Is Your Light Meter Working?

The light meter in your camera is a very sophisticated piece of hardware and software package. So if it is so good why do photos sometimes come out too dark or too light? Maybe it’s not as sophisticated as we think.

The answer to this is how it is programmed. All light meters built into the camera are programmed to “see” 18 percent nuetral grey. They don’t even see color. Only light grey, medium grey, dark grey and all in between.  If it sees brighter than medium grey it will set the camera so it darkens the image. If it sees something darker than medium grey it will set the camera to brighten the image.

The photo above has a white background which is brighter than medium grey. The light meter wants to make everything 18 percent grey and not white.  So in this case the meter tells the camera to “close down” in order to render the scene grey. As you can see it did a great job. In addtion, the people in the photo came out dark as well.

Knowing that this is the case I adjusted the exposure by one f/stop. Instead of the f/5.6 of the meter setting I took the next one at f/4. In order to do this you have to put the camera in MANUAL mode. You can also activate the exposure compensation button on the camera to +1.   

The light meters in our cameras really work very well. It is us as photographers to interpet the information and act on it so we get great photos.

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