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.

More information on Jim Zuckerman...

Article by Jim Zuckerman. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at