Exposure / Exposure metering

In photography, analog or digital, light is always perceivable. This means that photography relies on light. Cameras need to adjust or to be adjusted to cope with the light available as lighting can vary depending on the time of day or year and source of light. Also, in both digital and analog photography, editing can only achieve a slight difference in brightness. The amount of incident light is limited by the diaphragm und exposure time. Additionally, the light sensitivity of the system and the ISO rate have an effect on the incident light. In order to know which rates result in an optimal exposure to light, the lighting available should be metered (usually using an exposure meter).

Exposure Metering

Cameras nowadays (irrespective of being digital or analog) provide various exposure meters based on the TTL technology. This allows the photographer to choose the optimal mode depending on the scene.

  • Centre-weighted average metering
  • Spot metering
  • Partial metering
  • Multi-zone metering

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Centre-Weighted Average metering

The centre-weighted metering mode is suitable for numerous subject situations. This is the reason why it was the standard metering mode on a lot of cameras for a long period of time. In this mode the entire image is used to meter the exposure. However, it concentrates more on the centre of the image.

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Spot metering / Partial metering

The difference between spot and partial metering modes is small. In partial metering ca. 10% of the image is used to meter the exposure and in spot metering usually only about 5% of the image is used. Therefore, spot metering can give a highly accurate metering of exposure on a small image section.

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Multi-zone metering

Many photographers are not aware of the way exposure metering works and therefore, in difficult subject situations, this often results in incorrectly exposed photos. This prompted camera manufacturers to further refine the metering modes.

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Problem – High subject contrast

With a high contrast in brightness on an image, not all the image’s elements have the correct exposure. 

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Problem – Black or white subjects

Exposure meters can usually not distinguish between brighter and darker colours, they are colour blind. The camera doesn’t recognise colourful objects that reflect light differently under the same lighting conditions.

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Problem – Exposure of small subject details

If the main subject only constitutes a small area of the image display screen, the automatic exposure often does not register these objects as relevant. This can result incorrect exposure of the main subject if the contrasts are too high.

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Exposure Compensation (+/-)

In the previous articles about exposure, exposure compensation was always cited as an option to adjust exposure. In doing so, the photographer uses the camera’s respective operating elements to correct the level of brightness – minus (- darkens image) or plus (+ brightens image).

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Histogram and Exposure Control

Digital photography provides us with a very interesting tool to estimate exposure, the histogram. It provides the photographer with detailed information about the image’s tonal distribution.

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Exposure Tolerance – RAW and JPG in Comparison

The image quality of digital photos depends on the file format and compression rate. The chosen format also determines the correction possibilities. This article illustrates the differences between RAW and JPG images using examples of exposure, i.e. exposure tolerance.

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Exposed to Light?

The correct exposure in digital photography!?
In digital photography there are various methods/philosophies about and for the correct exposure.

Read more: Exposed to Light?

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