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Chapter 7. Technical information > Using a gray card for proper exposure

Using a gray card for proper exposure

A camera's built-in meter allows you to determine the correct exposure for your shots. Many cameras do this automatically and do it well, but it's important to keep in mind that various lighting or subject situations can trick meters into making less-than-ideal exposures. This is when it's handy to have a gray card to act as a midtone reference for your camera's meter, to help you get the best exposure possible. (A gray card is a piece of heavy cardboard that reflects 18 percent of the light hitting it—perfect for setting exposure levels.) Once you know how to use a gray card, we're sure you'll find it to be a worthwhile addition to your photo kit.

How light meters work

Light meters are basically averaging devices. When you point your camera at a scene, the camera gathers the tonal information and tries to create a midtone. This works if your scene has a good balance of tones. However, certain situations can trick the meter. That's where the gray card can help because it's essentially an artificial midtone that you can add to your scene to help your meter take a good reading.


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