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Your X-Pro1 may be lying to you!

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#1 cdodkin

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 10:22 PM

You've spent a small, or even a large fortune on your camera, it's state of the art, has bells, whistles, and even built-in metering.

You head-out to take photos, secure in the knowledge that some boffin engineers have programmed your cameras metering system to give you perfect exposure every time.

You set up your shot - choose your aperture, and click - the camera has chosen a shutter speed and your shot is in the bag.

Here's what my X-Pro1 came up with:

Posted Image

1/160 f/8 ISO200


But what if this exposure wasn't 'correct', or I should say optimal.....

How else could we judge the correct exposure for this scene?


You can use a hand-held light meter to set your exposure - an incident meter measures the light falling on it, and gives you an exposure value

Posted Image

It has a little white dome which you point at your light source - in this case the Sun, and you can set ISO and in this case f/8 for aperture, and the meter provides an optimal value for shutter speed.

My meter in full Sun gave me a value of 1/500 f/8 ISO200

I set my X-Pro1 to those settings and got this shot:

Posted Image

As you'd expect, the change in shutter speed has produced a darker image - the colors are more saturated, the highlights are muted, and the shadows are deep black.

If you compare detail from the camera exposure and incident exposure, you can really see the difference.

Posted Image
Posted Image

The rocks in full sun are now better exposed, as you;d expect because you took a meter reading of full sun.

But the shadows are now so dark that you've lost a lot of detail in those areas.


So what other options do you have?

This is where you can use a spot meter to help you gauge the optimal exposure.

A spot meter measures exposure from reflected light off of the subject - rather than the incident lighting we measured with the meter before.

It has a small viewfinder through which you see a highly magnified section of the scene, usually representing just 1 degree field of view.

Posted Image

Using a spot meter I can look at my scene and select a precise area to meter from.

But which area do I use?

If I point at the pillar in the sun, I get a reading of 1/1000. But if I point at the area of shade under the porch I get a reading of 1/60! :(

In fact, as I point it around the scene I get a whole load of different readings, depending on what I'm pointing at.

Posted Image

The results vary because different objects reflect different amounts of light - so how do I get to the 'optimal' setting?

This is where a spot meter can be useful - you put each reading into memory, selecting the brightest area in the shot, the darkest, and some in between.

Then you ask the meter to find the average exposure - it comes up with a value which is bang in the middle of the values you've put into memory.

That's cool - I could plug this into my camera and shoot - but hold on a minute!

What happens if the difference between that value and say the darkest area, was more than my camera could cope with?

What if the dynamic range of my film or sensor couldn't cope with that big a difference? Same goes for the brightest area.

A good meter will show you the spread of readings on an analogue scale to give you an idea.


And of even more use is a feature where you can look through the viewfinder on the spot meter, and pan around your scene, and the meter will tell you how far over or under that point is, compared to the average value you're proposing to use for exposure.

So the dark areas will be a -EV reading, i.e. darker than the average, and the lightest areas will have a +EV reading, as they are brighter than the average reading.

As long as your Ev reading stay within the dynamic range of your film or sensor, you're golden!

+/- 2 for slide film is safe, +/- 2.5 for print film, +/- 3 or more for digital.

Here's what we get from our sample points in this scene:

Posted Image

The grass is at 0 EV - this is a confirmation of a tip on metering - if you have nothing else to check exposure, set it for a piece of green grass - seems to hold true!

The pillar is at EV +1.9, the shadow area in the porch is at EV -2.8 etc etc.

So you get a feel for where various objects will fall in the way of dark/light shading - and whether they are going to fit within the dynamic range of your film/sensor.

My max Ev difference is 2.8, so I'm good for digital (but would be unable to capture this full range on slide film)

I set my X-Pro1 to the calculated average spot value from my meter - which is 1/250 f/8 ISO200 - and take a shot:

Posted Image

As calculated, the highlights are clean without being blown out, and there's still detail in the shadows.

If you look at that detail view of the average exposure, you can clearly see how it differs from the Camera Exposure and the Incident Exposure.

Posted Image

It sounds way more complicated than it is - and it really doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do when shooting from a tripod.

You can take it further, and convert the various exposure levels into Zones, as used by Ansel Adams et al - very useful for B&W exposure.

There's another whole book on that - suggest you read Ansel Admas The Negative

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Hopefully you can see how using the meter and some basic logic has enabled the capture of a better image in-camera - leading to potentially better image quality all the way through post processing.

Sure there's a lot you can do with digital these days to 'fix' exposure - but getting it right in camera is preferable, and with slide film it's critical.

So now you know - your X-Pro1 has been lying to you all this time.. :P
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#2 golgo13

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 11:05 PM

You, Flysurfer, Arjay = the best Fuji guys I have ever read anything from. Yes this post is not rocket science but you still post some of the most quality stuff on this forum and any other forum dealing with Fuji cameras.

UGH YOU HAVE ALL THE NICE NEW TOYS TOOOOOOOO!

Check my work out at http://www.themsquaredgroup.com/


#3 Jeroen

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 12:35 AM

Just out of curiousity... What kind of metering was your camera set to in the first shot?

Also, if you'd set your camera to spot-metering, couldn't you take several readings, just like you did with the lightmeter?
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#4 AusPhotoHiker

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 12:58 AM

All good. Love to nail the exposure like that, but those Sekonic L758DR meters are over $500.

Are there any other worthwhile meters for less money?

Cheers, Mike.

 

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#5 MuMinded

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 01:35 AM

Would it be blasphemy if I said I prefer the original image the most? Yes, it is "slightly" over exposed but I feel this closest reveals an image taken in the American SW.... The "optimal" shot is too dark in the shadow areas and just does not feel right to me..

Great write-up and walk-through of this system.. Even though it's the basics, and I have Ansel's "The Negative" on my shelf right now (actually, I have all three in that series), it's always good to refresh the thinking..

MuMinded

#6 JasperD

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 05:18 AM

A very enjoyable reading and resulting image! Thanks for taking the time to spell it out (again), looks like I could use a refresh indeed...

#7 jknights

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 05:37 AM

All good. Love to nail the exposure like that, but those Sekonic L758DR meters are over $500.

Are there any other worthwhile meters for less money?

:lol: I was looking at one the other day and baulked at the £330. It is the Rolls-Royce of meters.

I think the Sekonics L358 has a 1º attachment that replaces the incident globe.
Posted Image

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Sekonic NP Finder 1 Degree for L-358 Lightmeter


My L308 doesnt so I can only use incident metering.
That said I have found with my Nikons that if I underexpose EV-0.3 in overcast and EV-0.7 in sunny conditions with some clouds and EV-1.0 in full sun conditions that I get much better results.
I use similar settings on my XPro1 and it seems to work well.
As we get into winter I will need to check my values to see if they need to change.

If you want to individually meter parts of your image the spot meter in the XPro1 seems to work fairly well. I tend to have my camera set on Avg Metering as this equates well with my expectations when I have the EV settings set.
This brings us to the point again as to whether EV settings should apply when in full Manual exposure mode. I think Yes but that is just so I dont have to keep adjusting all the dials, but I can see Fuji's logic in that if you are doing Manual exposure setting then EV shouldnt come into play.



BTW: I can heavily recommend the Ansel Adams book that Chris showed a link to. :D

There is also another very good book that is called.... MASTERING Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers, by Lee Varis.
It is excellent and he uses the Sekonic L758DR meter for his examples.
Always Nikon and Fuji cameras.

Still learning after all these years!
Website http://www.jmknights.com


#8 M4cr0s

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 07:22 AM

Good example and well explained, you know your esposure theory! :)

I'm a RAW and ETTR shooter, but I shoot mostly jpgs with the X-Pro1 for the time being so I have to go for a bit more balanced exposures or use DR200/400. The ETTR technique is somewhat difficult with the X-cameras as they have no color histogram. I find the basic luminance variety in the shooting display or in image review pretty much unusable as you really need to see the red channel to judge highlight clipping. However with experience you learn to eyeball things pretty good, even from looking at jpg previews and you also learn how the camera tends to expose in different situations. I.e. red flowers or cloth means you really need to watch your exposure lest you blow the red channel beyond oblivion and filling the frame with a pitch black dog will lead to very confused metering. Metering off a specific area with the AF-L button (for instance the sky on a bright high DR day) or making exposure compensations is quick and easy. Also, understanding the light meter of the camera and the different metering modes means you can safely go out and about without an external light meter, but this is old news, been like this for quite a while now :D Obviously RAW give a lot of freedom in the exposure area too...

On the other hand, nothing wrong with doing it slow and considerate with an external light meter, I just personally find it a bit over the top with a digital body. For film it's an entirely different matter.

Mac

#9 artuk

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 07:44 AM

As asked earlier, could the cameras spot meter be used the same way?

My Minolta Dynax 7 (film SLR) had a wonderful feature that would allow you to see the EV distribution around the scene from the meter zones on the rear LCD based on the current exposure. I used it in a similar way to the process you describe using your external meter - spot from different areas, average an exposure, then check the exposure distribution across the scene. It's a shame a similar feature does not exist on digital cameras - I appreciate the histogram serves a similar purpose - but seeing how zones of the photo relate to the exposure in +/- EV would be a very powerful feature and easy to implement on digital cameras.

Interesting that in the end the camera exposure was about +0.5EV over. Before FW2.0 I often used -1/3 or -2/3EV as the matrix meter always seemed to over exposure a little, although FW 2 does seem to have changed that. The last time I used the camera "in anger" I didn't seem to need negative exposure compensation as much as before. Do others find that?

#10 cdodkin

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 07:46 AM

Just out of curiousity... What kind of metering was your camera set to in the first shot?

Also, if you'd set your camera to spot-metering, couldn't you take several readings, just like you did with the lightmeter?


Good questions

Camera metering was multi

You can use SPOT on the X-Pro1, and this is tied to the center of the frame. This gets you a single reading, so you'd have to move the camera around the scene, do your own math on average reading, and then perhaps use the histogram to get an idea of dynamic range.

Not as definitive as the hand-held meter, but it may be useful to give it a try.

Note, the SPOT does not move with the AF point, it stays locked at the center 2% of the frame.
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#11 cdodkin

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 07:52 AM

All good. Love to nail the exposure like that, but those Sekonic L758DR meters are over $500.

Are there any other worthwhile meters for less money?


There are cheaper meters available which you can then add a spot capability to.

The Sekonic L-358 is a lower priced digital meter, and you can then buy a 1 degree spot attachment for it to use it as a spot meter.

Or you can go to EBAY and find a whole load of spot meters being sold of by people who think that they're no longer needed after they gave up using film!

So some used bargains to be had - including some older models which still deliver everything you'd need.

#12 cdodkin

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 07:55 AM

Would it be blasphemy if I said I prefer the original image the most? Yes, it is "slightly" over exposed but I feel this closest reveals an image taken in the American SW.... The "optimal" shot is too dark in the shadow areas and just does not feel right to me..

Great write-up and walk-through of this system.. Even though it's the basics, and I have Ansel's "The Negative" on my shelf right now (actually, I have all three in that series), it's always good to refresh the thinking..

MuMinded


Thats the great thing about exposure - there's no 'right' value, just variations of preference :)

#13 stevej

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 08:28 AM

Ah the good old days :)

Two possible shortcuts that seem to work for me...

1. Set the meter to "average". This seems to work better in bright scenes, possibly because its doing something similar? Its my default setting for high contrast.
2. Use the live histogram and apply -ve EVcomp until the right hand spike has disappeared.

However, even in your first example I reckon LR would recover the highlights in the bricks, in other words it's only blown out on the JPEG, but not on the RAW. Always impressed just how much info I can recoup in RAW.

One place I cannot seem to avoid using my Sekonic - using studio flash. No way around it.

#14 TropicalYankee

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 08:45 AM

Chris,
Great post that I think will be very helpful to many (and not just X-Pro1 owners).

How have you found the ETTR technique while using the in-camera meter's settings?

I've been ETTRing with Canons for years and have been doing it with the X-Pro1 as well. With the X-Pro1 I'm finding more and more that the technique is not as necessary (at least for the results I like).

Would you mind taking your first shot (1/160 f8) and just pulling back the highlights in post? I would love to see how this compares to your calculated image. Thanks.

#15 cdodkin

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 09:22 AM

Chris,
Great post that I think will be very helpful to many (and not just X-Pro1 owners).

How have you found the ETTR technique while using the in-camera meter's settings?

I've been ETTRing with Canons for years and have been doing it with the X-Pro1 as well. With the X-Pro1 I'm finding more and more that the technique is not as necessary (at least for the results I like).

Would you mind taking your first shot (1/160 f8) and just pulling back the highlights in post? I would love to see how this compares to your calculated image. Thanks.


I find that the X-Pro1 MULTI mode metering does ETTR very well itself - you then need to add 'black' back in during PP to taste.

It can still be fooled though, as in this case.

In this case, even with -100 highlight recovery in ACR, there are still highlights showing as blown, although the over-all look of the image is greatly improved - RAW files are excellent for this sort of recovery of highlights, but there are limits of course.

Here's the original camera exposure shot with -100 highlight recovery in ACR

Posted Image

#16 TropicalYankee

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 11:26 AM

I find that the X-Pro1 MULTI mode metering does ETTR very well itself - you then need to add 'black' back in during PP to taste.

It can still be fooled though, as in this case.

In this case, even with -100 highlight recovery in ACR, there are still highlights showing as blown, although the over-all look of the image is greatly improved - RAW files are excellent for this sort of recovery of highlights, but there are limits of course.

Here's the original camera exposure shot with -100 highlight recovery in ACR

Posted Image


Thanks for posting this. I agree with you on the Multi mode doing ETTR itself and having to add blacks back in. I like the shadow areas on the new image better than the adjusted image but, they are so close that both look good and you can really only pick the "better" one by having multiple choices.

#17 wchutt

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 11:39 AM

All light meters lie. The exception is when they meter a neural gray object and the light temperature of homogeneous throughout the scene. Otherwise the meter reading is an estimate. Most of the time the estimate is useful. Occasionally the estimate is off. The popularity of exposure compensation controls is testimony that the photographer should think about hoe relevant the meter estimate is for the scene of interest. Many meters assume every thing is neutral gray in color. This means even careful spot meter readings are only estimates unless they are reading a neutral gray target. Nikon (and others?) reduce the estimate uncertainty by evaluating the color during the metering. This helps in some cases but fails in others.

I have photographed more than a thousand residences in daylight. Unless it is just after dawn, just before sunset, or a cloudy day, every single scene challenged or exceeded the dynamic range of a D700. Over 3/4 of the time the metered exposure was inappropriate regardless of the parameters used to control the metering system options.

Ed Martinec published an academic article about the physics of digital imaging in photography.

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In this article he explains how to expose for optimal image quality (which means maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio, which also maximizes the dynamic range). The theory and data indicate you should increase the exposure to the point that any highlights of interest are just below the point where they are clipped. If the highlights are not important, you should clip them. This method is commonly referred to as exposing to the right, but many don't feel that is the right terminology. The ISO selection should be set to obtain the slowest possible shutter speed that will give the required DOF and minimized blur from camera movement. If you accept Martinec's analysis, this is the best you can do with a single exposure.

If you use this method on the subject in this thread, you will find the shadow regions are too dark (for commercial use anyway). This means if you recorded a raw image you can selectively reduce the exposure in the highlight regions while selectively increasing the exposure of the shadow regions. Of course you can do the same thing with jpegs, but there is less information to work which limits what can be accomplished. Anyway, the Martinec method combined with selective exposure adjustments is the best way to handle high dynamic range scenes like the one in this thread.

Some people think high ISO performance is an overrated fad similar to the megapixel marketing wars. The physics says otherwise. Signal-to-noise ratio is king. When you selectively pull the shadow regions' exposure during raw rendering a sensor with a superior signal to noise ratio will give better detail and definition.

When I photograph a residence like this one, I let the tripod mounted D700 estimate the exposure. Then I bracket 7 exposures in one stop increments centered about the Nikon meter's estimate. One of the 7 often gives a commercially acceptable result. If not, I fuse the exposures. Exposure fusion avoids the unrealistic look of HDR tone mapping.

For a casual handheld photograph with the XP-1, I would use a relatively fast shutter speed and use the aperture priority bracketing function. The 1, 2/3 or 1/3 shutter speed steps would be selected based on the dynamic range of the scene. During post processing would select the exposure with the best highlights and discard the others.

#18 hepcat

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 12:12 PM

You've spent a small, or even a large fortune on your camera, it's state of the art, has bells, whistles, and even built-in metering.

You head-out to take photos, secure in the knowledge that some boffin engineers have programmed your cameras metering system to give you perfect exposure every time.

You set up your shot - choose your aperture, and click - the camera has chosen a shutter speed and your shot is in the bag.

1/160 f/8 ISO200


But what if this exposure wasn't 'correct', or I should say optimal.....

How else could we judge the correct exposure for this scene?


You can use a hand-held light meter to set your exposure - an incident meter measures the light falling on it, and gives you an exposure value

My meter in full Sun gave me a value of 1/500 f/8 ISO200


As you'd expect, the change in shutter speed has produced a darker image - the colors are more saturated, the highlights are muted, and the shadows are deep black.


The rocks in full sun are now better exposed, as you;d expect because you took a meter reading of full sun.

But the shadows are now so dark that you've lost a lot of detail in those areas.


So what other options do you have?

This is where you can use a spot meter to help you gauge the optimal exposure.

A spot meter measures exposure from reflected light off of the subject - rather than the incident lighting we measured with the meter before.


But which area do I use?

If I point at the pillar in the sun, I get a reading of 1/1000. But if I point at the area of shade under the porch I get a reading of 1/60! :(

In fact, as I point it around the scene I get a whole load of different readings, depending on what I'm pointing at.

As calculated, the highlights are clean without being blown out, and there's still detail in the shadows.

It sounds way more complicated than it is - and it really doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do when shooting from a tripod.

You can take it further, and convert the various exposure levels into Zones, as used by Ansel Adams et al - very useful for B&W exposure.

There's another whole book on that - suggest you read Ansel Admas The Negative

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Hopefully you can see how using the meter and some basic logic has enabled the capture of a better image in-camera - leading to potentially better image quality all the way through post processing.

Sure there's a lot you can do with digital these days to 'fix' exposure - but getting it right in camera is preferable, and with slide film it's critical.

So now you know - your X-Pro1 has been lying to you all this time.. :P


The Zone System LIVES!!! LONG LIVE THE ZONE SYSTEM!!!

Darn it... there you go revealing all of us "old guys'" secrets!!!

A well written treatise on a time-proven way to measure exposure. If it's ok, I'll throw a couple more out there for you that will yield good exposures 95% of the time:

Meter on the back of your hand. It's pretty close to an 18% gray card. Meter in the sun and meter in the shade and determine whether you want your exposure to better show the highlights or shadows. Digital sensors respond more closely to transparency film... bracket a stop either way and you've got a nearly perfectly exposed scene. You're better off exposing for the highlights most of the time as shown in your treatise above.

Or... just remember the old "Sunny 16" rule. Set your shutter speed and ISO to be the same value; in this case 1/200th of a second, and shoot at f/16. You can, of course use any variant of that EV value, On a cloudy day, shoot at f/8 (two stops greater.) That rule alone will give you 95% of the information you need to shoot without using a light meter in daylight and still get "acceptable" results. The Sunny 16 rule is also a good field evaluation benchmark to determine if, in fact, your meter is mis-calculating what your exposure should really be.

Old advice? Yep. Very old. At least back as far as from the Speed Graphic days. Still valid? Yep. Just as current as our X-Pro1. ;)

Live long and prosper. :)

Roger
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#19 mattmoo

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 01:06 PM

When I photograph a residence like this one, I let the tripod mounted D700 estimate the exposure. Then I bracket 7 exposures in one stop increments centered about the Nikon meter's estimate. One of the 7 often gives a commercially acceptable result. If not, I fuse the exposures. Exposure fusion avoids the unrealistic look of HDR tone mapping.

For a casual handheld photograph with the XP-1, I would use a relatively fast shutter speed and use the aperture priority bracketing function. The 1, 2/3 or 1/3 shutter speed steps would be selected based on the dynamic range of the scene. During post processing would select the exposure with the best highlights and discard the others.
[/quote]


Great topic for discussion. Early in my X-Pro exploring, I came to the conclusion that it would lean slightly towards overexposure. I shoot everything slightly underexposed and bracket (usually just three steps, unless I'm planning on a much more dynamic HDR image). And in a nutshell, there is the beauty of digital. It can make us a bit lazy and sloppy, as I would never do such a thing with expensive film!

I can remember shooting large format nature shots and just agonizing over the exposure. Now, I just blaze away and find myself shooting 20 shots of the same image if it has a high dynamic range. Digital has it's advantages, and more often than I'd like to admit, I get lucky.

#20 MikeS

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 08:42 PM

Great tutorial and commentary. Thanks to all!

Hepcat's old school technique is spot on. Reading this thread reminds me of how I was trained to achieve the same results before these wonderful meters existed (or became affordable!). I wanted to share my experience with using the technique Hepcat has provided and where it can take you. I suppose it has been used since cameras had reflective meters in them or on them.

Hepcat's description is the very first trick I learned as a professional photographer. I was taught it a slightly different way. The palm of your hand is about one stop brighter than the "18% gray card" used to calibrate all camera meters. At least my palm was close enough it worked. With the camera on manual, just point it at your open palm in the light of the scene. Just open that exposure up by one stop. F8 on your palm is F5.6 for the camera.


If the scene is very high contrast, such as this example, I would walk into the shadow and get this reading, and walk over to the brightest part and take a reading there. Of course, not wanting to blow out the highlights I would bias the average between the two perhaps one stop down to 1 2/3 stop less. It is an automatic habit to this day. All I remember is I experimented and got in the grove with it. Today, I set the camera on average weighted metering, move it around the scene, and stop down 2/3 stop from the highest reading. That seems to control over exposure in high contrast scenes with this camera for me.

So, in the old days, for a given shutter speed, if the average came to F8, I would bias the exposure setting to F11 or a little more to be sure to capture the highlights. Also, just bracket your best guess. As you gain experience you just know exactly what to do - sooner or later. It never hurts to carry a small note book early on.

If you use this method continuously, as I had done for years, it becomes second nature. In fact, it became so ingrained in my shooting method that if working on a magazine essay I could "street shoot" with the exposures all in my head. In shadow, in the bright light, adjust when a cloud came over and etc. very effectively. I would only stop every now and then to confirm the settings I had chosen 20-30 minutes ago, but on some days even that was not needed. Even on fast moving cloud days you just got in the grove with it. In fact one just waits for the moving clouds to create a dramatic effect in the scene.

Learing light and working as Hepcat and I have described has long term benefits. One big step for me related to this exposure/lighting thread was I began shooting theater/opera sets. I had the chief lighting technician create proper ratios for film on the fly. I worked with several lighting and scenic directors in this way, standing on stage reading the palm of my hand to adjust the lighting. Once they caught on, which was quickly, as it was their bread and butter, I would shoot dress rehearsals with the whole stage setup for camera biased lighting, not full theater lighting. The difference in results was stunning.

I did not get a fancy Sekonic until, having mastered B&W indoor two and three head flash, and fill flash setups, I began getting indoor color film work. That Sekonic was a flash meter, a color temp meter and ambient meter all rolled into one. It let me very accurately adjust the light ratios and adjust for ambient light sources, which we often filtered, as film color work demands accuracy and repeatability . A whole another story, much of which no longer needs told. I am so grateful for digital cameras and their control of contrast AND color, never mind "post processing".

This thread demonstrates that knowing your lighting is what camera technique is all about. Mastering exposure techniques and gaining a complete understanding of lighting pulls any budding photographer to a whole new level of competence - and since the name of the game is "get the check", there you are.

All that said, the histogram is your friend.

==m==

#21 RichParker

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:38 AM

Slight crossover with the zone thread, but my favourite meter is the Pentax Digital Spotmeter. Discontinued for 15 years or so you can still find examples of these in Ebay. They do go for a fair amount but they are what Ansel Adams used. 1 degree spot metering, simple, reliable and batteries readily available.

Shown here with the zone dial attached from Ralph Lambrecht from darkroommagic.com.

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#22 Greg_E

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 10:53 AM

I was told using a handheld meter was pretty much pointless, obviously not always a rule. Also as mentioned the histogram is an important tool for the same reasons.

#23 jknights

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 01:23 PM

I was told using a handheld meter was pretty much pointless, obviously not always a rule. Also as mentioned the histogram is an important tool for the same reasons.


There is an argument that says that a handheld meter is useless. This stems from the idea that it will duplicate the result from the internal metering of the camera.
However depending on what you meter you will get different results and especially so depending on what type of metering you use, Average or Spot.

The histogram is also not to be believed absolutely as it is only an indicator of what the JPG rendering of the image will be and its relative values. A RAW file (similarly exposed) will have a different rendering depending on how you process it.


Isnt life in a digital photography world full of difficult ifs and buts and compromises.:unsure:
Always Nikon and Fuji cameras.

Still learning after all these years!
Website http://www.jmknights.com


#24 AsylumPhoto

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 05:35 PM

I love this forum, sometimes. :)

#25 wchutt

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 09:18 AM

I agree that the in-camera histogram, either pre- or post-capture, is also just an estimate. It's based on the jpeg and it doesn't show much detail. I don't use the pre-capture histogram at all. Sometimes I glance at the post-capture histogram to see if there is enough exposure to pull the shadows up.

#26 hepcat

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 04:48 PM

Not to be a wet blanket on this thread, and I won't post to the Zone System thread about this but as a practical matter, other than having a close idea of what the exposure should be, in the digital world the need for hand-held meters and the Zone system is fairly limited. In the film days, you needed those tools because you didn't have a clue what you had until you'd processed the negatives. Today, the combination of meters being amazingly on in 95% of the cases, (which necessitates knowing when they WON'T be accurate enough), the .jpg histogram, the post-shot histogram, and being able to view the shot immediately if desired have pretty much made hand held meters and the zone system passe.

Yes, if you only have one shot, they're great skills to have but in most cases in which most of us shoot, the histograms combined with pixel-peeping do just as accurate a job as a hand-held meter and the Zone system.

It's all about averages anyway... and knowing the limits of your system.


Former PH USN

#27 cdodkin

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 07:41 PM

hepcat - I used to think the same, but now I understand more about the limitations of camera metering, I see why having a dedicated meter makes as much sense today as it ever did.

Your histogram can't tell you the dynamic range of a scene, or how light varies over an 'evenly lit' backdrop.

It can't show you the balance between flash and ambient illumination, or meter a backlit subject accurately.

It can't get you a decent sunset exposure without manual intervention, or give you an incident light reading for the illumination regardless of subject reflectivity

It can't independently measure studio strobes, and provide you with balance data to set-up the main and fill lighting ratio.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Passe, no - easy button, definitely not - more accurate, absolutely.

#28 Greg_E

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 08:54 PM

hepcat - I used to think the same, but now I understand more about the limitations of camera metering, I see why having a dedicated meter makes as much sense today as it ever did.

Your histogram can't tell you the dynamic range of a scene, or how light varies over an 'evenly lit' backdrop.

It can't show you the balance between flash and ambient illumination, or meter a backlit subject accurately.

It can't get you a decent sunset exposure without manual intervention, or give you an incident light reading for the illumination regardless of subject reflectivity

It can't independently measure studio strobes, and provide you with balance data to set-up the main and fill lighting ratio.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Passe, no - easy button, definitely not - more accurate, absolutely.



Everything old is new again?

#29 cdodkin

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 09:00 PM

Everything old is new again?


Accuracy is... accurate :D

#30 Arjay

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 04:34 AM

hepcat - I used to think the same, but now I understand more about the limitations of camera metering, I see why having a dedicated meter makes as much sense today as it ever did.

Your histogram can't tell you the dynamic range of a scene, or how light varies over an 'evenly lit' backdrop.

It can't show you the balance between flash and ambient illumination, or meter a backlit subject accurately.

It can't get you a decent sunset exposure without manual intervention, or give you an incident light reading for the illumination regardless of subject reflectivity

It can't independently measure studio strobes, and provide you with balance data to set-up the main and fill lighting ratio.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Passe, no - easy button, definitely not - more accurate, absolutely.

Agreed, flash photography is another ball game because even the camera in TTL mode would measure ambient and flash exposures separately. That's where an external (flash) exposure meter will provide invaluable service.

But what about gauging the contrast range of an ambient exposure? This is what Cdodkin's highly informative post was about. I don't question the fact that truly "slow" photography can benefit from using an external light meter in the way Cdodkin explained - especially the function that stores individual measurements and calculates an average value from them.

I wonder if it is possible to use a combination of the cameras built-in "multi" AE and the Auto DR measuring modes to quickly achieve similar results. I don't mean to just rely on the cameras built-in functions for fully automatic exposure, but to take a "Multi AE" reading and compare measurement results with and without Auto DR. Unfortunately, the camera will not tell you directly whether it used DR = 100, 200 or 400, but you can deduce the amount of underexposure the camera is suggesting by comparing the two exposure measurements of the same FoV with DR set to Auto and DR set to 100%.

Edit: When thinking again about what I wrote here, I wonder if anybody of us has ever fully characterized the cameras Auto DR mode. That is, when would Auto DR mode switch from DR = 100 to DR = 200 or DR = 400 in relation to highlight retention. It seems to me that highlight retention probably is the criterion, but even then, the cameras software will probably have some mathematical threshold for blown highlights which may be expressed as a percentage threshold value of blown pixels out of the image's total number of pixels.







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