Sunday, April 26, 2009

Technique: Meter and Manual Mode

I'm fired up after my Super Monday seminar. I learned about exposure calculation and white balance. Just two days after the seminar, my new Sekonic L-358 meter arrived and I spent some time getting to know it. I also ordered a Photovision 14" Calibration Target. Together, these two items will let you take images that are both well exposed and perfectly color balanced.

This image is a great illustration. I metered the flowers at ISO400 and got f/11 at 1/500 second. I wanted that high speed because it was a little breezy out and I was shooting with a 200mm lens. The f/11 was my desired f-stop: enough to render all three of the flowers in focus, but throw out the background.

The steps are simple:
  1. Meter the scene and choose the exposure parameters that give you a good exposure.
  2. Put your calibration target in the scene and shoot an image. It has a black, grey and white band.
  3. Review your exposure histogram on the camera and verify you have a spike at left end, middle and right end.
  4. Use that image to set a custom white balance. It's about 2 keystrokes on the Canon 50D.
That's it! You get solid exposures without a lot of fiddling, and great white balance. This image was untouched except for titling and resizing for the web.

Bottom line: Don't be afraid of the meter. It took me years to get it and get comfortable with it. Use it early in your career and you will start to understand the exposure triangle much sooner, and you will get killer images out of the camera!

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