May it be a Canon AE1 or a Yashica Electro 35 or even a LC-A+, they all have one thing in common: auto exposure according to the aperture and ISO. But this system can sometimes fail in high contrast situations. This is how to handle exposure in these situations.
Before we begin, I just want to clarify that there is no right or wrong exposure. It’s a personal choice of how dark or bright you want your subject. So if you feel that you like the results as is from the camera, then be happy and jump in joy and go out and take some more pictures. But if you’re feeling that the picture needs to be a little dark or bright than what you’re getting, then this can help.
These are some images from my recent shoots with the Lomography LC-A+ & the Yashica Electro 35. Both are spectacular cameras and I so love them.
With the LC-A+ I shot a roll of Lomo Color Film at 400ASA and the Yashica Electro used TriX 400.
If you notice, my shots have dark subjects. The faces have become completely dark and nothing can be seen clearly. I also have some shots where the light is less and hence the camera decides to overexpose and this kills the picture. If only you could control the meter, you could have avoided this and there is a way. But how can you control the metering in a AUTO EXPOSURE camera??
This is the Yashica Electro 35 and it has a ISO dial on the top (shown in blue circle). Below is the LC-A+ with its ISO dial shown, again highlighted.
Using the ISO dial we can pretty much control the exposure in any auto exposure film camera. Note that film ISO’s always are shown in stops. 25 > 50 > 125 > 320 > 400 (series like that in higher cameras) or 100 > 200 > 400 > 800 > 1600 (like in the LC-A+). As the film we’ve put in the camera is of a specific ISO and nothing can change that, we can use the ISO ring to fool the camera into underexposing OR overexposing. Let’s call every value doubling as “one stop”.
Example : Say we use a 400 iso film on a LC-A+. Now if we want to underexpose by one stop, we simply move the dial to 800 ISO. Now the camera thinks that the film inside is 800 ISO so it will give it less light when shooting. Similarly, if we set the camera at 200 ISO, the camera will give in more light as it thinks that the film inside has lower sensitivity, so we’ll get a overexposure by one stop.
This process is really useful in night shootings (cameras tend to overexpose), high contrast places like monsoon clouds or sunsets or snow (cameras tend to underexpose). Now you can just use the ISO dial to control the camera better!