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Archive 2011 · Do I really need a Light Meter?
  
 
cgardner
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p.3 #1 · p.3 #1 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Outdoor lighting is very predictable. I did OK for the first year with nothing more than the chart inside the Kodak Film box: Sunny 16 / Shady 5.6.

A sunny outdoor scene has a range of about 10 f/stops. A digital camera can record about 7 of them accurately. That leaves about 3 to worry about. Options are:

1) Expose for highlights: Start at "Sunny 16" equivalent (i.e. 1/200th @ f/11 @ ISO 100) and tweek per the clipping warning: lose 3 stops of shadow detail

2) Spilt the difference. FIrst Expose to the right per the clipping warning, then increase 1.5 stops: lose 1.5 stops on each end.

3) Expose for Shadows: This is a good strategy if there is a shaded backlit content in the shot. It will blow the highlights by about 3 stops, but correctly expose the faces. Start from a baseline of Shady 5.6 equivalent (i.e. 1/200th @ f/4 @ ISO 100) then tweek using clipping warning on shaded front of subject. Since the sensor is about 7 stops you can also get there by starting with step one and increasing exposure 3 stops. The shady side is always about 3 stops darker. This doesn't peg exposure to the left but will usually capture detail in all but the darkest cross-lit content of the scene,

4) All of the above: If you start by exposing per the clipping warning, then bracket +1.5 and +3 stops one of the three shots should be optimally exposed for the most important content in the scene.

The way to get better is to practice without the meter. Unlike the film days it costs nothing and the feedback is immediate. I have good situational awareness of lighting, both exposure and direction, because I was forced out of necessity to shoot that way when I started.



Nov 21, 2011 at 09:42 PM
RustyBug
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p.3 #2 · p.3 #2 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


And I learned by shooting chromes ... i.e. zero lattitude (okay, maybe 1/3 stop under).

I'll use an incident light meter, a reflected spot, average weighted, center weighted, (handheld or in-camera) Sunny 16, Film Box, gray card, etc. Each one has it's place ... as does a histo & blinkies.

But when your metering device hides/consolidates endpoints from you as much as 3/4 - 2 stops, I just can't see how you can consider that as precise an approach as a meter that has .1 EV capability, particularly combined with today's lighting that also has .1 EV precision. I get that digital has more lattitude than chrome (so did negative) thanks to the magic of 1's and 0's ... but that still doesn't obviate good metering technique for placing your starting point relative to where you want to wind up ... or adjusting (or waiting for) your lighting to match your vision.

Oh well, those who meter will likely continue to do so ... and, those who fully trust their blinkies and histo's letting PS be their "safety net" will likely do the same. It can be kinda tough to teach "Old Dinosaurs" new tricks.

Although, I sure do wish they'd put RGB values in all camera's and show the full and accurate histo range.

Best to all.

Edited on Nov 21, 2011 at 10:57 PM · View previous versions



Nov 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM
BrianO
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p.3 #3 · p.3 #3 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


cgardner wrote:
Outdoor lighting is very predictable.


Not where I live.



Nov 21, 2011 at 10:55 PM
markymarc
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p.3 #4 · p.3 #4 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


In addition, is not the histogram based up on a jpeg view or in other words picture settings. The histogram is not based on the raw file right? You can manipulate the picture settings greatly and the raw file histogram is still the same. If that is true, then there are more reasons to rely on a meter.




Nov 21, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Peter Figen
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p.3 #5 · p.3 #5 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Yes, the LCD histogram is based on the jpeg settings in the camera, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The jpeg processing in most settings actually clips both ends slightly, making jpegs that are snappier than raws. This is great for snapshooters who don't have the patience or the skill to pull the most out of a raw file. As I've said multiple times in this thread, the fact that you get a bit more on the raw than shows on the histogram is good. If it were the opposite, you'd be forever cursing it for not showing you what you'd lost, but here it's not showing you something you can actually use - or choose not to. Best of both worlds.

And even in L.A. the outdoor lighting is not predictable. Even less so in Montana, where I'll be shooting in a couple of weeks.



Nov 22, 2011 at 02:41 AM
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