Exposure/Light Meter Question

MarshallClay

TPF Noob!
Joined
Apr 17, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
5
Location
Indiana
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hello!
I was wondering about the light meter on my camera. From what I had come to understand when I first started shooting in manual, the goal was to get the marker right in the middle for good exposure.
Photos from my camera seem to have a tendency to look quite underexposed when I am in the middle of the meter. I have to go about 5-6 ticks above the middle of the meter to get what looks to me to be a photo of good exposure.
Is this a normal thing?
I use a Nikon D3400 if that helps at all.
Thanks!
 

table1349

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
0
Reaction score
2,772
The exposure meter is only as good as the photographer behind the camera. Photography is about light. The exposure meter reads for the scene as the camera is set to meter and where the photographer meters. There are different metering modes, spot, center weighted, and matrix/evaluative. Understanding the modes will help you decide which to use in various situations. These will explain how metering works:
Understanding Metering and Metering Modes

Which is best? Spot, Center Weight, or Matrix metering? :: Digital Photo Secrets

As the photographer you have to read the light and decide on what you want to meter on to properly expose the subject. If there is too wide a range of light you have to decide whether you will live with blown out or underexposed areas or whether you will add light of your own to compensate as needed. If you haven't done so already read your camera manual on metering so you understand your camera and how to use the metering modes it offers.
 

Ysarex

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
6,796
Reaction score
3,345
Location
St. Louis
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hello!
I was wondering about the light meter on my camera. From what I had come to understand when I first started shooting in manual, the goal was to get the marker right in the middle for good exposure.
Photos from my camera seem to have a tendency to look quite underexposed when I am in the middle of the meter. I have to go about 5-6 ticks above the middle of the meter to get what looks to me to be a photo of good exposure.
Is this a normal thing?
I use a Nikon D3400 if that helps at all.
Thanks!

Might be normal and might not -- show us pictures.

Nice camera -- why us it in Manual mode? Put the camera in Programed auto or Aperture priority or Shutter priority like the Pros do and stop fooling around with that amateur Manual stuff. With the camera in an auto/semi-auto exposure mode find the +/- exposure comp. control and learn to activate it. That will allow you to shift the exposure more or less.

What metering mode are you using? Your camera has multiple metering modes including matrix, average, weighted average and spot -- where is yours set? And show us pictures.

Joe
 

smoke665

TPF Supporters
Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2016
Messages
13,164
Reaction score
6,741
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
I've found as a general rule my K3II, requires a couple ticks above center for a full exposure. If I have the time to set up properly I go full manual including focus. Using the camera meter to get close, then dial it in from the histogram. I've got it down to 5 shots, two to set the exposure and 3 bracketed finals. If I don't have the time to get the shot on manual I'll use program mode as Joe mentioned.
 

Gary A.

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Sep 17, 2014
Messages
22,357
Reaction score
7,540
Location
Southern California
Website
www.garyayala.com
The meter delivers a recommended exposure for medium gray. If the meter is in Spot mode, it will read a very small sampling of the frame and recommend an exposure for medium gray. If the meter is set to Average, it will read the entire frame and provide an exposure recommendation for medium gray. If the meter is set to center-weight/evaluative/et cetera it will perform some mathematical gymnastics and deliver an exposure recommendation for medium gray.

In Black and White photography, medium gray is halfway between white and black. If you fill the frame with a black wall, center the needle and take a shot ... the wall will appear medium gray. If you fill the frame with a white wall, center the needle and take a shot. The image will appear medium gray. If you fill the frame with a medium gray wall, center the needle and take a shot, the image will be perfect.

Because the camera is also a little computer, meters have been getting smarter and more sophisticated to compensate for the light meter's medium gray only mentality. But it still helps if you know how a meter works so you can understand why it is recommending a particular exposure and then use your own judgement along with some on-board tools (chimping, histogram, et al) to find the best exposure to capture the scene(s) as you desire. The further away from a 'normal daylight, even lighting scene', the harder the camera's computer has to think to figure out a proper exposure and the harder it has to think the more often it will deliver a less than desirable exposure recommendation.

There is nothing wrong with Manual ... as there is nothing wrong with other exposure control mode. There is no easy, simple answer to 'proper exposure' and the are books and chapters in books devoted to the subject. If you desire greater consistency with your photography and if you wish to consistenly capture an image which is different than what you see with your eyes ... start reading, take a class, find a mentor ... or better yet all three.

On the flip side of the coin ... there could be something wrong with your camera.

Regardless if the camera is working properly or not, all metering provides is a recommendation. It is up to the photographer to interpret, accept or modify the meter's recommendation.
 
Last edited:

benhasajeep

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
May 4, 2006
Messages
4,020
Reaction score
497
Like some of the others have said, it depends on what metering mode you are in. And what the scene is. Also you may want to double check to make sure you don't have some exposure compensation dialed in that you don't know about.
 

dennybeall

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
2,308
Reaction score
440
Location
OTOW - Ocala, Florida
Website
www.citrusphotorestore.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Sooooooo many possibilities?? Best way to get good help is to include a photo of yours with the problem and include the full exif data. The clue to the problem is usually there.
One thing that got me a couple of times is that modern digital cameras Remember setting for each mode. So if the last time I used Manual Mode, 2 months ago, I dialed in -3 for exposure, the camera remembers that. I didn't but the camera did...................
 

Derrel

Mr. Rain Cloud
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
48,227
Reaction score
18,923
Location
USA
Website
www.pbase.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hello!
I was wondering about the light meter on my camera. From what I had come to understand when I first started shooting in manual, the goal was to get the marker right in the middle for good exposure.
Photos from my camera seem to have a tendency to look quite underexposed when I am in the middle of the meter. I have to go about 5-6 ticks above the middle of the meter to get what looks to me to be a photo of good exposure.
Is this a normal thing?
I use a Nikon D3400 if that helps at all.
Thanks!

The issue is that 5 or 6 ticks, the ticks being 1/3 Exposure Value increments, means that 'five ticks" is just one full EV, plus two-third more of an EV--so, pretty normal!

ALSO: evaluating the picture's exposure level off of the camera LCD screen--that can lead to mess-ups, depending on how bright, or how dark, the LCD is set to! THIS is a very common beginner issue...setting the LCD brightness very HIGH, then finding that one consistently tends to under-expose the shots, and thus one needs to "add" five or six or seven ticks' worth of exposure to get a solid exposure in terms of the final photo.

The photo needs to be evaluated exposure-wise, based on the RGB histogram's display of the various subjects in the photo.
 
OP
MarshallClay

MarshallClay

TPF Noob!
Joined
Apr 17, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
5
Location
Indiana
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Wow! Thanks for the nice amount of replies. I'm learning really quickly that I can count on you guys on this website as a beginning photographer to help me with information I need to get myself going. Once again, thank you so much!
I'll post individual replies as soon as I'm able to read all of them!
 
OP
MarshallClay

MarshallClay

TPF Noob!
Joined
Apr 17, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
5
Location
Indiana
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
The exposure meter is only as good as the photographer behind the camera. Photography is about light. The exposure meter reads for the scene as the camera is set to meter and where the photographer meters. There are different metering modes, spot, center weighted, and matrix/evaluative. Understanding the modes will help you decide which to use in various situations. These will explain how metering works:
Understanding Metering and Metering Modes

Which is best? Spot, Center Weight, or Matrix metering? :: Digital Photo Secrets

As the photographer you have to read the light and decide on what you want to meter on to properly expose the subject. If there is too wide a range of light you have to decide whether you will live with blown out or underexposed areas or whether you will add light of your own to compensate as needed. If you haven't done so already read your camera manual on metering so you understand your camera and how to use the metering modes it offers.

This helps me out a lot. I hadn't even realized what these different metering settings were, or how they were important to my situation before your post. Thank you so much for the information and for the links!
 
OP
MarshallClay

MarshallClay

TPF Noob!
Joined
Apr 17, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
5
Location
Indiana
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hello!
I was wondering about the light meter on my camera. From what I had come to understand when I first started shooting in manual, the goal was to get the marker right in the middle for good exposure.
Photos from my camera seem to have a tendency to look quite underexposed when I am in the middle of the meter. I have to go about 5-6 ticks above the middle of the meter to get what looks to me to be a photo of good exposure.
Is this a normal thing?
I use a Nikon D3400 if that helps at all.
Thanks!

Might be normal and might not -- show us pictures.

Nice camera -- why us it in Manual mode? Put the camera in Programed auto or Aperture priority or Shutter priority like the Pros do and stop fooling around with that amateur Manual stuff. With the camera in an auto/semi-auto exposure mode find the +/- exposure comp. control and learn to activate it. That will allow you to shift the exposure more or less.

What metering mode are you using? Your camera has multiple metering modes including matrix, average, weighted average and spot -- where is yours set? And show us pictures.

Joe

I have to admit this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone saying that manual mode is for amateurs, both from the studio, wedding, and street photographers I've met in person, and from any online article or video I've seen.
BUT with that being said, the auto/semi-auto exposure mode and exposure comp seems extremely valuable for me.
Right now I have it in matrix metering. And here are some photos (one is center on the light meter, and the other is 5-6 ticks above. Honestly, in this situation, even the second image seemed underexposed to an extent).
temporary.jpg
temporary.jpg
 
OP
MarshallClay

MarshallClay

TPF Noob!
Joined
Apr 17, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
5
Location
Indiana
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
The meter delivers a recommended exposure for medium gray. If the meter is in Spot mode, it will read a very small sampling of the frame and recommend an exposure for medium gray. If the meter is set to Average, it will read the entire frame and provide an exposure recommendation for medium gray. If the meter is set to center-weight/evaluative/et cetera it will perform some mathematical gymnastics and deliver an exposure recommendation for medium gray.

In Black and White photography, medium gray is halfway between white and black. If you fill the frame with a black wall, center the needle and take a shot ... the wall will appear medium gray. If you fill the frame with a white wall, center the needle and take a shot. The image will appear medium gray. If you fill the frame with a medium gray wall, center the needle and take a shot, the image will be perfect.

Because the camera is also a little computer, meters have been getting smarter and more sophisticated to compensate for the light meter's medium gray only mentality. But it still helps if you know how a meter works so you can understand why it is recommending a particular exposure and then use your own judgement along with some on-board tools (chimping, histogram, et al) to find the best exposure to capture the scene(s) as you desire. The further away from a 'normal daylight, even lighting scene', the harder the camera's computer has to think to figure out a proper exposure and the harder it has to think the more often it will deliver a less than desirable exposure recommendation.

There is nothing wrong with Manual ... as there is nothing wrong with other exposure control mode. There is no easy, simple answer to 'proper exposure' and the are books and chapters in books devoted to the subject. If you desire greater consistency with your photography and if you wish to consistenly capture an image which is different than what you see with your eyes ... start reading, take a class, find a mentor ... or better yet all three.

On the flip side of the coin ... there could be something wrong with your camera.

Regardless if the camera is working properly or not, all metering provides a recommendation. It is up to the photographer to interpret, accept or modify the meter's recommendation.

Thank you so much for your in depth reply. I think that, mixed with understanding the different metering modes, understanding how the camera is metering itself will be very helpful to me. I am actually to begin classes next month on photography, and I am reading as much as possible on the subject. Exposure just seems to be my frustration at the current moment.
Once again, thank you!
 

benhasajeep

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
May 4, 2006
Messages
4,020
Reaction score
497
Sooooooo many possibilities?? Best way to get good help is to include a photo of yours with the problem and include the full exif data. The clue to the problem is usually there.
One thing that got me a couple of times is that modern digital cameras Remember setting for each mode. So if the last time I used Manual Mode, 2 months ago, I dialed in -3 for exposure, the camera remembers that. I didn't but the camera did...................


Hahaha, me too. The camera remembers every time. I can't seem too though. :allteeth:
 

Ysarex

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
6,796
Reaction score
3,345
Location
St. Louis
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hello!
I was wondering about the light meter on my camera. From what I had come to understand when I first started shooting in manual, the goal was to get the marker right in the middle for good exposure.
Photos from my camera seem to have a tendency to look quite underexposed when I am in the middle of the meter. I have to go about 5-6 ticks above the middle of the meter to get what looks to me to be a photo of good exposure.
Is this a normal thing?
I use a Nikon D3400 if that helps at all.
Thanks!

Might be normal and might not -- show us pictures.

Nice camera -- why us it in Manual mode? Put the camera in Programed auto or Aperture priority or Shutter priority like the Pros do and stop fooling around with that amateur Manual stuff. With the camera in an auto/semi-auto exposure mode find the +/- exposure comp. control and learn to activate it. That will allow you to shift the exposure more or less.

What metering mode are you using? Your camera has multiple metering modes including matrix, average, weighted average and spot -- where is yours set? And show us pictures.

Joe

I have to admit this is the first time I have ever heard of anyone saying that manual mode is for amateurs, both from the studio, wedding, and street photographers I've met in person, and from any online article or video I've seen.
BUT with that being said, the auto/semi-auto exposure mode and exposure comp seems extremely valuable for me.
Right now I have it in matrix metering. And here are some photos (one is center on the light meter, and the other is 5-6 ticks above. Honestly, in this situation, even the second image seemed underexposed to an extent).View attachment 143479View attachment 143480


OK, here's your problem:

exp_comp.jpg


You had an exposure compensation already set on the camera. You're looking for the +/- symbol (generally a button) on your camera. -2 is a pretty major underexposure -- you're telling the camera with that setting that you want a 2 stop underexposure. You got what you asked for.

Joe

My crack about shooting manual being amateurish was to a degree sarcasm. There's nothing wrong per se with using a camera in full manual. The problem is that new photographers are very often given faulty advise about shooting manual and what would be sound reasons for doing so. If you're going to use the camera in manual mode but still rely on the internal meter in the camera then for the most part you're just manually setting the same exposure the camera would set anyway in an auto mode -- you're just slower.

The bottom line is: are you calling the shots or are you abdicating control to a set of algorithms in the machine. You can be fully in control and use the camera's semi-auto modes or Program shift mode just as well as you can using full manual. There are subtle variations one way or the other where the advantage tips slightly but it's nothing like the nonsense you typically here on the internet.

Your meter: you have the camera set to matrix meter mode. Read up on that and make sure you understand how it works. So much of all this is two sided. Matrix metering is more sophisticated than a metering mode that only takes a measurement. The advantage of matrix mode is that the camera software runs a set of predictive algorithms that try and improve the result while the disadvantage of matrix mode is that the camera software runs a set of predictive algorithms that try and improve the result.
 
Last edited:

Most reactions

New Topics

Top