Photography Tip Friday: Light Meter

Happy Friday!

I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to the weekend this week.  Last weekend, I worked all weekend on my website re-design, so I think I this weekend I will step away from the computer and relax.  What are your plans?

This week’s photography tip is an intro. to your light meter.  I am still figuring the light meter out for tricky lighting situations, but it is definitely a resource that helps you get your exposure in the ballpark range when taking a photo.

A meter is a device that measures light.  It measures the reflected lightness or darkness of an object.  Your DSLR camera will come equipped with a meter inside of it.

photo from Google

The red circled scale on the back of the camera is an image of a Canon light meter.  The number at the top left 1/4000 is the shutter speed, F5.6 is the aperture and ISO 100 is the ISO.  I gave an introduction to these three pieces of the exposure triangle in this post.

How the light meter works:

The meter is calibrated to read the light, medium and dark values in a scene.  It works on the assumption that all of these tones will add up to a medium gray.  The meter recommends an exposure that is centered around medium gray.  It works well to use it in an “average” scene, but can get tricky in a scene that is lighter or darker than average.

How to Use it:

1. Select an ISO. For more information on how to do that, click here.

2. Select an exposure mode: automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority or manual.

3. In aperture priority mode, you select the aperture.  Your camera will select the correct shutter speed (make sure it is fast enough to prevent blurring)

In shutter priority mode, you select the shutter speed and your camera will select the aperture (make sure you have the desired depth of field for the scene).

4. Point your camera at your subject and activate your meter by pressing halfway down on your shutter release button.

5.  You will see that your meter will show 0 (middle of the meter), if the camera believes it has the right exposure.

If the camera thinks your shutter speed, aperture or ISO needs adjusted the meter will slide to the -minus side (underexposed) or +plus side (over exposed).

6. Adjust accordingly.  Change your shutter speed or aperture until the exposure is correct.

I usually set my camera to 0 (middle of the meter) for the first shot, then I take a shot with the exposure on either side of 0.  I will shoot at least one at -1 exposure and one at +1, just to make sure I get the correct exposure.

It is better to be a little underexposed than overexposed.  Under exposed photos can be edited to brighten them, but you DO NOT want your highlights blown out.

Here are a few examples of photos taken using the meter.  I started shooting at -2 (underexposure).  I changed the shutter speed (keeping the ISO and aperture the same throughout) with each photo. Slowly working my way up the meter scale.  The last photo is taken at + 2 (over exposure).

Which photo do you think has the best exposure?

I think F 1.8/ 1/60/ ISO 100.  You can see the details in the photo, it is not too dark and the highlights are not blown out.  You can still see the soft edge of the light pink petal against the background.

I hope this helps!

Happy Weekend!

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  1. says

    This is awesome!!! I just got a new camera ( a Canon) & am trying to figure out how to use everything!! This is very helpful! xoxo

  2. says

    Amazing you are mastering photography…one thing I am not is a good photographer..stinks especially wanting memories of my kids..everyone is blurred and out of focus..haha

    I actually agree with your choice – the 160 one is the best in my opinion.

    Question…I use feedburner too and all of a sudden the post title is not showing up in the emails..just the php..any idea what the problem is? It worked for all of one week and now it’s not. thanks

  3. Danyelle Franciosa says

    That is so perfectly done!
    I’ve been into a problem with using my Canon camera.
    I am not really good at balancing each feature to make a photo very pretty!