When we line up the exposure needle on the correct setting or choose the center red dot on our LED meter, we expect the best exposure. But we don't always get it.

No machine is perfect: You can trust your meter just so far. Then you have to step in and help it makes a decision. You may well say that the manufacturer tells you this meter averages the light from the scene, so you'll get a good exposure simply by pointing the camera and shooting.

Right, you will get a good exposure. But not the best. The reason is that the averaging meter can't compensate for extreme lighting conditions, only for the average.

In these extreme conditions, first determine the most important part of the picture. If it's the sky, as for a sunset, then take in only the sky area by tilting your camera up to eliminate ground detail. Set up your exposure for this reading, then tilt the camera back down to your original composition and shoot.

If you want the best exposure on a backlighted figure on the beach, move in close so you eliminate the sky, take the exposure reading, move back, and use that setting for your picture.

And if you want the sun in your picture area, or another source of bright light such as a welder's torch, just move your field of view to the left or right so that the light source is not in your viewfinder, take your exposure reading and then shift back and include the bright light -- but leave your exposure setting alone.

For the typical snapshot of people or a landscape with the sun at your back, you can trust your through-the-lens meter as is. But even for these average pictures you should help the meter's decision.

If the subject is standing against a brightly sunlighted white wall, move in close (just like for the backlighted beach scene) and take a reading from the face: Use that setting for the portrait. If the background is dark -- the subject standing sunlit in front of a shaded porch, say -- again take a closeup reading and then move back to camera position for your shot.

There's only one way to tell if you're getting the best exposure: Make a series of test esposures just like the pros do. First determine your exposure in your usual way, then make two added exposures two stops more and two stops less. So, if your normal exposure is 1/125th at f/5.6, then shoot two more at f/8 and f/11 and at f/4 and f/2.8. (If you're a sharpshooter, make the added exposures with only a half-stop difference.)

This will give a bracket of exposures to compare on your light table. As you examine the slides or negatives, you'll be amazed at the difference a slight change in exposure can make. The test may even convince you to change your technique and go for the best instead of settling for just better.

Q. You suggested using extender rings to increase the image size from the same distance. I suspect that you meant to use a tele-extender or a doubler which doubles the focal length of the lens .

A. No, I really meant that you could get a larger-sized image with an extender ring on a 200mm to 400mm telephoto but I was wrong in saying that this could be done from the same distance.

The extender rings do enable you to get closer to the subject -- a small bird, bor example -- and thereby give you a larger image. A 200mm lens that focuses only as close as 6 1/2 feet can be focused at three feet with aid of a Micro-Nikkor extender ring.

Q. I am going on a trip and expect to take my camera with me. My homeowner's insurance policy covers my camera at home, gut what about abroad ?

A. The same homeowner's policy, or renter's policy if you're renting, will cover usually up to $500 in camera equipment on a trip. You can up the amount with an additional endorsement for the full value.

These policies however, will not insure professional equipment or cameras used for business. For professional use you have to take out another policy. It's wise to check on your insurance before leaving. If you do not use the equipment for business you can take the premiums off as business expense.

The average cost for such insurance should be about $1.31 per thousand dollars for non-professional coverage and four percent to five percent of valuation for pro equipment.

Q. How does a photographer go about forwarding a picture of an event that just happened, such as a fire or an accident, to a local newspaper? And do they pay for such pictures ?

A. Usually newspapers have their own staff photographers who cover news events, but there is always the possiblity that an amateur, or for that matter another pro, will happen on the scene beforehand.

If you take what yuou whink is a news picture before the regular photographer arrives, the best bet is to call the city desk of the local paper, describe the event and ask if they are interested. Only after such inquiry should you take the photos in to the paper.

Yes, there is payment for such photography -- or it may open the door to newsphotography if you're interested. But don't count on a once-in-a-lifetime news shot. Many pros spend all their life looking for the big picture while covering their more mundane daily assignments.