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TIPsy Tuesday – The Start

Welcome to TIPsy Tuesday, my weekly posts of Tips to get better shots. Every Tuesday I will post a Tip on topics such as: camera functions, composition, coordinating, post processing and many many more. So if you haven’t as of yet, be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed. You don’t want to miss out on this great new series. And if you have ANY questions or suggestions please comment below. I promise I will get back to you, because this series is all about sharing and interaction.

Today’s Tip: Metering Your Light

Beginner or not, it is important to figure out the basics. How many of us have bought a DSLR camera and made plans to learn all about it but ended up leaving it on the Auto button? With so many buttons and menu items the camera can become an obstacle, IF you let it. You don’t need to feel defeated and resort to point and shoot. What you need is some tips to guide you through that obstacle we call the DSLR.

For today’s tip we are going to focus on metering. Metering is how the camera decides the lightness of the subject.

Let me set the scene: You are on vacation at the beach with your family. Hey, it’s cold here and I would do anything to be able to be on a warm beach, sun baking and … oh wait … where was I? Oh yes, your mission: You want to capture the cute scene in front of you of Billy and Betsy playing in the sand. Okay, more like Billy burying his little annoying sister but what is cuter than that? Leaving it on Auto you snap a few shots. The results are not what you envisioned but why? You notice that the background is way lighter and brighter than the kids and on closer examination you discover they have almost no defining features on their faces. Yes, we can tell they are on the beach, but how excited were they? Was Billy in complete bliss covering his little sister in sand? Can’t really tell.

But before you swear and throw that camera back in the closet, let’s explore WHY this was the result. The camera has a built in meter that measures light. There are different modes of metering and the basic mode used most times by the camera is the Evaluation mode. It automatically meters the entire scene within the camera’s viewfinder. But when the subject is backlit or in strong bright light the camera can’t compensate for these scenes and you end up with blown out whites and under exposed subjects. Spot metering is another mode and a life saver. [There are a few metering modes. Time to pull out your manual and read up on metering and what each one does. If you have any questions just leave me a comment. Have no fear. I live on my blog. I will be answering all the questions. Just wish I could do so from a nice warm beach!] When set in spot metering (or partial metering for Canon) you will have a cursor to move around the viewfinder. Place that over your subjects face and retake the shot.** The camera will meter off the subject instead of the entire scene and the results will be more in align with what you need it to be. Of course there are other ways to tweak this and next week I will talk about those but for now … get out there with your kiddos, stand them with strong light coming from behind and give this a try. You will be amazed with what a simple change on the camera will do.

**You can also align the cursor with the subject, push the shutter button half way down, hold it down and re-position the camera to compose the shot before taking the photo. I offer this because sometimes the subject is not aligned with the preset cursor locations in the viewfinder.

Have fun and I look forward to getting to know you as we venture down this road of ‘Tipsy’ Tuesday. Cheers!

Spot Metering for backlighting

Example of spot metering on the beach.


Deborah Chetwood is an award winning, published photographer in Austin, TX who specializes in stylized children's, senior's and glamour photography. To find out more about the artist click HERE.

Please visit our other website for information on the Texas Vogue: Contemporary Glamour.

Dawniele Castellanos - November 29, 2011 - 11:10 am

I look forward to learning more from Tipsy Tuesdays!

lauren flores - November 29, 2011 - 11:26 am

very useful information! I shoot using spot metering almost all the time. I like to take exposure readings from multiple points in my composition and see the range of settings I’ll be working with. Then I will decide how else to alter the ambient lighting.

Tara Colburn - November 29, 2011 - 11:39 am

great info! I love your idea for this new series!

Steve Lewis - November 29, 2011 - 11:50 am

Nice photo and good article. And not not forget about riding the exposure compensation button as well. We don’t need no stinkin’ flash!

Deborah Chetwood - November 29, 2011 - 2:20 pm

Oh yes, exposure compensation is on the topic board for next week. Do you think I would leave you hanging?

Maïa - November 29, 2011 - 5:16 pm

grrrr ! I thought I’d see that photo of the child burrying his little sister…JK ! ;)
Great idea to have themed posts on a weekly basis !

Deborah Chetwood - November 29, 2011 - 5:21 pm

LOL MAÏA. I know and IF I was on that warm beach I would completely stage that shot.

Sylvia Cook - November 29, 2011 - 6:29 pm

I love the name of the blog post:) And a great idea. I have trouble doing posts like this that happen on a regular basis!

Mickey - November 29, 2011 - 7:06 pm

Deborah, This is great stuff. I like how you are explaining the topic. Great job:)

Mary Peterson - December 4, 2011 - 8:09 am

beautiful photo and great info!

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