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Hands-On Exposure Control; Creative Metering For Expressive Results:
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My ability to use metering creatively is rooted in my awareness of light and my conscious decision as to how I want my final image to look. When I think about what makes me stop and inspires me to make the image in the first place, the choice of how to meter the scene is revealed.

Making A Creative Lighting Choice

Making A Creative Lighting Choice
When evaluating any scene or subject, I am always considering the light and how I want to use it. If I concentrate solely on the subject and don’t consider what’s happening with the light, I am ignoring one of the biggest factors that will make or break the image.

If I had photographed this fruit stand later in the day, the fruit and vegetables would have been in the shade of the canopy. Though the shapes and colors might still have been interesting, the overall shot would have been a lot flatter. By switching to center-weighted metering, I emphasized those things that were being illuminated by the sun, allowing the rest of it to go completely to black.

Working With Extremes

Working With Extremes
Though not dramatically lit, this portrait of a sailor in Times Square provides a good example when multi-pattern metering might be thrown off by the large presence of white in the frame. I loved the quality of the light that was being reflected onto his face, but knew that the image would likely be underexposed because of his uniform. The simple solution—switching to center-weighted metering and exposing for his face. Though his face was not “neutral,” a quick look at my camera’s histogram let me know that I was risking a slight overexposure of his uniform, which I quickly remedied by using the camera’s exposure compensation feature to underexpose by 2⁄3 stop.

Planning By Seeing

Planning By Seeing
Even before I came upon this scene of a woman buying ice cream, I had become aware of how small shafts of light were illuminating the street. In anticipation of finding some subject to take advantage of this light, I switched to center-weighted metering and took a meter reading off the sidewalk itself, which was pretty close to neutral gray. I then set the exposure to Manual mode, thus ensuring that the aperture and shutter speed setting would not change.

When I saw her at the ice-cream truck, I knew I wouldn’t have much time, so I quickly raised the camera to my eyes, focused and shot frame after frame. I didn’t even have time to check my histogram to evaluate for exposure, but because I was confident that she was being illuminated by the same quality of light that I had metered for just minutes before, I knew that all I had to do was hold the camera steady enough to ensure a sharp photograph.

The resulting image is all about the light kissing her face and the fleeting gesture of the hands.

Images like these remind me that metering can be as important a tool in a photograph as a lens, a camera or a filter. Creative metering can help make magic.

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