The ‘light meters’ (also known as ‘exposure meter’) are used in understanding the intensity of light that is required for getting the exposure ideal. ‘Exposure’ is about getting the desired brightness or darkness in our photos. In fact, I used to take pictures using cameras without built in light meters in early seventies.
The clue we had those days was the ‘Sunny Rule f/16’. The "Sunny f/16" rule, which says that your exposure on a normal sunny day will be 1 over the film's ISO to be set as the shutter speed, with the aperture set at f/16.
This rule will hold good for most of the mid-tone subjects or scenes. If the scene does not contain the mid-tones, we compensate the exposure accordingly. We had neatly exposed pictures because, we thought for a while before we pressed the shutter. I had even met ace photographers of olden times, who could tell the ‘ideal exposure’ by just looking at the light falling on their palm!
In fact most of the modern cameras now have built in light meters. But, despite of the most advanced exposure meters with the ‘spot metering’ facility, many of our pictures are badly exposed. Most of the time, we feel that we couldn’t depend on these light meters. Some of us even blame the camera..!
The advanced light meter technology is a true gift to serious photographers who know to use it. For all others, ‘ideal exposure’ in photography is truly a nightmare.The automatic exposure compensation, automatic exposure bracketing (AEB/BKT), tonal values, mid-grey or 18% grey, grey card, zonal system, brightness histogram are few things to make our decision on a particular exposure OK. Let us learn to understand these light meters and metering principles to get the exposures right.
However, let us take the exposure meter readings just as a guideline and work for our desired effects in the pictures.
More than f-stops and shutter speeds, pens and papers, notes and strings, knives and clay, what matters is that the feel and mood of the photograph. Don’t you think that a dramatic ‘silhouette’ (an ‘underexposed subject’ in the shadow area against a bright background) is considered to be more artistic than a flat plain subject!
Photo courtesy: R.Preethaa Priyadharshini