Your camera’s dynamic range

First, find a scene with a distinctly high dynamic range. The best conditions for this are:

-Bright sunlight

– At least one brightly reflective surface

– An area of deep shadow with a dark surface

The handbook suggested that we take a reasonably large piece of white card; this will be the highlight (I used a white door frame). They then suggested taking, for instance, the front of a house that faces the sun, and opening the front door, making sure that there is some dark surface visible inside.

I made sure the ISO setting was set to 100, and set my metering mode to spot metering. I then set the exposure on my camera so that there was no highlight clipping whatsoever in the image. I then measured the brightness of the whitest areas of the scene; the door frame. I then went on to measure the darkest shadow areas of the scene, and some other neutral areas. Below is the scene I used;


As you can see, this scene has everything the exercise asks for; very bright white in the form of the door and window frames. As well as dark black in the shadows and inside of the house. This in theory should show my camera’s dynamic range well. Below I have shown the picture labelled with all the values which I measured. Aperture for all was f4.5.

IMG_4043 (2)

I found calculating the actual dynamic range very difficult. Even when I was finished all the steps as instructed in this exercise, I still didn’t quite know what to do next. However, I discovered a fellow students blog, who had clearly explained how they worked it out through Photoshop, so I simply followed their instructions, and discovered that my camera has a healthy 7 stops! This was a good exercise- but I think perhaps it could be explained a little clearer.


2 thoughts on “Your camera’s dynamic range

  1. hello Hannah, I have to agree with you the book is very unclear for many exercises. Would you mind to share with us the link of the student blog that has a great explanation of the exercise.

    Thanks a lot

    • Hi Mell, I looked again, but I can’t find the student’s blog anymore! Typical 😦 But basically, how I have learnt to do it is to use the camera’s metering scale. To do this I would measure the shutter speed of the darkest area of a scene and the lightest. I would then use the metering scale and adjust the shutter speed from the highest to the lowest value that I measured in the scene and count how many stops on the scale this is. I’m not sure if this is correct, but it seems to work ok for me!! 🙂

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