Metering: The process of taking a light reading from a given area to determine what your camera settings should be for proper exposure of that area.
I remember my "Ah Ha!" moment very distinctly. It hit me one sunny afternoon while I was sitting on my couch, doing nothing in particular. I was several months into taking photography seriously and had spent countless hours pouring over every tutorial I could find. Suddenly everything I had been reading came crashing together in my mind, and from it a VERY useful piece of information floated to the top.
Getting my dial to center on my meter did NOT equal perfect exposure. Say What?!
Yep, up until that very moment I thought that if I just got my dial to center I would have perfect exposure in camera. The problem was, I was doing that, and yet my pictures weren't perfectly exposed, in fact they were a little dark.
I cannot tell you how frustrated I was to think I was "getting it" only to download my pictures, and well, NOT! UGH (gets 5 more grey hairs with every picture download, how's that for grey!)!!!
Guess what here is a little secret, getting your dial to the center of your meter doesn't mean a thing EXCEPT those are the settings that will render whatever you are metering 18% grey! That's right I said it grey.
White T shirt = Grey
White Snow Ball= Grey
Black Pants= Grey
Black Hair= Grey
Munchkins Cute Face= Grey
So get this ALL light meters are set to expose for 18% grey, which basically means unless you want a grey snowball stay away from the center!
So let's practice. You want to expose for the petals of a gorgeous creamy white rose, where should your dial be?
To the RIGHT!
You want to expose for you little ones gorgeous little face where should your dial be?
To the RIGHT!
You want to expose for a head of gorgeous dark black curls, where should your dial be?
To the... LEFT!
...and so on and so forth! Got? Good Now you try! :)
I'm not sure why this little epiphany was the thing that made it all click for me, but somehow it was.
Realizing that if I wanted my blacks to be dark I needed to "under expose" (move left) from center, and if I wanted my whites to be white I needed to "over expose" (move right) from center somehow set me free! Suddenly I really was producing, light bright pictures right in my camera with no help from photoshop... Halleluja!
Ok so if you are still with me, let me show you what I am talking about! *Note to Nikon users just do the reverse.
If you have pointed your camera at your munchkin's face to get a meter reading, and adjusted your settings so that your little blinky cursor is right in the middle of your meter (see above graphic), then chances are your picture looks something like this:
When what you want is something more like this:
So here is the magic trick, bring your cursor a few ticks over to the right (Nikon users read left) and voila!
Now you will have to either use this method in conjunction with a histogram (more on that later) or just practice to get a sense for your camera and how far over you need to go before you start truly overexposing (blowing out your highlights). For example on my camera proper exposure when my subject matter is of a light color is generally at about +1 on the right of the meter. Obviously this changes with the lighting and subject matter, there is no one size fits all in photography. But I have a good "feel" for where my meter needs to be in most situations by eye. I know where it doesn't need to be (CENTER)! :)
Ok, so go take some photos and take note of the difference as you move your dial from center to right or center to left. Post your photos along with where your meter dial was on our facebook page http://facebook.com/themomtographers!
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