Getting the exposure right is one of the main challenges in film photography. It can be particularly disheartening for beginners who shoot with a manual film camera. A light meter is especially useful for this. If your camera has one built-in, you’re already a step ahead, as these film photography tips will show.

The key to getting the exposure right for any camera — film ones included — is knowing how to read light. When you’re just starting out, the light meter can help you learn how to read a scene. To help with this, Kyle McDougall shares his three tips for nailing exposures using the built-in light meter of your camera.

First, of course, you should understand how your meter works. You should be able to identify which part of the scene it’s pulling the reading from. Most vintage cameras come with a center weighted metering mode. But, to be sure, you can look up your camera’s manual online, and the metering modes available to you will be listed there.

Next, you need to be able to identify areas in the scene that are important to your meter reading. As McDougall explained through his sample photos, these include the main subject, and the rest of the scene that could throw off your reading for that.

Lastly, he also shared a quick trick for “cheating” the meter to intentionally overexpose your film. If your camera has an automatic mode, you can simply set the ISO dial to one or two stops down. However, this only applies to color negative film, because slide film require accurate metering.

Need more film photography tips and tricks like this? Make sure you drop by our group discussions if you’re already part of the Photofocus Community!