Digital Cameras: Metering Sytems Explained

The metering systems in digital cameras are almost always reflective. This means that the meter in your camera is measuring the light that is bouncing off of an object and into the lens. Whatever your camera is reading reflectively, it is trying to expose that object at 18% gray. 

Understanding Reflective Meter

Whether you are pointing the lens at a white or black surface, it will suggest an aperture and shutter speed that will cause you to record a medium gray image. So if you have done exactly what your meter suggests you do, you may not be recording quite what you want. For example, the standard Caucasian person reflects about one stop brighter than 18% gray. So, if you were to expose this person exactly as your meter has told you to do, she would be photographed slightly darker than what is natural to the eye. 

Familiarize yourself with the shade of 18% gray and be aware of it when you are in the field. But remember, depending on how your camera is set up, the meter could be measuring either a very concentrated spot or the whole frame. Understanding your meter will come naturally once you understand the relationship of light to everything around you.


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