Handle Your Camera Like A Boss | Lesson 4 | The Art of Light Metering

In Camera Light Metering

Your camera has a built in light meter that tells you how much light is getting into your camera based on the settings (ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed) you are currently using.

Zero, the middle point, is supposedly perfect exposure on any camera model.  I say supposedly because really, what the final image looks like is entirely up to you.  You might want to show the mood of a poorly light nightclub by intentionally underexposing your image.   If you ‘properly exposed’ your image according to your light meter, you’d end up with a bright nightclub.  And that’s not what you wanted.  So you intentionally let the meter fall into the ‘underexposed’ area to get what you want.  This is ART.  


for non-Nikon cameras:

for non Nikon models, the meter looks like this

for non Nikon models, the meter looks like this

If the ticker line is to the left of the middle point/0, the camera is telling you that you need more light, you are underexposed. If the ticker is to the right of the middle point, you have too much light or over exposed. 0 is what your camera perceives as middle gray (we’ll delve into this next week more deeply).





for Nikon models, the meter would look like this

for Nikon models, the meter would look like this

For Nikon models, the set up is reversed.  If your ticker line is to the right, you are underexposed.  If the ticker is to the left, you are over exposed.  From what I’m told, you may be able to change this and make it like all the other camera models on the market, but you’d have to check your User Manual to be sure.  




If your meter is showing underexposure (not enough light), you’ll need to let more light into your sensor by either: 1) raising your ISO or 2) slowing down your shutter speed or 3) opening up your aperture (lower number). If your meter is showing overexposure (too much light) you can  do the opposite of what you did to let in more light--1) lower your ISO 2) choose a faster shutter speed 3) close up your aperture (larger number).

Well which one do you do??  That’s up to you.  And that is the where the art part of photography comes in. Are you happy with your aperture and depth of field? Yes? Then don’t touch that. How’s your shutter speed? Is your image going to suffer if you alter it? Happy with SS and ap? Change your ISO.    The setting you choose to change will depend on what your vision is for your final image.  There is no right or wrong answer.   And if you put 3 different photographers in the same room to have them shoot a perfectly exposed image, chances are that each one will have chosen slightly different settings to get to the same end point.

At this point I will encourage you to play around with all of your settings and use your light meter to create the image that you see in your head. Or you can try to re create exactly what you see with your eyes.  The only way you will get good at this is by practice, practice, practice!!!!  And while you are learning, remember to show yourself some grace.  You haven't created an awful photo, you've just learned what settings NOT to use for that particular situation.   If you're really motivated, you can take a series of shots using different settings and write each one down in a notebook as you're doing it.   When you download your images, you'll be able to match up the settings that worked best for your image.   The important thing here is to keep shooting and learning.

The next (and last) lesson for this series will be about what all the numbers and letters on the DSLR lenses mean.