Tip Thursday: What you going to do when the light goes out

Well in this case if your light meter goes out?. I was reminded of this, recently when my camera meter went on the fritz. Luckily I know exposure enough to know that on a bright day at f8 the shutter speed should be more than 1/30.

Many of today’s electronic wonder photo photographers have never used a camera that does not meter the exposure. along with making all other decisions. I started my photography with an old Yashica mat 124 that had no light meter. back then you just used the ” Sunny 16″ rule

Most of the Kodak film had a little exposure chart printed on the inside of the box. The sunny 16 rule stated : bright sunshine day between 10am and 3 pm exposure would be f16 @ 1/ISO or if using ISO(ASA) the exposure would be f16 @ 1/125 or f11@1/250 etc. It came down for open shade, deep shade etc. With the exposure latitude of print film this worked quite well. We all got quite good at “guesstimating” I liken it to my sister asking, on a hot and humid day, what did we do before air conditioning? I said back then we didn’t know anything different. The same holds true for exposure. We didn’t have anything else.

Now the people that used slide film and had a little extra jingle, in their pocket, used a hand held light meter. Which brings us to my tip. Get one and learn to use it.

The built in meter, in your camera, uses what is called reflective metering, therefore it reads reflected light. Thus, it can be fooled by exceptionally bright or dark subjects, metering them to make them all neutral gray. That is why you get gray snow. That is also why the cameras have exposure compensation.

when my camera meter quit I got out my Shepherd Polaris light meter and took an ambient reading. unlike a reflective this is a true measure of the amount of light falling on the subject.

Here is a short video on how to use it. Light meter. Reviews here Don’t pay any attention to the ones that says it looks “fragile” I have had one for 5 years that I bought used, and I don’t baby my equipment.

A flash meter is also essential for setting your studio flashes, if you decide to do some studio work.

Here is a photo I shot with the light meter.With the cameras built in light meter I would have added plus 1-2 stops of exposure to compensate for the meter reading the “bright” reflective sky. With the hand held I just metered and shot. When imported into lightroom the exposure was spot on.

If you are serious about your photos or if you decide to try medium format or large format you should think about getting a good hand held light meter.

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