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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 29 Sep 2010 (Wednesday) 09:44
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metering question

 
Pearlallica
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Sep 29, 2010 09:44 |  #1

I feel guilty asking this because I am a professional photographer. I'll ask anyways and put aside my pride for the sake of learning from my mistake...

I did a wedding a while back, and I found myself in a situation where I was shooting into the sun and I had a group of 9 people walking towards me but didn't quite know how to find a proper exposure setting. It was an awkward situation where I had to pause the shoot for about 3 minutes because all the adjusting and chimping I was doing revealed a seemingly never ending sequence of over-exposed pictures. (all in manual mode)

This may be where I went wrong... I went up to to one of the groomsmen, I metered his jacket (black) and took the group picture, only to discover I was severely overexposed. After failed attempt over failed attempt, I finally gave in and found a setting that worked in AV mode (i metered the entire scene, it revealed a 4x faster shutter speed that I was using).

Was my mistake in metering the groomsmen's BLACK coat? I'm certain it is, but what should I have metered? The cement ground (shaded) which was a closer 18% grey? Or perhaps the bride's white dress? I'm guessing the ground, but I want to be absolutely certain as I don't want to be in an embarrassing situation like that ever again!


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SkipD
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Sep 29, 2010 10:17 |  #2

I would have used a handheld light meter at the location of the subjects, pointing it toward the camera. The meter's reading would show me the light falling on the subjects. Then, I'd have to consider the background lighting and decide whether or not to use flash to fill the shadows on the subjects, balancing out the lighting of them relative to the background.

I use my Sekonic L-358 handheld meter a LOT more than the meter built into my camera. The L-358 and my brain can come up with good solutions far more often in tricky lighting situations than depending on the camera's meter can.


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C.Michael
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Sep 29, 2010 10:19 |  #3

I just meter the brightest thing and expose that correctly then use fill flash in real life or post.

*when I say birghtest thing...I dont mean the centre of the sun, just the spots that get blown out when trying to expose normally.


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Pearlallica
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Sep 29, 2010 10:33 |  #4

I probably should have elaborated... they were back lit, so their faces were shaded. Hence my idea to meter the shaded cement ground (closest to 18% grey). The brightest objects (lit by the sun) would have created an undesirable silhouette of my subjects.

As for light meters... not in the budget yet. I wish!


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C.Michael
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Sep 29, 2010 10:36 |  #5

Pearlallica wrote in post #11000643 (external link)
I probably should have elaborated... they were back lit, so their faces were shaded. Hence my idea to meter the shaded cement ground (closest to 18% grey). The brightest objects (lit by the sun) would have created an undesirable silhouette of my subjects.

As for light meters... not in the budget yet. I wish!

Could you not add a fill flash in post or in real life? As you would know, its the hardest shot to shoot, straight into the sun. You either get well exposed people and blown out sky. Or nicely exposed sky and silhouette.

I expose for a nice sky and bring the people out in post.

Then again, my rambles aren't really helping - sorry!


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tonylong
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Sep 29, 2010 10:50 |  #6

Well, as you say, you could have metered off something "medium", or you could have metered the black suit and dialed your exposure to show it black instead of letting the camera dictate it as needing to be "medium gray". But of course, the backlit subjects will be a problem anytime.


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Pearlallica
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Sep 29, 2010 10:53 |  #7

C.Michael wrote in post #11000661 (external link)
Could you not add a fill flash in post or in real life? As you would know, its the hardest shot to shoot, straight into the sun. You either get well exposed people and blown out sky. Or nicely exposed sky and silhouette.

I expose for a nice sky and bring the people out in post.

Then again, my rambles aren't really helping - sorry!

lol. Well, when there are 3000 other photos to edit, getting the perfect exposure in the moment is ideal, especially when skin tones are concerned. Also to add, I didn't shoot directly, directly into the sun. It was maybe 30 degrees off to the side, I was shooting at 200mm, a fair distance off, and so fill flash wasn't an option. I was prepared to have blown out hair light. I just wanted accurate exposure for skin under the extreme dark/light contrast situation. The built in metering options weren't intelligent enough to properly expose what I had in mind. Hence my being stumped.

My parents had a professional photographer do our family portrait outside in our garden. He is considered our town's top pro and it was not a cheap session by any means. We all noticed he was lagging in getting a proper exposure and getting quite frustrated about it. (medium format cam, light meter). We were all backlit by the sun, same as in my situation. I don't feel so guilty about not having a full-proof solution. :P


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DazJW
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Sep 29, 2010 10:55 |  #8

I'd have opened up three stops* from what the meter was telling me and gone from there (it would probably have required a bit more adjustment) or metered off the ground as you suggest provided it was in the same light as the subjects.

*Unless I'm mistaken shade is usually three stops below sunlit areas - sunny 16. shady 5.6.




  
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matonanjin
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Sep 29, 2010 11:21 |  #9

Pearlallica wrote in post #11000643 (external link)
I probably should have elaborated... they were back lit, so their faces were shaded. Hence my idea to meter the shaded cement ground (closest to 18% grey). The brightest objects (lit by the sun) would have created an undesirable silhouette of my subjects.

As for light meters... not in the budget yet. I wish!

Ok, I am sorry but what am I missing?

You have two-$2000 bodies (7D & 5DMkII) and at least 4 "L" lenses but you can't pop for a couple hundred bucks for a hand held meter? To insure a correct exposure.

You're shooting professionally but don't know that metering off something black is going to give you an overexposed shot?

Why didn't you just spot meter off someone's face?


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DunnoWhen
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Sep 29, 2010 11:25 as a reply to  @ C.Michael's post |  #10

You may want to read up on the Zone System. (external link)

Oversimplified....

When taking a shot one may encompass a dynamic range between pure black and pure white which can be split into 10 zones.

Zone 5 is therefore the middle of the scale. (18%grey).

The greater the number of zones into which metered objects reside, the greater the contrast in the image.

When you then meter your scene you decide in which zone the metered object should reside.

You may decide therefore that, in the typical wedding image of black dressed groom and white dress bride, the dress should be in zone 7 or even 8. Now, you meter the dress. Because of the way reflective meters work, it gives you a reading which equates to zone 5. To achieve an exposure of the dress in zone 7 or 8, you add 2 or 3 stops exposure compensation ([Zone] 8 - [Zone] 5= 3 [Stops]).


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Shockey
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Sep 29, 2010 11:32 |  #11

Use fill flash high speed sync, f2.8 or f4, use aperture priority. Use spot metering on the brides face, have your blinkies on and adjust the exposure compensation to where the dress is as bright as possible but just has the external edges blown (sun behind the bride).
No time for metering in the heat of the action, you can't stop the wedding while you get a meter reading....really?

Everything that is not blown can be adjusted in post if necessary.

Always preshoot a scene so when the real action starts you already have your camera flash and settings ready to go.


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neilwood32
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Sep 29, 2010 11:39 |  #12

I would have metered of something I knew had a fixed exposure level (ie my hand when held in the light I am shooting generally registers EV+1). Using that as a basis allows me to set the exposure for the shot.

However it will not allow for the backlit people - additional light is required to bring up the details to being properly exposed.

Some times there is no alternative than to provide additional light (either flash, foamboard or reflector) in order to capture the image properly.


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Pearlallica
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Sep 29, 2010 11:46 |  #13

matonanjin wrote in post #11001003 (external link)
Ok, I am sorry but what am I missing?.....


lol i was expecting at least one of these posts.. That's what i get for making myself vulnerable...

i already suggested metering against black was my mistake. I was in a crunched time limit with a lot of hungry subjects waiting to hurry over for their reception dinner.

Looks like my hunch was the solution. I was just looking for a validation to further strengthen my judgment in future like-situations.

I have a stay-at-home wife and three kids under the age of 4. I'm lucky if I can bank 200 bucks off 2 3000 dollar wedding without worrying about my car payments, mortgage, bills, groceries, not to mention the installment payments for my 7D.. I also have advertising costs... meh, I don't have to justify my budget..... :)


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Shockey
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Sep 29, 2010 11:48 |  #14

You don't have to have a flash, if you accept everything behind the people being blown then spot meter on the brides face, get that exposed properly and let the rest go.
Of course if your customer has not seen that type of look from you in your examples she hired you from that could be a problem later.


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Pearlallica
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Sep 29, 2010 11:51 |  #15

DunnoWhen wrote in post #11001028 (external link)
You may want to read up on the Zone System. (external link)

Oversimplified....

When taking a shot one may encompass a dynamic range between pure black and pure white which can be split into 10 zones.

Zone 5 is therefore the middle of the scale. (18%grey).

The greater the number of zones into which metered objects reside, the greater the contrast in the image.

When you then meter your scene you decide in which zone the metered object should reside.

You may decide therefore that, in the typical wedding image of black dressed groom and white dress bride, the dress should be in zone 7 or even 8. Now, you meter the dress. Because of the way reflective meters work, it gives you a reading which equates to zone 5. To achieve an exposure of the dress in zone 7 or 8, you add 2 or 3 stops exposure compensation ([Zone] 8 - [Zone] 5= 3 [Stops]).

The zone system is new to me. I'm going to research it further. Your explanation makes a lot of sense, though. This is just the tool I've needed to further my understanding for judging proper exposures. Thanks for your time and the information! :)


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