With some idea of what range of brightness your camera can cope with, measure the dynamic range of a variety of scenes.
Take five differently lit scenes, and within each, find and measure the brightest and darkest areas. The emphasis is on variety of picture situation. Make sure that at least one scene has a very high dynamic range, and also that at least one scene has a low range. Other than this, there are no limits to the scenes you choose. I set my camera to spot metering in order to measure each area of a scene accurately.
Image 1- This was my high contrast scene. I set up this ‘devotional’ scene, with the black bible contrasting strongly with the white background. The contrast was further strengthened by the single light source to the left of the subject- creating strong shadow areas. I calculated a 5 stop dynamic range in this shot.
Image 2- This was a mid to low contrast scene. I calculated 1/8 in the darkest parts of the image, and 1/25 in the brightest parts. I used the histogram on my camera at all times to prevent any highlight clipping, and to confirm my instincts on which scenes were high/low contrast. I calculated a 2 stop dynamic range in this image.
Image 3- This was a medium contrast scene. I measured the darkest part of the image as 1/4, and the brightest part as 1/50. This gave me a dynamic range of approximately 3 1/2 stops.
Image 4- Again, this image was mid-low contrast. I calculated the brightest parts of the image as 1/13, and the darkest as 1/40. This gave me a dynamic range of 2 stops.
Image 5- This was my low contrast scene. The lightest parts of the image were calculated at 1/50, and the darkest at 1/125. This gave a dynamic range of just 1 stop. Making for an extremely low contrast scene.
I found this exercise very helpful, and have found it very useful to practice calculating the dynamic range of a scene. I now understand fully how to calculate this, and am much more confident in knowing my camera’s full dynamic range.