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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Sports Talk 
Thread started 14 Mar 2011 (Monday) 19:07
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Should I Buy an Incident Meter?

 
MrChip
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Mar 14, 2011 19:07 |  #1

Hello,

I am looking for advice from other sports photographers on whether or not I should buy an incident light meter. Last weekend I attended a class about sports photography at Calumet. During the class I asked for advice about exposure settings for baseball in bright daylight when the players have bright white uniforms. The instructor recommended shooting in manual mode using an incident meter for this (and all other scenarios). Note: This is the first time I ever heard of an incident meter :lol:.

My current gear is a Canon 7D with the 70-200F2.8 and 300F4 lenses. In the past I mostly shot JPEG using Av mode. I have started working with RAW files this past year and would like to start shooting manual. The problem is that most of my pictures tend to be over or under exposed (in M or Av mode). Most of my sports photography is outdoors (little league, soccer). I do occasionally shoot indoor basketball. I was told an incident meter would give me the exact settings for the incident light on the player's faces, which would lead to perfectly exposed photos. Is this true?

I have read other posts where people use the histogram or meter off of grass on the field. I don't want to buy a meter unless it will truly help. If there is an easier way to do this with the histograms, I would love for someone to explain the technique.

Finally, if you recommend an incident meter, I would love any suggestions for a particular unit. I need one that is portable and easy to use, and preferably, $250 or less.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Chip


Camera: Canon 70D and 7D with grips,
Canon lenses: 100-400 Mark II, 70-200F2.8, 300F4 IS, 85F1.8, 50F1.8, 17-55 F2.8 EFS, and 1.4x extender
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Bendel
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Mar 14, 2011 19:15 |  #2

Meter off the field and use the histogram to make sure you have a proper exposure. Shoot in manual so you're getting consistent results and check your histogram occasionally to make sure the lighting conditions aren't changing.

Shooting indoor, you can use spot metering off somebody on the sideline's face (If you want to use that method) to get your proper exposure.


Brandon
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MrChip
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Mar 14, 2011 19:25 |  #3

Brandon,

Thanks for the advice. Do you have any tips on what I should look for in the histogram? Do you look at RGB separately? Should the peak be in the middle, to the left, or to the right? As you can tell, I am still learning this.


Camera: Canon 70D and 7D with grips,
Canon lenses: 100-400 Mark II, 70-200F2.8, 300F4 IS, 85F1.8, 50F1.8, 17-55 F2.8 EFS, and 1.4x extender
Other lenses: Tamron 28-75 F2.8
Wish List: Canon 300mm F2.8 and 5D Mark IV (feel free to donate)

  
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sapearl
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Mar 14, 2011 19:27 |  #4

Hello Chip - you don't have to buy hand held meter - most of them work both in reflective and incident mode, but it can be very helpful. As Brandon suggests you can meter off the field and get good results with some mild tweaking. Checking the histogram against this can work well.

I like incident metering because it measures the amount of light falling ON the subject, regardless of how bright or dark the clothing is. Metering off a white uniform could cause other objects in the FOV to be underexposed. Metering off a black uniform will have the opposite effect. But on a sunny day, the light FALLING ON the subject is very consistent... only changed by clouds or a really long game.

I have not done sports, but run into similar exposure issues doing outdoor bridal portraits. White gowns, black tuxedos and all the colors in between. I run the camera in Manual mode, take my incident reading in front of the b/g, lock in my settings and fire away. Sekonic makes very good light meters although I'm not up on the current models. I actually use a 30 year old hand held Sekonic L398 needle & dial unit.... no batteries, no fuss, very reliable. But it won't meter flash in the studio. - Stu


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sapearl
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Mar 14, 2011 19:29 |  #5

MrChip wrote in post #12020566 (external link)
Brandon,

Thanks for the advice. Do you have any tips on what I should look for in the histogram? Do you look at RGB separately? Should the peak be in the middle, to the left, or to the right? As you can tell, I am still learning this.

In a stadium at about midday/afternoon you should get a fairly reasonable distribution of light and tones. This would show as a pretty well distributed histogram. You could look at RGB separately, but I think there's really more value in considering it all as a whole.

Actually you could even do all of this without a meter, using the Sunny16 rule, assuming it's a bright sunny day and the time is approximately between 10 - 4 PM in or around the summer months. It works like this: At ISO 200 you set your camera for 1/250 sec at f/16 in manual and fire away. Now 1/200 is not fast enough for good action, so you can achieve the same exposure setting at the same ISO by setting it to 1/500 @ f/11 or 1/1000 @ f/8 or 1/2000 @ f/5.6..... you see the pattern?


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Bendel
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Mar 14, 2011 19:38 |  #6

Generally it should be a bell curve shape centered somewhere in the middle.


Brandon
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MrChip
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Mar 14, 2011 20:07 |  #7

sapearl wrote in post #12020576 (external link)
I like incident metering because it measures the amount of light falling ON the subject, regardless of how bright or dark the clothing is. Metering off a white uniform could cause other objects in the FOV to be underexposed. Metering off a black uniform will have the opposite effect. But on a sunny day, the light FALLING ON the subject is very consistent... only changed by clouds or a really long game.

I have not done sports, but run into similar exposure issues doing outdoor bridal portraits. White gowns, black tuxedos and all the colors in between. I run the camera in Manual mode, take my incident reading in front of the b/g, lock in my settings and fire away. Sekonic makes very good light meters although I'm not up on the current models. I actually use a 30 year old hand held Sekonic L398 needle & dial unit.... no batteries, no fuss, very reliable. But it won't meter flash in the studio. - Stu

Stu, you describe my situation to a T! At a sports event I sometimes take 200-300 photos in AV mode. Some are over exposed, others under. I takes for ever in processing to review and adjust. What you described for a wedding is perfect! If I could cut my work flow down to a simple crop with minimal adjustments, that would be great!


Camera: Canon 70D and 7D with grips,
Canon lenses: 100-400 Mark II, 70-200F2.8, 300F4 IS, 85F1.8, 50F1.8, 17-55 F2.8 EFS, and 1.4x extender
Other lenses: Tamron 28-75 F2.8
Wish List: Canon 300mm F2.8 and 5D Mark IV (feel free to donate)

  
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MrChip
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Mar 14, 2011 20:13 |  #8

sapearl wrote in post #12020591 (external link)
In a stadium at about midday/afternoon you should get a fairly reasonable distribution of light and tones. This would show as a pretty well distributed histogram. You could look at RGB separately, but I think there's really more value in considering it all as a whole.

Actually you could even do all of this without a meter, using the Sunny16 rule, assuming it's a bright sunny day and the time is approximately between 10 - 4 PM in or around the summer months. It works like this: At ISO 200 you set your camera for 1/250 sec at f/16 in manual and fire away. Now 1/200 is not fast enough for good action, so you can achieve the same exposure setting at the same ISO by setting it to 1/500 @ f/11 or 1/1000 @ f/8 or 1/2000 @ f/5.6..... you see the pattern?

Stu, the instructor also mentioned this rule (which I never heard of before). For my sports action, given my long focal length, I would probably want 1/2000 or 1/4000 at F2.8 or F4 - I guess I can play with the calculations and vary ISO. I still like the idea of taking an actual reading..


Camera: Canon 70D and 7D with grips,
Canon lenses: 100-400 Mark II, 70-200F2.8, 300F4 IS, 85F1.8, 50F1.8, 17-55 F2.8 EFS, and 1.4x extender
Other lenses: Tamron 28-75 F2.8
Wish List: Canon 300mm F2.8 and 5D Mark IV (feel free to donate)

  
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MrChip
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Mar 14, 2011 20:13 |  #9

Bendel wrote in post #12020648 (external link)
Generally it should be a bell curve shape centered somewhere in the middle.

Thanks! Do you look at RGB separately or the overall curve?


Camera: Canon 70D and 7D with grips,
Canon lenses: 100-400 Mark II, 70-200F2.8, 300F4 IS, 85F1.8, 50F1.8, 17-55 F2.8 EFS, and 1.4x extender
Other lenses: Tamron 28-75 F2.8
Wish List: Canon 300mm F2.8 and 5D Mark IV (feel free to donate)

  
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wyofizz
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Mar 15, 2011 13:22 as a reply to  @ MrChip's post |  #10

And when the clouds roll over head???


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Bendel
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Mar 15, 2011 13:24 |  #11

Reset. Either you will have to take a new reading with your incident meter and adjust or you will have to check your histogram again. If you have inconsistent clouds your best bet is AV and even then you can off results occasionally. But if you're taking incident readings and checking your histogram every 5 seconds, you wont be taking pictures.


Brandon
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sapearl
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Mar 15, 2011 18:32 |  #12

wyofizz wrote in post #12025158 (external link)
And when the clouds roll over head???

Take a fresh meter reading in reflective mode with the camera's meter off a mid tone area, or incident mode with the latter type and reset the camera. This is no big deal and can be very easily managed. ;)


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wyofizz
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Mar 15, 2011 21:25 as a reply to  @ sapearl's post |  #13

Now that's something you see everyday, a dozen pros on the field between innings metering the players. :lol:


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sapearl
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Mar 15, 2011 21:42 |  #14

wyofizz wrote in post #12028249 (external link)
Now that's something you see everyday, a dozen pros on the field between innings metering the players. :lol:

Not necessary - if both the shooter and the subject are in direct sun, the quality & intensity of the light will be the same, incident and reflected. I've done this many times and it works quite easily and accurately.

Granted, if one is shade and the other is sun, this complicates the issue when using incident - you would have to move to an area with the same light which likely would not be practical. But in real life shooting with the in-camera meter, getting an accurate reading from the stands is not at all difficult. Again, Sunny16 and the Zone system will also work quite well.


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Mar 16, 2011 12:32 as a reply to  @ sapearl's post |  #15

From experience, incident metering is very useful where the lighting is static and controlled, as in an indoor gym or outdoor event at night. But during the day, when lighting can be variable, incident metering is less useful. Examples from a cross-country motorcycle race on a day of broken clouds.

IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
Byte size: ZERO | Content warning: NOT AN IMAGE


Bright sun:
Image Date: 2010:10:24 11:28:36
Focal Length: 168.0mm
Aperture: f/9.0
Exposure Time: 0.0025 s (1/400)
ISO equiv: 400
Exposure Bias: none
Metering Mode: Matrix
Exposure: program (Auto)
White Balance: Auto
Flash Fired: No
Color Space: sRGB


IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
Byte size: ZERO | Content warning: NOT AN IMAGE


20 seconds later, clouds start to arrive:
Image Date: 2010:10:24 11:28:56
Focal Length: 141.0mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure Time: 0.0040 s (1/250)
ISO equiv: 400
Exposure Bias: none
Metering Mode: Matrix
Exposure: program (Auto)
White Balance: Auto
Flash Fired: No
Color Space: sRGB


IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
Byte size: ZERO | Content warning: NOT AN IMAGE


In another five seconds, a break in the clouds is approaching:
Image Date: 2010:10:24 11:29:01
Focal Length: 141.0mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320)
ISO equiv: 400
Exposure Bias: none
Metering Mode: Matrix
Exposure: program (Auto)
White Balance: Auto
Flash Fired: No
Color Space: sRGB


IMAGE NOT FOUND
IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!
Byte size: ZERO | Content warning: NOT AN IMAGE


19 seconds later, the break in the clouds has arrived and there's bright sunshine:
Image Date: 2010:10:24 11:29:20
Focal Length: 100.0mm
Aperture: f/11.0
Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500)
ISO equiv: 400
Exposure Bias: none
Metering Mode: Matrix
Exposure: program (Auto)
White Balance: Auto
Flash Fired: No
Color Space: sRGB

In circumstances such as these, there's no practical way to keep re-metering a scene. Broken clouds and rapidly changeable light are good times to leave settings on Program AE - or some other semi-automated setting - and just let the camera figure it out.



  
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Should I Buy an Incident Meter?
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