Suppose you are walking through Canatara Park and suddenly you spot a beautiful warbler on a branch overhead. It’s the middle of the day with a bright, sunny sky. You excitedly snap several photos, but later when you look at the photos on a computer you are disappointed to see that the bird in the photo is darker than you anticipated.

backlit-bird-1-5The problem is that the bird was backlit and this situation is quite common, seeing as birds are often overhead and so is the sun. Even with binoculars, a bird against a bright sky often looks like a silhouette of a bird. Your camera’s sensor that controls exposure has the same problem, it “sees” a small bird and a bright sunny sky and interprets that as “hey, there is plenty of light here so I don’t need to let as much light into the camera to get a properly exposed image”, so it limits the amount of light (typically by reducing shutter speed or decreasing the aperture) thereby giving you the underexposed bird in your photo. (more…)