What’s That Little Line Thingy?

If you listen to The Digi Show you heard Steph describe learning to shoot in manual mode. Did you hear her mention that little line thingy at the bottom of her viewfinder?

Yes. It has a name. And a lot of information.

Let me introduce you to your Internal Light Meter!

Yep. That’s it’s name. Reading light is its game.

It is always on. It reads the light reflected off of your subject, whatever subject you point it toward.

Pick up your camera and give it a try.

  1. Start by placing your camera in Manual Mode! (Leave your lens on Auto Focus. It’s M is something different).
  2. Point your lens toward different colors with different intensities of light, you’ll notice it bounce toward the + side and then -.
  3. Point it at a bright light. It goes to the + side. It’s reading a lot of light reflecting off your subject, telling you, “I’ve got too much light for this exposure!”
  4. Point it at a dark subject. It goes to the – side. It’s reading low light from your subject, shouting, “I don’t have enough light for this exposure!”

Understanding how those numbers are moving is the first step to shooting in manual mode.

Simply put, you want the indicator to be right in the middle for a “correct” exposure.

But what do you do if you point it at your subject and it’s not? Say it looks like this.

It’s giving you a lot of information. The indicator on the 1 tells you that you have “one stop” too much light. The 100 on the left is your shutter speed. The 1.4 is your aperture. The 100 on the right is your ISO. Your viewfinder, of course, may look just a bit different.

So how do you get rid of light?

You have three choices:

Three choices all to get you to a correct exposure. Well, kind of.

If you are pointing your camera at neutral gray, the indicator in the middle shows you a correct exposure.

If you are pointing your lens toward skin, then go to the plus side 2/3 stops. What the heck is that? And how do you remember? Think of it as two clicks from the middle or two of those little hash lines? How do you get there? Those same three choices I mentioned. Adjust your aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. Those three are always working together.

But what happens after you’ve adjusted your light meter to “the spot” you want it and it continues to bounce around? Once you’ve dialed it in you ignore your light meter until your subject or the light changes!

Give it a try and see what you find! For even more fun figuring out how all of your settings work together, try the SLR Camera Simulator. Or heck, just grab your camera and see what happens!

Now you know what Steph does! Have fun.

Now your creative photography begins.

P.S. It’s Steph here, I couldn’t resist popping in just to say that THIS amazing little trick Katrina shared today, is what FINALLY put me on manual mode, after 8 years!! I’ve been shooting in manual since Digiscrapapalooza… and that class I took with Katrina and it all started to make sense…and I cried. I had given up hope that I would ever move to manual mode. I’ve now shot over 1000 photos with the dial on the M for MANUAL! It still makes me a little giddy!