Learn To Lie To Your New Camera

daylight flash fill
This was a tricky exposure with skin tones bracketed by dark and light colors. You can see the fill flash in the sunglasses catch lights which also helped with the shadows under the ball cap

Honesty may be the best policy in life, but one of the keys to getting the best pictures is learning to lie to your new camera. Unfortunately, in many ways, your relationship with your new camera will be one based on deceit. But it’s okay, your camera is not going to feel betrayed and you’re going to like the results.

Lie About White Balance

I guess you could classify this as little white lie (ba-dum pah!). Specifically you’re telling the camera the light is really a different color temperature than its electronic sensor is measuring.

Your camera is measuring the temperature of the reflected light reaching the lens and comparing it to daylight. It then uses those calculations to try and determine the type of light source illuminating the subject. These days your camera is really good at making that calculation but there are still good reasons for you to lie about it.

Most cameras balance out full daylight a little on the blue end of the spectrum. Human perception likes skin tones a little on the warmer side, with a slight reddish gold cast. So lie to your camera’s white balance calculation by telling the camera it’s really cloudy outside and not clear. Your camera will shift the color to the red end of the spectrum thinking that it must be overcast outside.

You can also do something called white balance bracketing and just run through all the options and pick the one you like best.

Lie About Exposure

Our trail of deceit next takes us to exposure. On the Auto setting your camera is going to meter several points in the scene and set an average exposure right down the middle for 18 percent gray and try to balance the luminosity. You can lie to your camera and make it underexpose by pointing the lens at a lighter area of the frame and then push the shutter button half-way to lock the exposure, or some cameras have a special exposure lock button. You can go the other way and make it overexpose by pointing at a dark area.

The exposure lock feature on your camera is one of the best pro tips for consistently getting better photos.

Lie About Being Indoors

When taking photos of a person outside, go ahead and lie to your camera and tell it that you’re really inside and that it should use the flash.

On some electronic level it will know there’s really plenty of light, but since you’re the boss it will figure the flash into the equation and give you a nice fill for the subject’s face. It’s one of the great ironies in photography that your camera’s built-in flash is an absolutely dismal light source for pictures, but a fantastic fill light.

While it’s terrible to suggest starting off your relationship with a new camera based on lies, it’s really okay. You’ll get much better pictures while having way more fun and, scout’s honor, I’ll never tell.

What happens in the camera, stays in the camera. Or something like that.