning images. One often overlooked aspect is the challenge posed by exposure in high-contrast situations, where the interplay of shadows and highlights can make or break a photograph. In this article, we delve into the issue with exposure and explore practical techniques to overcome it.

The Frustration of Overexposure:

The frustration of discovering overexposed highlights in your photos is a common experience for photographers. Learning to expose for highlights is a skill that, as Jason Vong notes, may sound obvious but requires deliberate consideration, especially in challenging scenarios.

Understanding the Camera's Perspective:

Our cameras, while sophisticated, have a tendency to prioritize exposing for shadows. This default behavior becomes apparent in situations with glaringly bright elements, such as neon signs and electronic billboards. The author astutely observes that the camera is merely doing its best to achieve a properly lit photo, often resulting in lost color and information in the overexposed areas.

Exposing for Highlights: Option 1 - Using a Tripod:

To combat overexposure, Jason presents a step-by-step guide. By shooting in aperture priority, setting the widest aperture (e.g., F4), and using a tripod, photographers can expose for the highlights. Adjusting ISO to its lowest setting and carefully managing exposure compensation ensures a well-exposed image that can later be fine-tuned during the editing process.

Editing for Optimal Results:

The advantage of shooting in RAW becomes evident during the editing process. The article demonstrates how to recover details in the shadows by adjusting exposure, highlights, and shadows. The final result showcases the significant difference between not exposing for highlights and doing so intentionally.

Exposing for Highlights: Option 2 - Without a Tripod:

For photographers without a tripod, the article provides an alternative approach. Switching to manual mode and setting a wide aperture, appropriate shutter speed, and ISO enables capturing well-exposed images in challenging lighting conditions. Jason Vong emphasizes the importance of keeping ISO as low as possible to minimize noise, with recommended limits for different camera types.

A Fun Effect to Try Instantly:

The video concludes with a fun in-camera effect that transforms light bulbs into star-like shapes. By adjusting the aperture settings, photographers can experiment with creative effects to add flair to their compositions.


Mastering exposure, especially in high-contrast scenarios, is an essential skill for photographers. The video guides readers through two options for exposing highlights, providing practical tips and insights. Whether using a tripod or handheld, photographers can now navigate challenging lighting situations with confidence, ensuring their images stand out with optimal exposure.

Image and video via Jason Vong