Camera Bag Metering


More often than not, when shooting in the mixed light of partially-shaded areas – such as under canopy or near water where available light can be a spotty mixture of shadow and highlight – it can be difficult at times to locate a neutral tone on which to meter an accurate exposure.  For this reason, seasoned shooters will typically carry a gray card in their bag to combat this common issue.

For those new to metering, our cameras see and relate a white tone as a neutral gray.  In a nutshell: when we (spot) meter on something bright, the camera will attempt to bring that tone down to an 18% neutral gray, the image will under-expose and we lose our shadow detail.  Conversely, when metering on a heavy shadow, the camera will raise the exposure and we invariably lose our highlight detail.  Metering on an object as close to neutral, and specifically 18% gray as possible will yield a more consistent tone curve and color balance every time.

No gray card?  No worries.  As it turns out, our old gray camera bags were designed as such for precisely this purpose.  In days gone by, when film shooters without access to the conveniences provided by today’s digital darkroom should forget to throw a gray card in the bag, they could always use the neutral tone of the bag itself to achieve a more accurate exposure.

Next time you find yourself shooting in varying light with no gray card on hand, just place the old gray shoulder bag in the same light, spot meter on the neutral tone, re-frame and enjoy the results.

Necessary as they are, cards can be easily lost, lifted or left behind in a hurry.  These days, I’ve learned to not go far without the old gray bag..

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you find the information useful. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below or drop me a line at any time.

Originally posted via

backinthesaddle2016Mark Morrow is a practicing Virginia-based photographer, podcaster and writer specializing in real estate and architectural projects, as well as commercial product and portraiture.

To view more of Mark’s work, please click here.

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