There are so many options for exposure tools available to us these days. Gone are the days of having to guestimate with the Sunny 16 and similar rules. Now we can know with almost absolute certainty that we’ll get the shot we want before we’ve even hit the shutter or started recording video. This video from Matti at TravelFeels shows us several ways that our cameras and other devices can help us get perfect exposure every time.
For photography, getting exposure is generally not a huge problem. You’ve got your in-camera meter that you can see through the viewfinder. Perhaps the information is also displayed on a second LED on the top of your camera. It may also overlay it on the liveview screen.
For video exposure can get a little more tricky, especially if you’re constantly moving around from shot to shot. Matti uses a SmallHD field monitor to illustrate these features, but some of them are built straight into DSLRs. Many recent DSLRs, for example, offer a live histogram showing you exactly where everything sits with your current exposure settings.
1. Live Histogram
As mentioned, the Live Histogram allows you to see the histogram of your scene while you’re looking at it. Many mirrorless cameras do this by default. DSLRs will have to be in live view mode. As with the regular histogram, all of the shadows and darker tones are on the left side of the histogram with the lighter tones and highlights on the right. Then everything else sits somewhere in between.
While the histogram isn’t perfect, it does allow you to quickly see if anything’s blown out to pure black or white.
2. The Waveform
The waveform works similarly to the histogram, and essentially shows you the same information, but in a very different way. With a histogram, the darker portion of the image is on the left with the lighter on the right, showing an overall ratio of your entire image. Here, the brightness is illustrated from top to bottom (brightest at the top, darkkest at the bottom). The horizontal axis is literally a literal horizontal representation of your image.
This way, if you have a big chunk blown out to pure white in a certain part of your image, you can see exactly where in your image it is. For example, in this screenshot, you can easily see the bright light blowing out and going above the line in the vectorscope.
Although this is an extreme example, being able to match up the waveform horizontally exactly with the original shot allows you to more easily see just where things are hitting the extremes.
3. False Colour
This is a mode that initially seems quite useless to many people. How does this help you judge exposure? Well, essentially, the false colour mode uses the entire hue range to represent different levels of exposure and make it easier to see exactly what’s to dark, just right, or too bright. It works this way so as to prevent subjective viewpoints from affecting the exposure. Things can often look a little brighter or darker than they really are without any assistance, causing you to under or overexpose the shot.
Essentially, though, it allows you to very quickly see if parts of an image are over or underexposed. The colours ranging from blue to orange represent pure black to pure white. Outside of these are the extremes which are completely blown out. Inside are a range of other colours that allow you to quickly see where in the brightness range a part of your shot sits.
These three tools are contained within many external monitors you might use with a DSLR, mirrorless or dedicated video camera. But some of them also exist within the cameras themselves. If you don’t want to go to the hassle and expence of an external monitor just to get these features for your DSLR, however, there are other options. I get these tools on my DSLRs using qDslrDashboard running on iOS, Android and Windows devices. It offers live histogram and false colour as well as full remote control, and it can do it all over Wi-Fi.
Some of these features also exist in post to allow you to more easily match different shots so that they fit together when edited. Even though you might meter perfectly on set, there is often some very slight inconsistency if there’s a massive variance in dynamic range between clips. The Waveform exists as part of Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve and many other editing applications.
If all else fails, and you don’t like any of these metering methods, you can always just get yourself a Sekonic, too. Even with all the other options we have available to us now, I still trust my Sekonic L-758DR the most.