Do you use a light meter or the camera’s internal light meter or do you just go with experience? Do you change the settings for spot metering vs, center weighted vs. color matrix metering? -Chris Cina, Poughkeepsie, NY
This month’s question is actually two related questions, so I’ll start with the first answer. Today’s sophisticated cameras have excellent light meters, in terms of both accuracy and convenience. As a landscape photographer, not having to use a separate light meter is a huge advantage when I am in the field, since just handling the tripod and camera is difficult enough, especially when the weather plays a factor. In addition, if you’re using a digital camera, the histogram readout on the cameras LCD will give you an immediate indication of your exposure, and whether you need to compensate for clipped highlights or shadows. Experience plays a role in extreme situations such as night photography, but otherwise, I use the internal meter.
As for the type of metering, I typically have my camera set to average (matrix for some manufacturers) metering, since this will give me a very good starting point from which to fine tune the exposure. Average metering will take into account the light and dark areas of the scene, and attempt to average them out for the correct exposure setting. I then make creative adjustments based on the image and the histogram reading after taking a few frames. I will switch to spot metering if the scene contains a very wide dynamic range. I can then take readings from the brightest and darkest areas and determine whether I will need to bracket in order to capture both highlights and shadows. Again, using the histogram to give me instant feedback is critical, and through practice, I’ve learned to rely on it for predictable results during the split second when that magical light is just right.
Thanks for the great question, and Chris will receive a 10% promotion towards any item in the webstore!