Digital Exposure: Metering White on White

by Jim Zuckerman

Baby Harp Seal
Baby Harp Seal
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
How do you meter a situation like this baby harp seal on snow where there are no middle tones at all? It's easy. You have two choices:
  • First, you can use a gray card (or a gray piece of fabric that matches the card in tone). You would place the card in the same light as the subject - in this case, it would be easy to do because the day was overcast and the light was even everywhere - and you'd take a reading on the card. You would then place the camera on manual exposure mode and set the f/stop and shutter speed per the metering reading you just took. The results would be a perfect exposure.

  • Or, number two, you could simply take a shot knowing that the image was going to be dark. Then, using the exposure compensation feature built into your camera, you could tweak the exposure in 1/3 f/stop increments until you liked the results.
This picture was taken near the Magdalene Islands off the coast of Nova Scotia on pack ice. I had been dropped by helicopter near a colony of the harp seals. It was 45 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

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