18% grey or how your camera sees the world.

January 21, 2016

Have you ever taken a photograph and wondered why it doesn’t look the way you expect? The colours are either too dark or the photograph looks washed out. This happens to me all the time. I have always taken photographs without really thinking about them. This is all changing this is the year I am going to learn how my camera works. I will know what people mean when they talk about ISO, aperture and the other mystical terms that come with photography. I am going to learn to take my camera off auto and learn how to use all the settings. So why is it that a photography does not look the way you expect. It is down to exposure.

What is exposure?

When a photograph is taken light needs to enter the camera. This light is turned into a photograph. In the old days the light used to reach film which reacted with the light and changed colour. This created a photograph. If too much light reached the film then the image would be too light or over exposed. Not enough light would have the opposite effect and the image would be too dark. These days we have gone digital and in order to create a photograph the camera has a small computer which is programmed. The program in the computer defines how much light comes into the camera. By default it is set to see 18% grey. Any photograph will come out with the overall tone of the photograph being 18% grey.

Demonstrating 18% grey

White on whiteThis is a photograph taken with my Nikon D3200 on auto without any editing. The background is a white tablecloth. The figures in the foreground are varying shades of white. As you can see the camera has made the white background look grey. If I was clever I would be able to set my camera to compensate for this but I did the next best thing, I edited the image with a photo editor.

White on whiteNow the white looks much more the way it should with less of the grey tinge. The simple first step for correcting any photograph should be a photo editor. PicMonkey is a good on-line tool.

Whilst trying photographs of white on white I also found that the light matters. Taking a photograph of a white clock on white tiles in artificial light added a yellow tint to the photo. Again with editing the photograph was corrected.

panasonic-clockwhite on whiteBlack on black is also tricky, the camera will again turn it to 18% grey which will result in a slightly lighter photograph. This was my attempt and you can see that light also changes the tone of the image.

black on blackI am looking forward to learning how to set the camera to adjust for this in the future and take perfect photos every time. I will let you know how I get on.

Other photos from the week

As part of the year with my camera I am attempting to use my camera. I have two strategies for this, I am trying to take a photo every day and also trying to capture photographs of birds to add to my bird collection. My almost daily photographs are over on instagram and these are two I took this week. My first attempt at white on white involved my dog. It was edited on my phone and is still a little grey, but that is due to the artificial light.

View this post on Instagram

Looking for warmth – edited white on white for correct exposure hopefully! #ayearwithmycamera

A post shared by Lifestyle blogger: Alison M (@fairydust_dragon) on


My other favourite photograph was taken after an unexpected snow fall. I managed to capture a picture of dawn against the snowy roofs.

View this post on Instagram

Snow and #sunset

A post shared by Lifestyle blogger: Alison M (@fairydust_dragon) on

I have also hatched a cunning plan for getting more bird photographs. This week I bought a bird table which has a bird bath and bird feeder on it. I installed it in my garden and a cheeky robin was soon investigating. Catching a photo of a fast moving robin on maximum zoom with no tripod was not easy but I did manage to get a shot that was ok. I am hoping to be able to capture better ones soon once I have worked out a good place to set up my camera.

RobinI am hoping Spring will bring more birds to the garden and I will get more chances to practise my photography. Have you taken any photos you loved this week? I would love to know about them. Why not follow me on instagram and see how my photography journey progresses?

10 responses to “18% grey or how your camera sees the world.”

  1. I’m loving the new look of your blog. Really easy to navigate 🙂
    I learnt a lot about exposure, and my camera in general, when we were in Iceland, as photographing the Northern Lights was really tough.

  2. I have a very basic camera and my photos aren’t very good. I frequently get my own shadow falling on the image indoors, but I haven’t experimenting with editting the photos

    • I used my basic camera for ages. It really is just learning techniques and thinking about shots before you take them. I have improved my photos a lot but still have a long way to go. I hate getting shadows and also reflections of yourself in objects

  3. Fifty shades of grey ! The winter light is playing havoc with my photos so I need to have a play around too.

  4. It’s really great to see how your photography is improving 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying capturing images, it’s such a good way to keep hold of memories.

  5. Galina V says:

    I use ipiccy rather than PicMonkey, but will have a look and see if it’s better for editing

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