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Light Meters Explained

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alright, i've had my light meter (sekonic l358) for a few months now and i've got the hang of things with it, but i still have some problems with it occasionally, especially problems with underexposure.

can someone who shoots only film, like steve laclair or kyle bunker, give me some tips on how to get good exposures most of the time, because i'm getting more into film now and i dont always want to bring around my d70 for light tests. and if someone could tell me how to get a good exposure for the sky, especially during sunset, i would appreciate it alot alot alot!

 

a nice overall basic tutorial for how to meter in different situations (back lit photos, uneven lighting on faces for example, i've found these two problematic) with a handheld ambient meter. this is probably asking alot, but youd help me and i'm sure you'd help some other people too.

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Well, im really not your guy for this one. Reason being, I do not own an incident meter, nor have I ever used one. Well, I guess there is one built into the L-558, but I have never turned it on.

Once you get used to a spot meter, the idea of an incident metering system actually sounds hard to use.

But in the interest of looking like I know what im talking about, I looked it up, and ill try and bullshit my through this the best I can.

 

It sounds like a combination of any or all of these three 3 things:

 

1. If your getting consistently slightly underexposed shots, you may need to establish a new espouser index. (EI for short)

Your EI is like the ISO of the film, but you don’t necessarily go by what the film box tells you. The reason you don’t just go by what the box says, is that the film is only 1 factor, out of a whole list of variables including: Camera, Meter/Metering style, Development, Film freshness..ect.

So you want to find a more personalized EI that correlates to your particular situation. (I for example use ISO 80 when shooting 100 speed chrome, and 320 when shooting Delta 100 b/w.)

To find your EI your going to need to shoot a test roll of film. (one for each type of film that you use) Shoot a person under daylight, with the subject holding a grey-card (for color correction if your going to be doing your own color enlargements), and wearing black.

Meter their black shirt, and what ever your reading tells you, underexpose that by 2 stops, so as to get a zone 3 black. (it doesnt matter what type meter you use, ALL light meters test at zone 5 - 18%grey, so a 2 stop under exposuer will always give you a zone 3 black. if confused look up Ansel Adams' zone system) Then take what ever that reading may be, (the new 2 stops underexposed one) and bracket 2 and 1/2 stops on each side of it.

Start with the first shot you do be 2 and 1/2 stops dark, then get a half stop lighter gradually with each frame. The sixth shot you take should be the original (2 stops adjusted) reading you started with. Keep going through the rest of the roll. With the 12th frame (shooting 6x6) being 2 and 1/2 stops over exposed.

 

Get the roll processed, and have a look at it:

This is where the zone 3 black thing from before comes into play. Essentially, what zone 3 is, is the darkest black that still has adequate textural detail. (zone 1 being pure black, zone 3 darkest possible with detail, zone 5 being 18% grey, zone 8 being the most white that still has detail, and zone 10 being pure white)

Find the frame in which the persons shirt is as dark as possible while still having adequate texture.

Depending which frame you choose, this will determine your new EI. If you decided that the 6th frame (remember that was the original adjusted setting..?) looks to have the best zone 3 black, stick with what ever the original ISO was. (the one on the box)

But say that frame 6 doesn’t have the blackest black, its too dark, and frame 7 (which will be slightly lighter) does. You will want to go a half stop lighter for your new EI, which would be 80. (I'm trying to not be confusing here, frame 6=normal, and then +/- half a stop for each frame that you stray away from frame 6 of the test roll, and that will be your new EI for that type of film)

 

 

2. Your simply not using your meter correctly. This kind of plays into the zone system stuff that we talked about earlier.

The little golf ball looking thing on incident meters is there for one purpose, and that is acting like a constant 18% grey card for the meter to read off of. The reason this 18% grey thing keeps popping up, is because it’s a good middle ground. Its exactly half way in the middle of the zone system, so no matter what the subject is, if you meter it at zone 5, your going to get a picture of something. Plus, it’s a good constant for light meter companies to base all their meters off of. (Imagine if there was no standard for light meters to be set at, and they told you any random thing that they wanted and it didn’t correspond to any other meter in particular.., the entire foundation of shooting photos would be all fucked up) The problem with light meters looking at everything as 18% grey though, is that not everything falls right in the middle of the tonal spectrum. (In black and white, and with color too) Think of a situation in which you were shooting a photo of a black dog, which was sitting a coal mine. Tone wise, there is mostly black in that setting, but if you just aimed your meter at it, and used what it told you. Your shot would come out looking like a grey dog in a grey room. The same would apply if you were shooting a picture of a white cat in the middle of a snow storm.. The last white that still has detail is 3 stops brighter than what your meter would tell you.

Now closer to home, you mentioned shooting harshly lit people/skin/faces. Human skin looks best/most natural at a zone 6. (roughly 1 stop brighter that what your meter tells you if you pointed it at a persons face) Knowing that, decide what you want to look natural.. If you are using side light, and you want the ‘dark’ side of the face to look natural, with the ‘bright’ side getting blown out... make sure that the dark side meters at zone 6, and you should be alright.

As for back lit situations, make sure that your ball thing isn’t being exposed to any direct back light, and meter the persons skin, (or your hand) and go from there...

 

 

3. Probably the biggest issue of them all though is this: Your using an incident meter.

Like I said, I have the L-558 with the built in spot meter, thus I have never touched the incident feature. In large part because, when it comes down to it, it’s a complete shot in the dark.

The beauty of the spot system is that you are metering light that is reflected off of the subject and coming back towards the camera. Thus, there is no running around in the scene, pointing your ping-pong ball thing at your flashes and getting a bunch of arbitrary meter readings that really don’t mean shit as far what the camera is actually going to see.

It just makes more since to me to stand by the camera and meter the scene just as its going to look through the lens, and place the expouser where I want it, knowing that it will look that way through the camera too (because im standing right there, and not out running around taking random readings for each flash)

Doing it this way, allows you to meter the person (if there is one) using flash and get your f-stop. Then switch to ambient mode, and set it on aperture priority, (at the f-stop you just got for their skin) and have it tell you what shutter speed will make the background expose properly or not properly, so you will get an evenly lit scene in sunsets and maintain the properly exposed skin.

 

 

That’s about it. I’d recommend at all costs if your just buying a meter, get one that comes with a 1 degree spot. Or if you already own an incident meter, get the spot attachment that Sekonik makes.

That’s all.

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I wish I could give you a dead on solid answer but I really don't have one. I shot the same film for so long that I could pretty much guess if shit was gonna be real screwed up most of the time. I never had that meter down to a science or anything, without spotmetering you're fucked on a few aspects. I wanna get the 1 degree spot metering attachment and see if it works.

 

As far as sunsets I'd normally shoot to have 2-3 flashes on the subject at either f4/5.6 then shoot a few at 1/60 and a few at 1/30 (on iso100 film). And it seemed to work a bunch of times.

 

I know I probably sound like the biggest hack loser photographer ever..... but if the shoe fits, wear it.

 

fear not, kyle will have something really good for ya. he's the real deal.

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I just carry around a little p&s for sunset exposures, works for me. Or meter for the ambient and underexpose by like 3 stops.

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someone needs to give kyle bunker an award. he sat there for about 3.5 hours typing this. probably the most in depth and helpful/informative response ever in the history of skateperception, thank you kyle!!!

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someone needs to give kyle bunker an award. he sat there for about 3.5 hours typing this. probably the most in depth and helpful/informative response ever in the history of skateperception, thank you kyle!!!

 

Seconded.

 

Thank you, kyle bunker. That was very very helpful.

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Damn Kyle, you're dreamy.

 

Either way that post reasurred my believes that incident metering sucks. Thanks alot, pal.

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Damn Kyle, you're dreamy.

 

Either way that post reasurred my believes that incident metering sucks. Thanks alot, pal.

time to start saving for that spot attachment, eh? :)

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The beauty of the spot system is that you are metering light that is reflected off of the subject and coming back towards the camera. Thus, there is no running around in the scene, pointing your ping-pong ball thing at your flashes and getting a bunch of arbitrary meter readings that really don’t mean shit as far what the camera is actually going to see.

 

 

 

couldn't you do the same thing with your in camera meter if it has a spot setting?

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couldn't you do the same thing with your in camera meter if it has a spot setting?

Yeah you could, having a telephoto lens and doing that could work, but quite a hassle.

 

And kyle, im guessing you have the 1 degree spot metter thing, would you suggest it over a 5 degree or 10 degree one?

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Yeah you could, having a telephoto lens and doing that could work, but quite a hassle.

 

And kyle, im guessing you have the 1 degree spot metter thing, would you suggest it over a 5 degree or 10 degree one?

 

 

 

Honestly I didn’t know there was a such thing as the 5 or 10 degree.

 

 

But yeah, I would only go with the 1, as a 5 or 10 would end up metering too much of the scene at once, and your reading wouldn’t necessarily be of what you meant to meter.

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I feel like a total tool now for buying a l358 last week for my bronny.

 

Don't. Incident metering is far easier for getting an overall reading for the scene. You need far more skill with a spot meter as you need to pick out different parts of the scene, take readings, figure out which ones are important and then adjust the exposure level as needs be.

 

Just remember to measure ambient and flash individually, don't use any functions that combine the reading for you.

 

It sounds as though kyle doesn't quite understand how to correctly take incident light readings, which is why he has said to use spot metering. I would advice incident over spot metering if you're just starting out with a light meter.

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Don't. Incident metering is far easier for getting an overall reading for the scene. You need far more skill with a spot meter as you need to pick out different parts of the scene, take readings, figure out which ones are important and then adjust the exposure level as needs be.

 

Just remember to measure ambient and flash individually, don't use any functions that combine the reading for you.

 

It sounds as though kyle doesn't quite understand how to correctly take incident light readings, which is why he has said to use spot metering. I would advice incident over spot metering if you're just starting out with a light meter.

can you better describe how to take dope, accurate readings with the incident meter then? it does not have to be nearly as in depth as kyles, but if you could just talk a little more about it i'd love to hear.

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can you better describe how to take dope, accurate readings with the incident meter then? it does not have to be nearly as in depth as kyles, but if you could just talk a little more about it i'd love to hear.

 

incident metering is pretty much the same as reflected metering, the only difference is that with reflected metering you are metering from a distant point, where you will be taking the picture from. with incident metering, you have to be at the spot were the subject/scene is going to be.

 

incident is also better because if you spot meter off of certain colors or shiny objects you will get an inaccurate exposure. with incident metering, it measures only the amount of light that is hitting the little white dome, thus very reflective objects or bright colors will not skew the exposure.

 

oh and make sure when you incident meter for your main flash it is facing towards where you would be taking the picture from, and for rim light meter towards the flash.

 

spot metering might be helpful though if you are going to be metering a sunset because if you incident meter for ambient the sky is going to be overexposed, so what you would do is use the spot meter to meter a part of the sunset that is the brightest and use that reading to set your flashes to the right aperture.

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this is all very helpful. i'm glad there's some smart people on skateperception, you all have saved me alot of trouble.

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Thanks a lot kyle. haha too bad i just ordered my l358 for my bronny too and now its supposed to come tomorrow and i just saw this topic. I guess i'll try out that 1 degree attachment. Im sure the meter will come in handy for some other stuff though. Thanks for pinning this steve. It helped so much reading this. Definetly the most ive learned off SP in sometime.

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from the start i havent had any problems using my lightmeter, i think you just have to play around alot, an important thing i think though is say when your metering for a portrait, lets say natural light, and on side is lit and the other not, and you take an incident metering, put the meter on the side of the face where the light from the sun isnt directly hitting it, and point at the camera, letting the direct sun hit it will cause the meter to expose for the bright sunlight hitting the filter thing therefore underexposing the shadows

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Thanks kyle!!!!

Just one question, i have an 18% gray card and an incamera meter, which i meter, then use common sense with under/over exposing for how i want the photo to come out. Although this is a very horrible system, especially shotting silde film, (considering my gray is more like 30% and i over expose by a stop on every shot) this is considered spot metering correct?

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[quote name='bmxologist' post='1359470' date='Oct 28 2006, 05:20 PM']I feel like a total tool now for buying a l358 last week for my bronny. Thanks a lot, kyle. pfft.[/quote]
but the 358 comes with the reflected light attachment. shouldn't that work sort of the same?

and i feel retarted for shooting a few rolls of film before i read this...

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[quote name='Roll Forever' post='2438786' date='Jun 24 2008, 09:24 AM']Is it worth getting the L758 or is the L358 just as good?[/quote]
the 758 has a built in spot meter, the 358 is just incident, unless you spend another $100 or so on a spot attachment

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