Ansel Adams, one of the great nature photographers, made an entire
career of writing about how to make adjustments to reflected exposure
In the hands of an expert, reflected light readings can give
absolutely beautiful exposures. But most of the time, you can get just as
good an exposure by taking an incident reading and using exactly what the
dial tells you.
Incident readings aren't perfect, and in really unusual
conditions such as very dark or very bright subjects or unusual lighting
conditions you might not get a great exposure without making an adjustment
In general, however, the beginning photographer will find that
incident readings are much more reliable than reflected ones.
Most important is learning not to be a slave to those ISO numbers. If
you use a light meter correctly and get consistently overexposed or under-
exposed negatives (and the key word here is consistently), then adjust the
If your negatives are always denser than
you like them, then instead of using the manufacturer's ISO setting, use
double that number and try another roll of film.
Once you find an ISO
setting that consistently gives you good results, then stick with it. There
are all sorts of reasons you may have to do this; your camera shutter may be
a little faster or slower than marked, the lens apertures may not be
accurate, your metering technique may not be quite the same as that
recommended by the manufacturer, the processing chemistry might be
different, and so on. Don't be afraid to experiment if you don't like the
results when you follow the book.
Of course, if you aren't getting
consistent results - some negatives overexposed, some under, others OK -
then you need to examine your own techniques to find out what is wrong. It
may be that you are unconsciously using a bad technique, or that your
equipment is malfunctioning.
10. Care of the equipment.
While this part is specifically about light
meters, many of these requirements apply to all photo equipment.
a. Read the instructions. This is so simple, yet so overlooked, that
it almost seems insulting to mention it.
But many times a piece of
equipment is damaged just because the user thought he knew what he was doing
and was sadly mistaken.
Most instruction books thoroughly cover the care
requirements for a piece of equipment and often also offer a good
troubleshooting guide to help you find out what is wrong when something just
doesn't seem to work. They deserve your close attention.
b. Protect the meter from shocks. A meter which uses a needle movement
is as delicate as a watch. A sharp blow will knock the mechanism off its
It's a good habit to check your
meter frequently (at least before each day's use) by covering and uncovering
the sensor with your hand and watching the movement of the needle. If it
swings smoothly, then it's all right.
But if it sticks even slightly, it
could be damaged and should be turned in for repair. Also, check the zero
To do this, cover the sensor completely with you hand, being
careful to block out all the light.
The needle should come to rest on a
zero mark on the background scale. If it doesn't, there is usually a small
screw on the back which will adjust the needle so that it does. Otherwise,
the meter will give incorrect readings.