How to Use the In Camera Light Meter

Understanding Light & Your Camera's Light Meter - Welcome to Day 2 of Mastering Manual Mode!

Now that we have covered the important reasons why you should be learning to shoot in manual mode, lets move on to an overview of your Camera's Light Meter, how to use it and how it will impact your photos.

Its ALL About the Light!

Your camera needs light in order to make beautiful photographs. And, it needs just the right amount of light in order to make a nicely exposed photograph.

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3 Ways of Letting Light Into Your Camera

Your camera has three ways of letting light in - the aperture, the camera shutter (shutter speed), and the sensitivity of the sensor (ISO). These are often referred to as the exposure triangle. I call them simply The Big 3. Balancing these three camera settings to let in just the right amount of light is what shooting in manual mode is all about.

Your camera’s light meter is how you work to balance the Big 3. The light meter will look something like this:

How to use your camera's light meter: mastering manual mode

How to Read Your Camera Light Meter

Make note of the plus sign on the left side and minus sign on the right. When your light meter has lines or dots toward the “+” symbol it is a sign your photo is moving toward overexposed. When your light meter has lines or dots moving toward the “-” symbol your photo is moving toward being underexposed.

Light Meter Overexposed
   DSLR Light Meter Underexposed


Using Your Camera Light Meter to Balance the Big Three

You can and should use your camera's light meter to tell if you have too much or too little light coming through the lens. The goal is to have it somewhere near the middle.  

Balancing the Big 3 (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) is like balancing on a three-way teeter totter. If you let in more light one way, you may need to reduce the amount of light you let in through one of the other ways. If you let in less light one way, you may need to increase the amount of light you let in through one of the other ways.

One Final Note

Manual Mode is NOT the same as Manual Focus! When we are talking about shooting in manual mode, I know that some people get confused and feel like when we shoot in manual mode that also includes manual focus. We are not talking about manual focus - that is something totally different.  

Continue letting your camera auto-focus - which is what I do 95% of the time!

Photography Quote for Embracing the Light

Congratulations! You've just completed Day 2 of Mastering Manual!

But Don't Stop Now!

Make sure to read the rest of our series to help you Master Manual Mode. If you’ve missed any of the posts, you can read/review them at any time by clicking these links!

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