Project 31: No Light Meter? No Problem!

A light meter is a device used by photographers to measure the intensity of light in a given scene. It helps determine the appropriate exposure settings for capturing a well-balanced photograph, considering factors like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. By providing accurate light readings, light meters enable photographers to achieve correct exposure, ensuring that their images are neither underexposed (too dark) nor overexposed (too bright). This precision is crucial for achieving desired artistic effects, maintaining image quality, and conveying the intended mood or atmosphere in photography.

We most commonly use the light meter inside the camera. When you look int he viewfinder you see the series of marks at the bottom. These are the over and underexposed marks. When we use this light meter, we are trying to match the center mark with the moving indicator. When they are aligned, we know that the scene through the lens is properly exposed. 

The meter in the camera is a powerful tool. However, The human eye serves as an exceptional exposure meter for photography as well. The human eye has a remarkable ability to adapt to different lighting conditions. Unlike mechanical light meters or in-camera meters, which have fixed capabilities and may require calibration adjustments, the human eye dynamically adjusts its sensitivity to light through a process called "adaptation." Additionally, the human eye can discern subtle variations in brightness and contrast, enabling photographers to evaluate the tonal range and dynamic range of a scene intuitively. The brain processes visual information in real-time, allowing for quick assessments of exposure and scene composition. Overall, the human eye's adaptability, sensitivity, and processing capabilities make it an invaluable tool for assessing exposure and capturing visually appealing photographs.

In this project we are going to ignore the light meter and start to train our eyes to see light in the way a photographer does. To help us use our cameras without a meter, we are going to make a different kind of meter that uses our brain to evaluate a scene.

Part 1: The ExposureMat

On the table in the front is a stack of printed card stock, scissors, and glue. You are going to follow the assembly instructions closely to put together an Exposure-Mat.

What is this thing? This is a type of light meter, but instead of using a light-sensitive cell in a camera, we are going to use the collection of light-sensitive cells in your brain.

We are also using a crazy rule of photography called Sunny 16. This rule states that on a sunny day if you set your aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your ISO, your picture will be properly exposed. So, if you are outside you are using ISO 100. That means that your shutter speed would be 1/100. So a sunny day will always have an exposure of:

Tv: 1/100
Av: f/16
ISO: 100

It's crazy that this is true, but the Exposure-Mat helps us calculate for situations that aren't so sunny. 

Part 2: Take Some Photos

Now that you have made your Exposure-Mat it's time to use it to take some pictures. For this we are going to be full manual with auto-focus on. Take a series of photos in different lighting scenarios without using the internal light meter. Pay attention to how it feels not using a tool that you have become accustomed to using. Create a series of 10 photos using the Exposure-Mat.