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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 05 Nov 2013 (Tuesday) 10:45
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Metering backgrounds

 
neophyte52
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Nov 05, 2013 10:45 |  #1

I'm sure that this is a dumb question, but being fairly new to studio lighting, and entirely self-taught, I've been amazed at how hard it is to get a straight answer. When measuring backgrounds (paper, muslin, etc.), how do most of you use your meter? I've had people tell me to use in incident mode aimed at the camera, incident mode aimed at the light source(s), reflective mode aimed at the background, etc. I would think that incident aimed at the camera makes the most sense, especially when using more than one background light & trying to light the background evenly, but curious what others say...


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Wilt
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Nov 05, 2013 10:56 |  #2

It depends!, yet again.

If you want your background to appear at its inherent level of brightness, simply stand at the background with the meter close to the backdrop, and use the incident metering to read what level of light at that location. The light at the backdrop should match the level of light at the subject, if you want BOTH to appear at their inherent level of brightness. This is a key reason why you want DISTANCE between your subject and your backdrop, so that you can independently light the two (and get the level of brightness at the backdrop where ever you want it to fall)!!!

If you want to know how bright the backdrop will appear, relative to 18% mid-tone, stand at the camera and meter the backdrop with a reflected light meter. Using this technique you can light an 18% grey backdrop to appear to be 9% or 36% rather than its inherent brightness. (Yes, you could simply read an incident meter and set brightness to read -1EV or +1EV instead, to accomplish the same thing, but read on...)

If you are using TRANSMITTED light (rear illumination shines through the backdrop material, rather than being reflected by it from the from front side) you MUST use a reflected light meter to read how much light is coming through the material. An example of that technique is illustrated here, as I needed to meter the intensity of the gelled light coming though the black backdrop material!

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PacAce
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Nov 05, 2013 11:12 |  #3

^^ +1 ^^


...Leo

  
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Shooting
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Nov 10, 2013 19:18 |  #4

When doing portraits measure the light falling on the subject, set my camera to those settings and fire away. It all depends on what you are shooting as to how you want to meter your background. But I shoot almost exclusively green screen so I can put the subject on any background I want.




  
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dmward
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Nov 10, 2013 20:58 |  #5

Wilt's post if very useful.
Shooting's post illustrates that backgrounds are circumstantial.

The answer is that you have to first decide how you want the background to relate to the subject.
And then how its being lit, and finally how that lighting may affect the subject and the tonality of the image in total.

i.e. it depends. :-)


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Vitoflo
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Nov 11, 2013 05:06 |  #6

So, let's say I use the incident metering to read what level of light is at the background (f/5.6) and the subject is standing close to it (f/6.3). I set the lens aperture to f/5.6 so that the subject will be slightly over exposed. What a white, gray and black backdrop are going to look like? Say, I am shooting B/W.




  
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PacAce
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Nov 11, 2013 07:05 |  #7

Vitoflo wrote in post #16441600 (external link)
So, let's say I use the incident metering to read what level of light is at the background (f/5.6) and the subject is standing close to it (f/6.3). I set the lens aperture to f/5.6 so that the subject will be slightly over exposed. What a white, gray and black backdrop are going to look like? Say, I am shooting B/W.

If you are taking an incident reading of the BG, and shoot it at the aperture shown on the meter, the BG color in the image will look just like what the BG color is.


...Leo

  
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Vitoflo
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Nov 11, 2013 10:01 |  #8

PacAce wrote in post #16441715 (external link)
If you are taking an incident reading of the BG, and shoot it at the aperture shown on the meter, the BG color in the image will look just like what the BG color is.

Ok, now let's say that I am reflective metering to read what level of light is at the background (f/5.6) and shoot it at the aperture shown on the meter will a white BG appear gray and a gray BG appear black?

Thanks




  
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PacAce
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Nov 11, 2013 10:27 |  #9

Vitoflo wrote in post #16442099 (external link)
Ok, now let's say that I am reflective metering to read what level of light is at the background (f/5.6) and shoot it at the aperture shown on the meter will a white BG appear gray and a gray BG appear black?

Thanks

If you take a reflective reading of the BG and use the aperture shown, then your BG in the image will always come out gray no matter what color the BG actually is.


...Leo

  
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Wilt
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Nov 11, 2013 16:31 |  #10

Vitoflo wrote in post #16442099 (external link)
Ok, now let's say that I am reflective metering to read what level of light is at the background (f/5.6) and shoot it at the aperture shown on the meter will a white BG appear gray and a gray BG appear black?

Yes, because a reflected light meter fundamentally takes what is in its view and tries to render it to an average midtone.
A Scandanavian bride in white wedding gown on a snow scene will appear to be a darkish skinned woman in a mid-tone grey gown standing on a ashy grey scene.
A black cat with black leather collar in a coal mine will appear to be a midtone grey cat wearing a grey leather collar in a ashy grey scene.

PaceAce wrote:
If you take a reflective reading of the BG and use the aperture shown, then your BG in the image will always come out gray no matter what color the BG actually is.

Hate to disagree, Leo! Ain't so. Not if the target is darker in tone than 18%...this test proves that point:

I just set this up...a darkish maroon blanket set on my midtone bluish loveseat next to my MacBeth ColorChecker; the loveseat is about the same as 18% tonality; the maroon blanket is DARKER than 18% tonality. (18% tonality is the grey patch to the left of the bright yellow patch, BTW)
In the scene is my Minolta Autometer Vf incident meter. I metered with the Minolta, then I shot per the Minolta suggested reading (1/20 f/2.8).
I next metered in Spot mode on the darkish maroon blanket and used that suggested reading (1/13 f/2.8).
Here are the results...

IMAGE: http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/Principles/backgroundmetering_zps84670c9f.jpg

Trust me, the maroon blanket in reality looks similar to the way it appears in the shot to the left...the incident meter reading; the shot on the right is way too bright (as is the Colorchecker) Both shots were postprocessed to identical values in LR.

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PacAce
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Nov 11, 2013 22:01 |  #11

Wilt wrote in post #16443267 (external link)
Yes, because a reflected light meter fundamentally takes what is in its view and tries to render it to an average midtone.
A Scandanavian bride in white wedding gown on a snow scene will appear to be a darkish skinned woman in a mid-tone grey gown standing on a ashy grey scene.
A black cat with black leather collar in a coal mine will appear to be a midtone grey cat wearing a grey leather collar in a ashy grey scene.



Hate to disagree, Leo! Ain't so. Not if the target is darker in tone than 18%...this test proves that point:

I just set this up...a darkish maroon blanket set on my midtone bluish loveseat next to my MacBeth ColorChecker; the loveseat is about the same as 18% tonality; the maroon blanket is DARKER than 18% tonality. (18% tonality is the grey patch to the left of the bright yellow patch, BTW)
In the scene is my Minolta Autometer Vf incident meter. I metered with the Minolta, then I shot per the Minolta suggested reading (1/20 f/2.8).
I next metered in Spot mode on the darkish maroon blanket and used that suggested reading (1/13 f/2.8).
Here are the results...
QUOTED IMAGE

Trust me, the maroon blanket in reality looks similar to the way it appears in the shot to the left...the incident meter reading; the shot on the right is way too bright (as is the Colorchecker) Both shots were postprocessed to identical values in LR.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with this test, Wilt. If you take a reflective reading off of the dark maroon blanket and take an exposure based on that reading, wouldn't the blanket and the color chart naturally turn brighter than normal?


...Leo

  
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Wilt
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Nov 11, 2013 22:10 |  #12

PacAce wrote in post #16444118 (external link)
I'm not sure what you're getting at with this test, Wilt. If you take a reflective reading off of the dark maroon blanket and take an exposure based on that reading, wouldn't the blanket and the color chart naturally turn brighter than normal?

Yes, which is what my photo shows.

So I am confused by the purpose of your earlier remark, "If you take a reflective reading of the BG and use the aperture shown, then your BG in the image will always come out gray no matter what color the BG actually is."

Were you making the point, "the tonality of the BG becomes middle tonality when you expose to the reflected meter" and "It does not come out in the shot at its inherent level of brightness by doing so."?

I got confused by 'it will always come out gray' wording.
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PacAce
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Nov 11, 2013 22:16 |  #13

Wilt wrote in post #16444144 (external link)
Yes, which is what my photo shows.

So I am confused by the purpose of your earlier remark, "If you take a reflective reading of the BG and use the aperture shown, then your BG in the image will always come out gray no matter what color the BG actually is."

Were you making the point, "the tonality of the BG becomes middle tonality when you expose to the reflected meter" and "It does not come out in the shot at its inherent level of brightness by doing so."?

I got confused by 'it will always come out gray' wording.
_______________

Yes, that was the point I was trying to make (with the exception being if the BG is middle gray to begin with, in which case, it shouldn't change in the image). Sorry I wasn't clear enough in my previous post.


...Leo

  
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