Category Archives: Jl Photography

Intentional Blur Motivation

Although in photography blurriness is often viewed as a mistake, there is an interesting and creative way to intentionally capture motion blurs in your images. By experimenting with shutter speed, you can snap some awesome shots that truly capture the action and dynamic energy of a subject in motion.

If you just purchased your first camera and you’re still not comfortable making these technical adjustments, consider checking out our online digital photography course before you dive in. Throughout the course you’ll login and learn the basic functions of your camera so you can begin to shoot in manual mode, capturing higher-quality images of the people and places around you. If you’re already a pro with your device and ready to get some practice, here are some tips for snapping that awesome motion blur we’re talking about:

1. Manual Mode
If you’re comfortable working in manual mode, your shots will come out best if you do so with this exercise. If you’re absolutely unwilling to get out of auto, you should start by playing with shutter priority mode for the best results. With this helpful tool, you can pick whatever shutter speed you want to work with and your device will do the rest of the work, figuring out the corresponding settings to capture a well-exposed final product.

2. Shutter Speed
If you’re unfamiliar with shutter speed altogether, try to think of it like this- there is essentially a small curtain within your camera that can be altered to open or close more or less, consequently letting in an adjustable amount of light. The longer that curtain is left open, the more light will come into your shot. So in terms of photographing something that moves, as long as that curtain is open, things going on in front of your camera lens are still being captured, creating that motion blur, ghost-like effect we’re familiar with.

To keep the background nice and sharp while capturing one swift motion blur of a moving subject in the foreground, you will need to use a slower shutter speed.

3. Gear
Depending on what you’re photographing and how long you’ll be capturing the movement, you should strongly consider using a tripod. As we mentioned before, as long as that shutter speed is left open, your camera is capturing any and all movement taking place- and that includes your own. If you’re somewhat shaky and can’t trust yourself to stay entirely still throughout a long motion capture, adding a tripod to your setup is crucial.

Adobe Photoshop For the Family Photographer

For a more comprehensive education and step-by-step guide to mastering Adobe Photoshop, check out our online Photoshop course to get started. For some simple tips, today we’ll talk about how to adjust some common errors we photographers tend to make in routine shoots.

Photo albums are often littered with pictures that are too dark because the photographer didn’t turn on their flash. In this picture, the photographer should have used fill flash to illuminate the bride and groom’s faces. All is not lost however. In fact, it’s a pretty simple fix most of the time. In Adobe Photoshop, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. A histogram will open up. Slide the white triangle on the right until it lines up with the first peak on the right side of the histogram. Slide the black triangle on the left until it lines up with the first peak on the left side of the histogram. Then, you can move the middle triangle to the left until you get a pleasing amount of brightness in the photograph. Do not go too far or you’ll start to see artifacts and other damage to the pixels in the picture.

Sometimes, there’s not a problem with the photograph, it just isn’t the picture you want to see. For example, let’s look at this picture of a red and green bathroom. Quite festive, but what if you wanted to see what the room would look like painted in a different set of colors. You could go out and buy a couple of cans of paint and then spend the better part of a day or two repainting the bathroom for optimal family photos. Or, you could adjust the photograph to see if you like the color choice. First, choose Select > Color Range. Then, choose a color range from the pull down menu, or use the “eye dropper” to click on a color. In this example, we choose to adjust the red tones. Then, slide the Fuzziness arrow until the selection seems to cover the area you’d like to change. To complete the change, choose Image > Adjustments > Hue / Saturation and change the Hue to experiment with the look of the room. If you have an image with walls that don’t select easily using the “Color Range” technique, try using the Magnetic Lasso Tool to select them.

Five Tasty Food Photography Guidelines Worth Buying

Food photography has become quite a prevalent genre. If you do not fully appreciate this attractive art, no doubt you need a firsthand experience. You will get a golden chance to understand the basics behind achieving styling atrocities of a creepy ilk.

 Invest in Food Stylists

Food stylists play a crucial role in this photography. Professional food shooting is more than just placing some delicacies on the table and getting your camera ready for work. Who will even look at a meal that is not whetting their appetite? Experts in food styling understand the items to pick for photography.

Probably you do not know tomatoes could be sliced into some fancy shapes and put alongside beautifully made lettuce pieces. These stylists also co-work with photographers in rightly using stand-ins. All this is in the power of a professional food artist.

Get Your Background Setting Right

Ensure that you do not overly exaggerate your background. It might end up catching the viewer’s attention more than your food. If not a plain background, then go for a clean table cloth. Most preferably use a white fabric. It sends an important implication to potential customers. However, this does not mean you should avoid using props. Complementing your meal with a plain ice cream bowl serves an exquisite accessory.

When it comes to plates, avoid those that are of the same color with your food. They should either contrast or harmonize with the meal. Use of a wider aperture helps a great deal in blurring your background.

Be Sure to Create the Right Mood Using Illumination

Lighting makes food look appetite-whetting. Instead of taking general photos, the expert behind the lens should consider using stand-ins. They make your food look more fresh, which makes it mouth-watering. Proper manipulation will also enable you to create customized textures.

Usually, you should have your setting somewhere close to a window covered with a white curtain. That white clothing on the window plays a crucial role in light dissemination. Natural light has all you need to screw that plate of food. That said, be careful not use flash. It provokes the food’s delicate sensibility, making it unappealing and unnecessarily shiny.

How to Get Your Photos Featured in Magazines

Getting your first photos published in print is a dream that comes true. The feeling of seeing your signature below the photo in a magazine is all the incentive you need to pursue your career further.

Create a portfolio

Even though you may already have a portfolio, go over it again. What kinds of pictures are getting published these days? Are they documentary pictures taken quickly and in the heat of the moment or are they staged photos that convey certain messages. Depending on your style and passion, the portfolio you create will vary vastly. This means that you will be approached by some publishers but avoided by others – it’s only natural. Don’t create a portfolio filled with pieces you don’t feel comfortable with. If you want to get your photos published, make sure that you select the ones you are most proud of.

Focus on your best work when creating an online portfolio and use a very clean and accessible WordPress theme in order to do so. Make the job of browsing through your pictures as easy and fast as possible for the visitors. Picking a short catchy name for your professional career as a photographer is going to help you in spades because word travels fast between editors and publishers alike.

Think about the purpose

Why do you want to have your photos published in magazines? This is the most important question you have to ask yourself before doing anything concrete about it. As a photographer, your job is to find a certain niche in which you will create photos. If that’s magazine publishing, it will require a studio and equipment that will allow you to stage and direct photos for your publisher.

Create a series of demo photos that will showcase what kind of equipment you are dealing with and what you are passionate about. Convey the message that you are willing to work with magazine publishers in your portfolio and in the application paper that you send to the publisher. The more special they feel about you approaching them, the more likely you are to get hired long term.

Choose your publisher(s)

Instead of applying for as many publishers as you can think off, try making a shortlist of candidates that would suit you. Just like they are picking and choosing photographers. If you land a spot as a photographer in a magazine that you despise or don’t feel comfortable working with will affect your work drastically. Having a job that you don’t like is counterproductive, and it goes for photography as well as any other job employment.

Your quality of work might drop and you might feel depressed or stressed because you have your photos in a magazine that you don’t like. Focus on three magazines at most that work best for your style of work and approach each of them with an offer of cooperation. If you need help writing a letter or an application for a photographer’s spot, you can always get academic help online and have your paper written and edited, allowing you to focus on photos instead. If one refuses, you still have two more to contact, leaving your information with each one for further consideration. Don’t settle for anything less than what you think is worthy of your time and effort.

Use Creative Commons

Using Creative Commons (CC) license is essential in photography – you don’t want anyone to trick you into giving up your ownership rights. These licenses are free to use and should be applied to any photo that you create.

Depending on the type of photo that you made, try to give more or less rights for printing and publishing to your publisher. Don’t give them free control over your photos and always have a way to revoke them or charge for any additional use they make. This is an essential part of photography practice that many newcomers fail to grasp quickly enough, leaving them used and confused by the publisher.

(Social) Networking

Believe it or not, social media networking is the best way to get noticed by the public. Even though you may not have connections inside the publisher’s firm, this is a good way to place your name on their radar. While it may take longer to get hired, it’s not impossible to be asked to work for a magazine publisher instead of you coming to them. Social networking is very cheap and accessible, and all you have to do is create profiles on a couple of different platforms and start posting your watermarked photos.

The watermarks will help people recognize you as the author and also stop anyone from using them as their own. Approach and talk to as many people in the industry as you can, as soon as you start actively making photos. Everyone wants to publish photos from a photographer who is reliable and social. It will not only help you make friends and acquaintances but also get you exclusive photo opportunities that you would otherwise miss out on.

Patience and passion

The truth is that photographer’s lead a very difficult life. You are constantly on the move and thinking about your next photo-shooting. Not only that, but as a freelance photographer you are constantly thinking about your income and if you will have enough money to last through the month. The best photographers are the ones who didn’t give up when life was hard on them.

It will take patience to get hired by a magazine and have constant work coming your way. The only way to get there is to be passionate about your work and love to make photos. If you are doing it only for the money, you might be in the wrong line of business. Think about your purpose as a photographer and your passion will attract the publishers to you. Photos that are made by heart are easily spotted, and this will be your ticket to become a professional magazine photographer.


Getting your photos published by a magazine is only the start of your career. Magazines are one of the most read pieces of paper and this will work to your advantage. Once you are published, thousands of people will see your photos, and this will only bring you more job opportunities. Don’t give up before it’s over, and do everything you can to respect the art of photography and do what you love most.

In-Depth Review of Tamron’s SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

So many times it occurs to me what a wonderful time we as photographers operate in today. We find ourselves constantly being introduced to new and better gear… cheaper cameras, faster glass. That last bit about lenses is particularly true.

This robust fast telephoto lens is Tamron’s updated version of the of their first generation (model A009) 70-200mm f/2.8 and offers upgrades that make that this new comer a powerhouse in the world of fast telephoto glass. Wildlife and sport photographer… get in here.

First Impressions

The SP 70-200mm G2 offers a heavy hitting package of style and function which is evident right out of the box.The lens itself looks wonderful with it’s flat, matte black finish and contrasting bright white lettering. A great thing about updated versions of the SP line is the readily apparent attention Tamron has paid to improving not only the form, but also function of their reimagined lens offerings. The entire lens looks sleek and professional grade.Overall, the 70-200mm is substantially built but not at all overly weighty for a lens of this focal range and speed. The Canon version weighs in at 3.3 pounds (1,500g) is just tips the scales of Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM which weighs 3.28 pounds (1,490g). Nikon shooters will enjoy a .5oz shedding of body fat with their model at 52.4oz (1,485g). In general, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the the 70-200mm balanced in the hand.

Something that I noticed once I zoomed for the first time with the SP 70-200mm was that it internally articulates; meaning that as the user zooms in and out, the lens remains the same length. I admit I was not aware of this prior to the review but was elated to find out. That feature alone goes a long way with this author.

Quality of Build

As we mentioned, the lens is a substantial telephoto which means the idea of feathery delicacy isn’t expected and shouldn’t be for a lens intended to get into the thick of sporting events or wildlife photography. The SP 70-200mm feels extremely solid. The lines are elegant and the design of the lens flows well… that being said, you can definitely be sure that this is a tool meant to be used. It isn’t going to have trouble handling the elements or the demands of rigorous photo outings.The zoom and focus rings feel great and turn smoothly but firmly; nice and gripping without feeling overly rubbery. The zoom ring especially is easy to manipulate for a lens of this size and doesn’t feel as if you’re going to twist the lens right off the camera while zooming.

The Ultimate Guide to Color Theory for Photographers

Color is all around us, and when used correctly it can help your images come to life. Color has the power to transform your compositions; from dull and uninspiring to exciting and alive.

Understanding Color Theory

There is a lot to explore when it comes to color theory, and how it affects our images, but understanding the color wheel and how the different colors work together and complement each other is a great place to start. Different color combinations provoke different feelings and responses; with some color schemes working together much better than others.

By understanding how different colors work together, you’ll be able to see things differently, and get the most from the colors around you. Here’s a basic look at some different color combinations.

Analogous Colors

First, let’s look at analogous colors. These are the colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. An analogous color scheme can consist of anything from two colors on up to half the wheel. These colors – think blue and green – can often make for a pleasing and harmonious color combination.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are shades that are located directly across from each other on the wheel. Think: blue and yellow or orange and green. These colors are complementary because they are said to work well together. Complementary combinations can create a high-contrast and vibrant look especially when used at full saturation.

Split Complementary Colors

A split complementary color scheme takes two colors that are directly opposite, and another color that’s one of the complementary colors’ analogous color. This type of combination often works extremely well, helping to balance out an otherwise high-contrast color combination.

Can Photography Be Used as a Form of Therapy?

Photography is not only a form of art; it is also a means of expression and a way of communicating thoughts and feelings. A single photograph can tell a hundred different stories. This is one of the reasons why some people have taken it as a hobby and, for others, a form of therapy.

Examples of Situations Where Photography Was Used as a Form of Therapy

Before we continue the discussion on photography as a form of therapy, let’s look at some examples of situations where taking photos successfully helped a person or several persons bounce back from a painful or depressing experience.

Here are two inspiring stories:

  1. A Vietnam war veteran in Spokane, Washington uses photography to deal with his PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and depression caused by memories of the war. He actually formed a camera club for veterans. It has done a lot of great things for many of them. The club has helped veterans cope with post-war problems like being reclusive, fear of crowds, getting people to understand what and how they were feeling, and depression, among many others. The veterans look at their cameras as non-destructive substitutes for the guns and weapons they carried while fighting in the war.
  2. Another story where photography figures prominently is that of a person who figured in a serious road accident back in 2009. Waking up after a weeks-long coma saw him bound to the wheelchair as he could not walk and move his left arm. When his therapist suggested that he take up a new creative hobby, he learned about the possibility of using photography as a form of therapy. The improvements he noticed have made him emotionally and physically stronger.
  3. The Two Types

    There are two types of photography that are considered effective forms of therapy: therapeutic photography and phototherapy. Both types do not require specific photographic skills, training, or knowledge.

    1. Therapeutic Photography

      The technique involves self-conducted and self-initiated photo-based activities, where a person or a group takes photos as a form of therapy. In such situations, there is no professional counselor or therapist working with the person or persons in need of therapy. As such, no actual therapy session is involved; it is only the photos and the activity itself that provides the therapy. It is important to note, however, that therapeutic photography is not confined to taking photos. It also includes viewing photos, posing for photos, discussing or talking about photos, and imagining or visualizing photos. Most people who take up therapeutic photography often join groups, such as camera or adventure clubs.

    2. Phototherapy

      Phototherapy techniques use personal photos, images shot by other people, and photo albums of the person concerned in therapy practices. The photos are used to help a person express feelings, thoughts, emotions, and even remember important incidents that are otherwise difficult to explain in words. Any form of photography can be used for this type – as well as in therapeutic photography – including films and videos, digital or otherwise.

    Therapeutic Photography: How It Helps People In Need of Therapy

    There are many reasons why photography can be an effective form of therapy. There are also several methods of doing this, especially since it can be considered a personal form of rehabilitation. One person, for example, can choose to write down thoughts and feelings first – using words or phrases – and then convert these into images.

    Basically, it’s not about the photos per se; it is more about the process of shooting the images. Carrying the camera, feeling it in your hands; hearing the click and looking through the lens, and even the process of walking around to look for scenes or situations to shoot – all these make photography therapeutic.

  4. Below are the top five reasons why photography can be an effective form of treatment.

    1. Photography gives us the opportunity to view the world objectively. It shows us images that depicts how we are really living, not the often-guarded thoughts we keep in our minds. Thus, we become mindful of the things around us and in what is happening, as opposed to what we think (and like to believe) are happening. Developing mindfulness in photography is therapeutic because it unmasks the realities we thought we knew.
    2. Photography is a form of self-expression. It can effectively show a person’s true psychological state. It can also manifest a person’s genuine emotions. In other words, it allows a person to reach a better understanding of itself. This is therapeutic because it helps liberate a person from something previously misunderstood.
    3. Photography allows us to see more deeply and pay more attention to what we hear, feel, think, and see. We learn to ask questions; these questions will often enlighten us about particular things we used to be worried or confused with. This is therapeutic because it enables people to enhance understanding and learning; which is also a way of healing.
    4. Photography helps improve every day experiences. What used to be ordinary for you can change after you took a photo of it from a different angle. For example, a simple red rose can turn into a beautiful gift of nature after you captured it on camera while in bloom. Ordinary things become more special and meaningful. This is therapeutic because it gives an overall sense of happy and positive feeling.
    5. Lastly, photography can help unleash artistic and creative skills. Take for example a child with Down syndrome or a person in a wheelchair, or someone who is hearing impaired. These people may find it difficult to express themselves verbally, but through their photos, they could communicate and express their thoughts and feelings fluently. Knowing that you are capable of doing something despite the challenges and setbacks is definitely therapeutic.

Insurance for Photographers: What You Need To Know

Bottom line: You need insurance as a photographer. Though it may seem like you don’t because you may think nothing can go wrong, you actually do. When it comes to photography, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and think that Murphy’s Law applies at all times.

Determine the Kind of Coverage You Require

The kind of coverage you require is based on your needs and what you’re specifically doing. For example, when you open a studio or rent office space for your photography business or agency, you’ll need to purchase insurance to cover any possible fires, floods, and other disasters before you’ll be allowed to move in.

Even if you’re working or being a hobbyist from your own home, you’ll typically still require insurance for your client’s belongings and property (home insurance only applies to… your own home). Any insurance policy worth its salt and your money is one that will insure you for damages and also provide legal consultation.

If you’re going to be traveling across state lines or even internationally for shoots, providers usually have international coverage for extra fees, so be sure to ask your provider about this option.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

It all comes down to budgeting. If all you can afford is one, basic plan, that’s definitely better than nothing, yet if you have a bit of flexibility with your budget, it’s highly advisable to consider various plans to get the best bang for your insurance buck.

While having too much coverage isn’t ever really a bad thing, higher level options do come with costlier deductibles, so you have to be certain that you’ll be able to replace the equipment that’s valued below that deductible.

Understanding What You Need to Make a Claim

Before you ever get to the point of having to make a claim, you should be well prepared to make one. Do this by compiling a list of all of your pieces of equipment, which would include how much you paid, when you bought them, and serial numbers. Such a list is great to have around if your claim is ever questioned or if you’re claiming for a theft.

Treat this list as super-important. It’s recommended that you back up such a list just as you would a client’s files. Make sure your insurance agent gets a copy of this list, too.

The Advantages of Using a Single Lens for Professional Photography

The Power of Photography

Photography is powerful, it allows us to capture everything that is happening around us. It allows us to capture life as it unfolds. This is why I bring my camera with me wherever I go (as much as possible). This is also the reason why I love photography.

Through the photos that we photographers create, we’re able to reach out to different audience. We are able to deliver important messages in the most visually appealing ways. Through the photos we took, we interact with, influence, transform, and inspire people.

As such, it is our responsibility as photographers to make sure that the images we produce are striking, thought provoking, visually attractive, and unforgettable. To do this, we need to have the right equipment and know how to use them to our advantage.

A Professional Photographer’s Tools

A photographer’s most important tools or equipment are his camera and lenses. You can forget everything else except the two. All other tools – such as tripod, flash, filters, and light meter, among others – are secondary tools.

So when a photographer goes out to shoot, the first things he puts inside the bag are his camera and lenses. These lenses vary according to need or purpose. For example, there are lenses used specifically for architectural photography and there are those that are perfect for product shoots. Thus, most photographers bring more than one lens with them.

Lately, however, a lot of professional photographers have embraced the one lens practice. So instead of bringing a bag filled with varying lenses, they bring only one. In my case, as previously mentioned, I use my ever-reliable Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art Lens, no matter what the occasion or type of shoot may be.

There are several reasons why this practice has become quite widespread. First off, though, let’s talk about the one camera, one lens philosophy.

One Camera, One Lens Philosophy

The idea of using one camera and one lens for professional photography started with Henri Cartier-Bresson, a legend in the field of photography. The well-respected and highly admired French photographer was known for his works that cemented the quality of photojournalism and catapulted it into a form of art.

For the most part of his life as a photographer, even as he roamed around the world, Cartier-Bresson brought with him only his 50mm lens. With just one lens, he had more time and intention to focus on what he was doing. His style was usually to walk around the streets and when he sees something, he brings the camera to his eye and shoots. Nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, cameras then were way different from our cameras today. Nevertheless, the one camera, one lens philosophy still attracts quite a significant following.

Advantages of Using Only One Lens

A lot of photographers have benefitted from using just one lens for most of their work. Here are the most important advantages:

  1. Using one lens allows photographers to familiarize one focal length.
    If you constantly shift to and use different equipment, mastering your camera and lens will prove to be difficult because you won’t have time to familiarize yourself with what your tools can do. If you use just one camera and one lens, you’ll have time to master the focal length.For example, I prefer to use my 20mm for all my photography assignments or projects. Since I have been using it long enough, I have mastered its capabilities and can therefore easily adjust to situations like the distance of the subject or the amount of ambient light available.

    Additionally, since I know my lens quite well, I already have an idea of how the image will come out even before I start shooting. In other words, I can pre-frame a scene and visualize it way ahead of time.

    Discovering and mastering a lens is not easy. It can take weeks, months, or even years. If you use just one lens, you need to master only one focal length, and your work becomes easier.

  2. Using only one lens allows photographers to explore their creativity.
    Using just one lens for all photography projects will teach you to rely a lot on your creative juices. For example, how will you position your subject in a 20mm frame? Likewise, if you are shooting with a wide angle lens and you want to capture the emotions on your subject’s face, you’ll have to find a way to move closer to your subject without compromising the creative aspect of the scene or distorting its angle.With just one lens, and the same preset regardless of project type, you will learn how to come up with creative, innovative solutions to make sure that the images you want to produce will come out well.
  3. Using only one lens will help you save time.
    Yes, there is such a thing as wasting time in photography. There is this thing called G.A.S. or gear acquisition syndrome. It pertains to what photographers do – how everyone gets overly excited – when a new gear comes out. Well, it’s all right to get excited about new cameras and lenses, but it’s a different thing when you obsess about them to the point that you’re not able to do your job well anymore. (Yes, this happens in real life!)Anyway, with one camera and one lens only, you won’t have to worry about which camera or which lens to use. Sometimes, even when you’re about to step out of the house or office, you still haven’t made up your mind. With one option only, this won’t be a problem anymore.
  4. Using one lens is easier on the pocket and on your shoulders.
    If you use only one lens, choose one that is the best for you; invest on it, and save your money for other important needs. It’s definitely more practical and easier on the pocket.In addition to this, since you don’t have to bring a lot of lenses with you, there’s no need to worry about carrying too many things wherever you need to go. As such, you won’t be subjecting your shoulders and back to a lot of stress. Moving around will be easier, too.
  5. Using only one lens will result to more consistent and cohesive narrative photos.
    Because you are using just one lens, the images you capture will be more consistent and cohesive, particularly when you are taking landscape shots or portraits. This consistency and cohesiveness in photographic composition will make your images more effective in terms of creating a narrative for viewers. The consistency will also work well for your brand.

Improve Exposure in Landscape Photography

While most cameras today do a fairly decent job of properly exposing the scene at hand, they don’t get it right all the time.

In tricky lighting situations, it’s easy for your camera’s light meter to get confused resulting in an over or underexposed image. In other cases, where you may want to intentionally overexpose to draw out certain details, or underexpose to create a certain mood, leaving the settings up to your camera isn’t a good way to get the results that you’re after.

No matter what type of images you’re going for, or what effect you’re looking to create, having a clear understanding of exposure and knowing how to adjust your camera’s settings can help you to get the results that you’re after, each and every time.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can adjust your exposures for different situations, and make use of tools that can help you to capture those excellent shots.

Understanding the Exposure Triangle

First, let’s take a look at exposure itself. Exposure is based on three main components: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Each of these variables works together to allow light to reach the camera’s sensor; influencing the resulting image. Understanding these three components will give you to better control your images’ exposure.

  1. Aperture: Aperture is the size of the opening that allows the light in to hit the sensor.
  2. Shutter Speed: Shutter speed is the length of time that light is allowed through the aperture for.
  3. ISO: ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to the light. The higher the ISO, the higher the camera’s sensitivity.

All three of these components work together to create what’s known as the exposure triangle. When you adjust one, you must adjust another in order compensate.

The Metering Scale

Most cameras today use a process known as TTL metering, or, through the lens metering, which means that the camera examines the light coming through the lens and adjusts the settings accordingly.

You can see your camera’s meter readings, by switching to manual mode and looking through the viewfinder. The meter is usually found on the bottom or side and often appears as a number scale with a tiny triangle pointer above the numbers that indicates whether an image is properly exposed. The scale will have a 0 at the center, with numbers on the right to indicate overexposure, and on the left for underexposure. Getting the pointer as close to 0 as possible is usually ideal as this indicates proper exposure.

If you depress the shutter halfway, you will engage the meter and as you move the camera around you’ll notice the meter readings change, depending on where you’re focusing. This is because different objects are lighter or darker.

While the metering scale is great, it really only gives you a partial story. It tells you how much light you are getting, but it doesn’t show you where in the frame it is coming from or how much is coming from where. This is where metering modes come in.

Measuring the light or brightness of a scene is crucial for finding the ideal exposure for your image. Your camera should have a number of different ways that it can measure incoming light, here’s a quick look at how they work.

  1. Matrix or Evaluative Metering

    Matrix or Evaluative Metering is your default camera setting. With this setting, your camera will look at the light in the entire scene and average it, giving it what it considers to be the best lighting. This is a great mode for scenes that are evenly lit or, for those times where you’re not sure what exposure to use.

  2. Spot Metering or Partial Metering

    With Spot Metering, your camera focuses on a small area at the center of the frame and measures only the light in that specific space. Spot Metering is helpful for situations where the subject you are trying to capture is much brighter than the background, and is especially ideal for photographing backlit subjects as well as for situations where you have a specific area you would like to have the exposure based off of.

  3. Center-Weighted Average Metering

    With Center-Weighted Average Metering, your camera looks at light from the entire scene and averages it while emphasizing the center of the frame. This method is ideal for portraits since most subjects tend to be in the center of the frame, and often proves to be the most effective way to get the right exposure.

The mode that you chose will depend greatly on your desired focal point, available lighting, and of course, the type of image that you’re looking to create. Be sure to check your camera’s owner manual to find out how to change these settings on your camera.