The single most important part of your camera is the internal light meter.  To get started, set up your camera as follows:

-Put your camera into Manual exposure mode.  

-Select the  “Spot Metering” option.

When you look through the viewfinder and press the shutter halfway down, the meter will appear.

Example:  (-3…-2…-1…0…+1…+2…+3)

To take a meter reading, zoom in, or get close to your subject. Place the middle portion of the viewfinder area over the part you want to meter.  The camera will then read the amount of light being reflected back into it, and place the meter accordingly.  This is where you take control of the camera.  By adjusting your aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO, you will determine your subject’s exposure.  

manual exposure guide

Let’s use a simple blue sky as an example.  Adjust your fstop/shutter/ISO so the meter line stops on the 0.  This is the middle of the meter, also known as 18% grey.  At this exposure, your sky will appear as medium blue.  

manual exposure guide

You can make the subject appear darker:  If you want to create a darker sky, you can change your camera settings to allow in one stop less light. This can be done by using a smaller aperture, a faster shutter speed, or a slower ISO. When you do this, you will notice the meter will change to the -1.  Now you will have slightly darker blue.

manual exposure guide

If you allow in even less light, the meter will go to -2.  The result will be a very dark blue sky.  

manual exposure guide

Remember, – (negative) means you are subtracting light.

Or Lighter:  If you want your sky to be light blue, you can change your camera settings to allow in one stop more light. Using a slower shutter speed, wider aperture, or faster ISO will do this. When you adjust these, notice how your meter changes to +1.  

manual exposure guide

If you allow in even more light, the meter will go to +2.  The result will be a very light blue sky. 

manual exposure guide

Remember, + (positive) means you are adding light.

This same theory applies to everything you photograph. Using this method, you have the ability to take full control over the camera and create consistent results that match your unique vision.

Photos and Text by Chris Corradino