Thoughts on Exposure Calculators

Do you trust your light meter?… I don’t! Good exposure is the result of a healthy relationship between camera technology and your visual memory/ brains. In the video below I discuss other options to your in-camera meter or even a hand-held meter as a suggestion for creative growth and better photographic control.


Fred Parker Ultimate Exposure Computer

(Fred Parkers information on exposure is a  good read and something to spend a bit of time with.)

Rick Oleson Really Clever Pocket Exposure Calculator

Exposure Mat by Dave Harris

Andys Handy Exposure Calculator by Andrew Lawn

andyshandyexposurewithdof(In the video I call this Handy Andy’s Exposure Calculator and of course it is Andy’s Handy Exposure Calculator… sorry!) Just as a note this is my favorite Exposure Calculator from the list above.

The image to the left is Andy’s Handy Exposure Calculator with my attached Rollei 35 DOF Chart. What more could you want!?


and here is some good information on LV and EV…

What Are LV and EV by Ken Rockwell

One more Exposure Calculator…

Shoot Diana Exposure Calculator

The Shoot Diana Exposure Calculator is made specifically for the Diana+ camera by yours truly… it’s not free like the ones listed above but at only $5 it won’t break the bank either.

Happy shooting… Viva la Revolution- Stephen

Note: What was the first practical photographic light meter? The Weston Photronic Exposure Meter model 617 ca 1932/33.

20 thoughts on “Thoughts on Exposure Calculators

  1. Great minds think alike.

    I had ordered a black cat exposure a few days ago and it happened to a arrive today. I got it from this ebay merchant for $9.95 who also sales them in bulk (This might be an older version). Its seems to have everything including a gray card and its very well made. I cant wait to put it to use.

  2. Fantastic stuff. I just wanted to mention a couple of more durable (although unfortunately not free) options for people who use an iPhone or iPod Touch. First, there is an app called iksposher (i think you can also find it by searching for ‘exposure calc’) which is basically an exposure chart app. It lets you set your ISO, and choose whether to use it in ‘aperture priority’ or ‘shutter priority’ mode. You then choose your scene, and it gives you the correct exposure. My only gripe with it is that the scenes aren’t listed in order of their EV numbers. Instead, they are listed according to what the creator thought was the most common to the least common scenarios, biased toward nature photographers. It does, however, have guides for shooting moonlit scenes, night scenes, lightning, and fireworks. The other app I use on a regular basis is called Photo Calc. The most useful feature here is a depth of field calculator, which has settings for all types of film formats from 35mm to 8×10, as well as a boatload of different digital cameras. It also has sunrise/sunset info, a handy tool for flash photography, a glossary of terms, and a couple of other widgets. (note that I am not affiliated with either of these programmers, nor am I affiliated with apple, I am just a user of these, and think they are worth taking note of). I used to use Fred Parker’s charts, but I found that I had to print new ones on a pretty regular basis, as they tended to wear out on me fairly quickly. As much as I hate paying for ipod apps, these have definitely been worth it.

    Also, a handy method of composing your shots (for 50mm at least) is to extend your arms straight out in front of you, with your hands shoulder width apart. While keeping your arms/hands this distance apart, make L shapes with your thumb and forefinger, and make a rectangle that simulates that of a 35mm frame (or a square for 6×6, etc), and what you see inside that rectangle is roughly a 50mm frameline. It takes a little bit of practice to get exactly right, but it becomes very intuitive, and you can also get the hang of adjusting to portrait orientation as well as landscape.

    1. I tried the iTouch software and I like Photo Calc for Dof. The other programs to me were just not quick enough as the scale is… maybe this is just me trying not to spend all day on my iTouch! I use to have a video here on FR on Visualization techniques with a description on how to use the viewing card I mentioned and showed very quickly in the video… I will re record and post again next week as I find it very helpful esp for complex overlapping shots.


  3. Thanks for your complimentary comments about my exposure calculator Stephen! I’m glad to see people finding it useful. I really like what you’ve done in one of the later videos, where you’ve combined it with your DoF chart, and a framing card, AND the parallax range finder… a veritable photographer’s Swiss army knife 🙂

  4. The light meter you have on the table in video looks like an interesting device. I couldn’t quite make out the name you mentioned when you spoke of it. Could you provide a bit of detail for a curious gear freak?

  5. Thank you fro the link! This exposure calculator is a lot more simple and handy compared to what I have (Fred Parker’s).

    If I am using an XA (considering that the XA has an automatic exposure), do you think is ok to adjust its ISO setting so that I can achieve the proper exposure, using this exposure guide.

    For example, if I am using a flim with an ISO of 200 during a heavy overcast day, and my aperture is set at f/8, can I adjust the ISO setting (to either higher or lower than 200) in such a way that the shutter speed needle points to 125?

    1. Yes you can do that. I would try one frame with the camera meter suggestion and one frame using the tech you outlined and over a period of time you will discover in what situations you can trust your meter and in what situations you can not.


  6. Just to add to Stephen’s reply, Rene: adjusting the ISO setting like you described is the classic method of doing exposure compensation on these older cameras. Just remember to set it back afterwards, and try not to forget what ISO film you actually have in the camera 😉

    The example you gave – a heavily overcast day – is one situation where you probably wouldn’t need to do this though. The lighting will be quite even in those conditions, with no dark shadows, so the camera’s meter will probably be pretty reliable (if it is reliable at all).

    1. Andy… I agree. In most lighting situations where it is flat and lacks contrast the in camera meter will be fairly accurate if it is calibrated correctly… keeping a record of exposures over a period of time will help fine tune when to trust the meter and when not and also have the added benefit to training your eye to lighting conditions in photographic terms.


  7. Thanks a lot Andy and Stephen! The test roll for my XA just came today. It looks like the metering (consequently the shutter speed) of the cam is working fine. I have acceptable results with the camera set at the ISO of the film i used.

    But I think there is something wrong with the needle, it seems to point at a way slower shutter speed, although not affecting the actual shutter speed. For the frames I tried to compensate for (relying on the needle), the images came underexposed.

    Is it advisable to have the needle checked and repaired if necessary? I worry that the camera might be to sensitive to be opened up and tinker with.

  8. Hi Stephen
    Apologies, but I don’t get what you did. You’ve combined the exposure chart with your DoF chart, and a framing card, AND the parallax range finder.
    How does this all work? You laminated the lot and whilsts I see not problems laminating your DOF chart but with the exposure chart? How do you use the sliding scale?

    1. My lamination was packing tape so I covered the sheet before assembly/ but after folding then everything works perfect, the inner sliding card is cut/ taped and then inserted and trimmed to fit perfect on the sides due to the the slight increase in size because of the tape.


  9. Interesting discussion.

    I use only mechanical cameras (mostly cameras made in the 1950s), but I admit that I usually rely on an old handheld Sekonic meter.

    Is there some way to download this? On “play” it starts and stops so much that I can hardly follow the dialog.

    1. On a mac just hold the option key when you click on the audio and it will download… on a PC just left/ right click (I never remember which as I use both Mac and PC…gets very confusing) and an option for save or download will appear.


      I also use a hand held meter or in camera meter if there is one but this is a great backup or a way to save a few bucks if you don’t already have a meter.

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