White on White

I think I went through the idea of how the camera’s light meter see’s everything as 18% gray and unless corrected will render white or black scenes as a middle gray.  Here’s an easy way to test what I’ve said and to learn how to make necessary corrections.

The 40D which I’m currently using has three metering patters: spot, center-weighted, and the entire frame.  For this exercise I set the metering pattern to center-weighted, pointed a bulb at a large very white box of printing paper, put a hinge in the center to focus on and then shot it in the following order:

1) No corrections.  The camera does it’s best to make the white box gray.

2) Over-exposed by one-stop.  Better, but not quite white.

3) Over-exposed by two stops.  That’s white.  There is fall-off in the upper right corner but that’s from how the scene is lit (badly).

and 4) I make corrections in Lightroom, including brightening the upper right corner with the gradient tool.

Next up, I’ll do the same thing with a black portfolio case… stay tuned.

Another way to get a good white or black tone is to take a reading from an 18% gray card under the same lighting conditions as you’ll be shooting and just leave the exposure settings there.  And yes – they still make gray cards for this purpose.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.