“Shade” is Not Just One Setting – It is Many!
This blogpost shows you color temperature and exposure can vary by QUITE A LOT in shade. And the lessons here apply whether you are photographing mushrooms, people, or building interiors – and whether your light source is natural light, LEDs, or flash – or some combination. Consistency and accuracy are common performance issues for the automatic controls built into cameras. Get better results the first time with the Illuminati Meter.
Fun with Fungi
It has rained quite a bit recently and the fungi are out! I took a little nature walk and and gathered image comparisons between my mirrorless camera’s AUTO settings, and manually setting white balance and exposure with the data from the Illuminati Meter. We show how your camera’s Auto White Balance and Auto Exposure can interfere with what you want most from your image capture equipment: consistency and accuracy.
Reflected Light Readings Lead to Bad Color Balance
The images above are JPEGs straight out of the camera. The camera’s auto functions missed the color entirely, and would require some software editing to improve that. But, why did it get the color wrong? Well, the camera’s meter views the light reflected from the subject (commonly known as a REFLECTED METER), and makes a guess regarding what the color balance might be. The color of the subject itself interferes with the ability of the meter to estimate the color temperature. For more on REFLECTED and INCIDENT meter types, we will write a blogpost and link it to this article.
The camera saw a lot of yellow-brown reflected from the scene, decided the light source was yellow, and tried to correct it by adding blue to the image and reducing the red. As a result the nice brown mulch is closer to gray than brown.
The Illuminati Meter measures the light falling on the subject and calculates the color of the light source correctly. It is not corrupted by the color of the subject.
For proof – take a look at the meter’s dome in the Illuminati Meter image. It is a white because the light source color temperature has been measured properly. It has shape & specular highlights because the light intensity has been measured properly – the highlights have detail in them.
Over-exposed, Wrong Color Balance
The image result is similar here. The camera tried to turn the image gray, while the metered image has the right color balance. Note also that the camera-metered image is too bright.
Severe Over-exposure, Wrong Color Balance
This exposure behavior is fairly typical of reflected light readings – the camera algorithm sees a dark scene and wants to make it brighter by over-exposing. But our subject is dark by nature – we WANT the subject to be dark! The Illuminati Meter captures it the way nature intended. And there is still room for highlight detail, as evidenced by the meter’s dome. And the color is right.
Under-exposure, Color Balance Still Off
This time the image is too dark. The camera’s AE system sees a white blob in the middle of the image, assumes the image is brighter than it is, and exposes to make it darker. And, as in the previous examples, the color is off. The image captured with settings from the Illuminati Meter is consistent with the others in this set: great, natural, color and exposure that leaves room for highlight detail.
The Illuminati Meter Gives You Consistent Color & Exposure
Even though the color temperature and exposure varied a lot in these shady scenes, the Illuminati Meter accurately read the light and gave us beautifully matched images. JPEGs can be used right out of the camera, or give you the right starting point if you are editing. Who wants to spend time fixing color and exposure issues, when your goal is to focus on your art and craft?
The Illuminati Meter delivers the consistency and accuracy you need to be productive no matter what your subject.
Get yours today!
Notes on Image Capture
My mirrorless interchangeable lens camera used its AWB (Auto White Balance) and AE (Auto Exposure) functions to estimate the color balance and exposure for the comparison images on the left. I used Aperture priority mode so I could set the aperture and maintain the same depth-of-field for all the pairs of images. So the shutter speed varied depending on the estimated exposure.
On the right, the Illuminati Meter measured the amount of light and the color of the light. With the camera set to Manual mode, I entered the shutter speed (ISO and aperture were already preset on the camera) from the smartphone. I entered the white balance using the camera’s Manual White Balance setting for Kelvin color temperature. NOTE: There is, of course, no need to have the meter in the shot. I left it there so I had an immediate reminder of which image was metered with the Illuminati Meter. The white dome and black body are useful as references for exposure and color too.
The color temperature in the shade varied enormously among these images, from 5600K to 9800K. In spite of this broad range, I got consistent color and exposure in my images, with JPEGs usable right out of the camera. That’s what a color temperature and exposure meter can do for you!
|Camera Setting||Settings for AWB, AE Images||Settings for Illuminati Meter Images|
|Shooting Mode||Aperture Priority
(camera estimates shutter speed)
|Shutter Speed||varied (1/6 – 1/100 sec)||varied (1/25 – 1/160)|
|White Balance||AWB||Meter values in Kelvin|
So the exposure recommendation from the meter gives you the setting for middle grey, right? Is there any way to meter for different cameras that put middle grey at different values? I’m not sure how to use the exposure meter for video for that reason…
Hi Ian –
Quick answer: The Illuminati meter apps (iPhone and Android) have sensitivity adjustments for both ambient and flash in the device settings screen. The readings can be adjusted in 1/10 stop increments.
There is a longer answer that involves differences between reflected readings and incident readings and how those affect the brightness of the image – and that calls for another blog post.