Last year, I wrote a series of blogs, I believe there were 10 to 12 blogs about the basics of photography, all the way from purchasing your camera to composition. One of my blogs focused on one thing about the calibration of your light meter. Your light meter thinks everything in the world is a certain color, and once we figure that out, then everything will become magic.
Oh crap, this is just an ugly color. But, yes it’s true. Your light meter in your camera is tuned to think that everything that it sees, IS THIS COLOR! IT IS CALIBRATED TO THIS COLOR, PERIOD. There is not a camera made that is tuned to any other color.
So, how do we use this magic color? Well, let’s think about this a little bit, and hopefully you have already run into these scenario’s:
Point your camera at a white wedding dress, a field of snow, a pile of salt, or anything else mostly white. The meter in your camera will say, “Whoa, way too bright!” and will underexpose the image, all in an effort to make the image gray. It does the same for subjects that are particularly dark, only in reverse. I just shudder when I see snow photos and the snow is always grey. YUK. Why? Because the camera did it’s job.
So, here is what you do, all you camera DSLR users. You go to an actual camera store, or online, and you ask for an 18% grey card. The “real” camera person will say: “Sure, I have one right here”! And you look at it, and realize you are spending about $5 for a piece of grey cardboard. Oh, but, don’t worry, it’s not just a piece of grey cardboard. It is perfectly color tuned to 18%grey. It is a calibrated, painted cardboard. And it is worth every penny you pay for that.
Now what do you do with that? Next time you go to take a photo, you will take your camera and set in manual mode, and then you will hold that grey card under the lighting that you will be taking the photo of:
Now walk up to the grey card and get a light meter reading with only the grey card showing in your viewfinder.
Simply focus on the gray card (either by filling the camera frame or using spot-metering), activate your camera’s meter, and move the arrow in the meter to dead center (in manual).
You will not have a more perfect exposure than what you will get than with the grey card. It will work in all lighting situations. Go outside, and want to get the light perfect for your scenery shot: Go to the sunshine you have at the time, get the meter in the middle in the manual mode, and pick your best aperture for scenery, and you have the perfect exposure. What will the colors look like? Perfect, that’s all.
How long does this action take to get the perfect exposure? It will take only a few seconds once you get good at it. You want the perfect exposure on your portrait? Try it. You will like it.