Knowing the Right Amount of Light

Harper's Lake, Greenough, Montana
ISO 100, 0.3 seconds, f/16

The biggest challenge for photographers moving to manual mode is knowing which camera settings will provide a good exposure. You can learn this by paying attention to the light meter reading found in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen.
The meter is usually a scale resembling a ruler with marks for -2 up to +2. Below the scale is a line or other indicator that shows how much light is getting to the sensor. When the indicator is under the zero in the middle of the scale, the settings you've selected provide enough light for an average exposure.

In the opening photograph, I chose the lowest ISO setting for the least noise, a small aperture to maximize depth of field, and adjusted the shutter speed until the meter indicated an average brightness exposure (at 0). While this seems like a lot to think about when you start, with practice it becomes very quick.

Learn how to read the light meter for the best exposure in Mastering Manual Exposure class, Saturday, October 6, 2018, in Missoula, Montana. Click here to register.