photography meter

Photography Tip - Camera meter is only for ambient light with external flash on

When using an external flash mounted on your DSLR's hotshoe, the camera's meter is telling you the exposure for the ambient/background light.  So if your subject is standing in the shade, then you should meter off of the background light to set your shutter speed.  The aperture setting and speedlight power will be the exposure settings for your subject.  Essentially, the camera's meter does not know you have a flash on and are going to use it to expose the foreground subject (person, etc).  In shade especially, the subject should not be metered off of for setting the shutter speed.  

So when setting up an an external flash shot with it mounted to your DSLR's hotshoe, even before the subject is in place set your shutter speed to expose the background light properly.  Now place your subject where you like and set the aperture and flash power to exposure the subject correctly, and your previously set shutter speed will take care of exposing the background properly.  Try this methodology the next time you use your external flash.  Of course, your DSLR should be set to manual mode, as well as your external flash.

Manual Mode shooting tip - read the meter first then the histogram after the shot

If you are hesitant to use manual mode on your DSLR because of concern over getting the exposure right, you DSLR has the tools you need to help you!  Before you push the shutter you can use your camera's meter to get an idea of what it thinks the exposure should be.  Then after the shot read the histogram to see how the exposure really came out.  After using these two tools you can then adjust your exposure settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) to get the results you want.

Shooting in manual exposure mode is greatly simplified if you use the meter before pressing the shutter, then read the histogram after pressing the shutter.  Try it out and let me know in the comments below how it worked for you!