PDA

View Full Version : The Great Light Meter Debate


Roger Hicks
09-01-2009, 03:17
This is a perennial debate. Does anyone want to argue with the following?

Anyone who does not use a light meter when necessary is a fool.

Anyone who does not accept that using a light meter may not always be necessary is an even bigger fool.

Anyone who cannot understand that different people have different definitions of 'necessary' is the biggest fool of all.

(Idle thought as a break from reorganizing my study. All displacement activities gratefully welcomed!)

Cheers,

R,

david.elliott
09-01-2009, 03:19
To each their own. :)

Best of luck with reorganizing your study Roger!

fixbones
09-01-2009, 03:22
well said ha ha

ZeissFan
09-01-2009, 03:42
With color slide film, I'm a bit more careful and generally meter nearly every shot.

With b/w, I'll sometimes take an initial reading to give me a base. And then I'll make small adjustments as I move from light to shade -- and usually checking readings here and there along the way.

MacDaddy
09-01-2009, 04:03
Light meter? What's THAT? *o)

Ronald M
09-01-2009, 04:28
Sunlight Studio lights you don`t move. Multiple shots in the same location.

None require a meter.

Use one when you must, but don`t become a slave to it.

condon
09-01-2009, 04:40
A lightmeter is a tool and very easy to understand.
Light is a different matter and sometimes hard to understand.
A lightmeter may be helpful - sometimes.

johne
09-01-2009, 04:53
At 81 tomorrow, I fear my guessokmeter needs batteries.
johne

dmr
09-01-2009, 05:18
A light meter makes a suggestion, not a mandate. :)

MCTuomey
09-01-2009, 05:36
no argument here, roger

bean_counter
09-01-2009, 05:49
my father shot Kodachrome exclusively for decades on his IIIf w/o a meter, and he nailed most of his exposures

alas, I am a slave to my hand-held meter, but I dislike in-camera meters

to each his own

now, enough goofing off, back to work on your study ;)

Roger Hicks
09-01-2009, 06:01
now, enough goofing off, back to work on your study ;)

I'm just putting it back together. Several dozen cables and wires. What sort of idiot designs a 'universal' fitting (USB) and then makes it in three sizes, the most common of which is nearly square so you need to look carefully before you try to push it in?

(Oh, dear, unintentional double entendre but it would be a shame to delete it.)

Cheers,

R.

Michael Markey
09-01-2009, 06:08
(Oh, dear, unintentional double entendre but it would be a shame to delete it.)

Cheers,

R.[/quote]

Matron ,the screens.
K Williams (I think)

uhligfd
09-01-2009, 06:08
So, what about the person who defines "fool" via photographic terms and behavior?

A fool or a sage? Obnoxious or sane?

Get out and look for/see pictures worth taking!

micromontenegro
09-01-2009, 06:09
I love to have a lightmeter, so I can check if it agrees with my guesstimates. But I recently it does seem to agree very seldom, so I tend to leave it at home ;-)
Nonetheless, I do have one onboard one (selenium) that I trust blindly. I have been known to go fetch that camera when unsure. Go figure.

BillP
09-01-2009, 06:21
Roger, I agree, although I would suggest replacing the term "fool" with "unenlightened"... :rolleyes:

Perhaps it would be advantageous to consider why people use/rely upon meters - I suspect the logic expressed may be interesting in and of itself.

Off the top of my head I can think of the following reasons:

1. The need for accuracy
2. The perceived need for accuracy
3. Lack of experience
4. Lack of confidence
5. Habit
6. Laziness

Ultimately, whether someone uses a meter or not matters as much to me as whether or not they believe in a deity - as long as they keep their belief to themselves and try not to convert me. I am confident and happy in what I do - sometimes I meter, sometimes I don't - and no amount of browbeating otherwise will influence my choice one jot or iota.

Regards,

Bill

Roger Hicks
09-01-2009, 06:32
Roger, I agree, although I would suggest replacing the term "fool" with "unenlightened"... :rolleyes:

Perhaps it would be advantageous to consider why people use/rely upon meters - I suspect the logic expressed may be interesting in and of itself.

Off the top of my head I can think of the following reasons:

1. The need for accuracy
2. The perceived need for accuracy
3. Lack of experience
4. Lack of confidence
5. Habit
6. Laziness

Ultimately, whether someone uses a meter or not matters as much to me as whether or not they believe in a deity - as long as they keep their belief to themselves and try not to convert me. I am confident and happy in what I do - sometimes I meter, sometimes I don't - and no amount of browbeating otherwise will influence my choice one jot or iota.

Regards,

Bill

Dear Bill,

Couldn't agree more, especially the last paragraph.

Cheers,

R.

MacDaddy
09-01-2009, 06:45
Ha! Actually, I have a nice Sekonic 558 unit and use it occasionally, especially when shooting either way early or way late in the day when the light gets quite tricky to gauge. I don't use it like I should, but the results please me and those foolish enough to actually WANT to see my photos. YMMV! (Obviously, SOME folks took me literally! The joys of the internet!)

bmattock
09-01-2009, 07:20
This is a perennial debate. Does anyone want to argue with the following?


Not really.


Anyone who does not use a light meter when necessary is a fool.

Anyone who does not accept that using a light meter may not always be necessary is an even bigger fool.


True.


Anyone who cannot understand that different people have different definitions of 'necessary' is the biggest fool of all.


Works for me.

My dispute has never been over the use of non-use of light meters. It gets right up my sleeve when someone states that they can, with experience, evaluate light conditions well enough by eye to dispense with the need for a light meter (the 'Sunny Sixteen Softwits'), because it is not true.

I also find it ironic and amusing that people spend fortunes on the sharpest lenses, the highest-quality cameras, and the finest film stock obtainable. They agonize over dust specks in lenses, they debate the degrading quality of skylight filters, they debate the finer points of lens hoods and RAW versus JPEG digital storage. Then, these self-same purity addicts throw metering to the winds and just roll the dice instead of taking a mere moment to take a meter reading.

"Metering? Eh, whatever. Sunny-16 and call it good."

It is my contention that exposure is a creative tool, just like focus, shutter speed, focal length, filtration, f-stop, composition, and so on. One can use exposure creatively if one chooses to do so. I do not think every shot must be metered to within a gnat's eyelash, but I think ignoring proper metering in favor of some imagined purity of guessing exposure is imbecilic in the extreme.

In the last go-around thread about metering, one thing that finally became clear to me at the end was that for some of the 'I refuse to meter' fatheads, they were actually talking about the joy they experience when taking photographs sans metering, not the resulting images. Well, if that's the case, fine and dandy. However, I wonder at the need for a camera at all if one is merely after the joie de vivre of gallivanting around in public. I advocate the proper use of a meter for those who care what their photographs look like.

If one is simply wandering around pretending to be HCB and smoking Gauloises under their very black berets with a battered M2 and a wide lens, then by all means, have at it. I would not even bother with the film in that case, since it's the experience one is after, not the finished product. Umm, it's not actually 'photography', but if if makes one feel good, then go for it.

Nikon Bob
09-01-2009, 07:45
I don't really care one way or the other. People use what they feel works for them and are happy with.

Bob

Roger Hicks
09-01-2009, 07:48
Not really.



True.



Works for me.

My dispute has never been over the use of non-use of light meters. It gets right up my sleeve when someone states that they can, with experience, evaluate light conditions well enough by eye to dispense with the need for a light meter (the 'Sunny Sixteen Softwits'), because it is not true.

I also find it ironic and amusing that people spend fortunes on the sharpest lenses, the highest-quality cameras, and the finest film stock obtainable. They agonize over dust specks in lenses, they debate the degrading quality of skylight filters, they debate the finer points of lens hoods and RAW versus JPEG digital storage. Then, these self-same purity addicts throw metering to the winds and just roll the dice instead of taking a mere moment to take a meter reading.

"Metering? Eh, whatever. Sunny-16 and call it good."

It is my contention that exposure is a creative tool, just like focus, shutter speed, focal length, filtration, f-stop, composition, and so on. One can use exposure creatively if one chooses to do so. I do not think every shot must be metered to within a gnat's eyelash, but I think ignoring proper metering in favor of some imagined purity of guessing exposure is imbecilic in the extreme.

In the last go-around thread about metering, one thing that finally became clear to me at the end was that for some of the 'I refuse to meter' fatheads, they were actually talking about the joy they experience when taking photographs sans metering, not the resulting images. Well, if that's the case, fine and dandy. However, I wonder at the need for a camera at all if one is merely after the joie de vivre of gallivanting around in public. I advocate the proper use of a meter for those who care what their photographs look like.

If one is simply wandering around pretending to be HCB and smoking Gauloises under their very black berets with a battered M2 and a wide lens, then by all means, have at it. I would not even bother with the film in that case, since it's the experience one is after, not the finished product. Umm, it's not actually 'photography', but if if makes one feel good, then go for it.

Dear Bill,

As so often, we are in absolute agreement on this.

Cheers,

R.

Gumby
09-01-2009, 07:54
I don't really care one way or the other. People use what they feel works for them and are happy with.

This pretty much sums up my attitude. I get more good images faster and with less "post-processing" with a meter than without.

Sparrow
09-01-2009, 08:04
Dear Bill,

As so often, we are in absolute agreement on this.

Cheers,

R.

Damascus is a hell of a long way by Land-rover

RayPA
09-01-2009, 08:40
Any photographer who doesn't own a light meter is a fool. Whether he/she uses it makes no difference at all.

Carlsen Highway
09-06-2009, 23:52
The picture is the boss. If I dont have time to meter then I shall use my experience. I am not going to loose a picture.
Either way.

Bmattock, you seem to be under the illusion that people who dont use a meter for periods of a shoot, don't know what the exposure should be. Hence your scathing contempt for them. This would be indeed foolish behaviour. But they can't all be fools, so maybe they know...

Roger Hicks
09-07-2009, 00:01
If I dont have time to meter then I shall use my experience. I am not going to lose a picture.

That is indeed one reason not to meter, though I suppose one could argue that this is what exposure automation is for. Another is that you are shooting ISO 100 slide film in the open in sunny weather; have already checked that the exposure is 1/250 at f/8 to f/8-1/2 (f/9.5), as you knew it would be; and see no reason to check again. Another is that you are shooting with a lighting set-up you have used a dozen times before. Yet another is that you know that a wide range of exposures is likely to work well, for example when shooting at night.

Sure, metering whenever necessary and possible is a good idea, but it's not always necessary, and as you say, it's not always possible, so it's better to guess the exposure and shoot fast rather than lose the picture by hauling out your meter and taking a reading.

Cheers,

R.

David Murphy
09-07-2009, 00:12
I learned about exposure from cinema photographers (working mostly in TV), who by-in-large frowned on meters, although they occasionally took readings with Spectra's (a pro-grade incident meter). I feel pretty much the same way - they are a tool for verification or suggestion.

I'd never let a meter control my camera, although I confess to recently playing with some Auto Reflex T's in auto mode just for fun, but they are a strange hybrid SLR beast that permits full manual control without batteries if desired. I never fire the shutter release without approving the displayed aperture setting (it's all shutter priority).

bmattock
09-07-2009, 07:33
Bmattock, you seem to be under the illusion that people who dont use a meter for periods of a shoot, don't know what the exposure should be. Hence your scathing contempt for them. This would be indeed foolish behaviour. But they can't all be fools, so maybe they know...

A) No, that is not what I believe, hence it is not an illusion.
B) No, you do not know what the exposure would be.
C) Yes, I have scathing contempt for people who are intentionally moronic.
D) Yes, they can all be fools.

First, there is no such thing as 'what the exposure should be'. There is only the exposure that you want - if you are choosing to take control of your exposure. Let me explain, since this seems such a difficult concept for many.

Let us say that you are using an auto-focus camera, and the camera locks on to a part of the frame which is NOT what you wished to be in focus. So you attempt to finagle and fiddle with it until it locks onto that which you did wish to be in focus. And then you note that despite its insistence, you disagree that focus has actually been achieved. So you disengage AF and you take control of focus, and you focus as you feel correct. You have the reliance of your eyes, and if eyes are not very good light meters, they are very good judges of what is in focus and what is not (if your eyes work correctly, anyway).

Now, which focus was 'correct'? The answer is that there is no 'correct' focus. There is only the focus you want. That is 'correct' in the sense that you want it. But there certainly is no objective standard for correct focus in a scene where multiple objects might be selected as the focus point.

In a similar situation, you apply creative control to your aperture and shutter speed selection. As an experienced photographer, you know that when you take a photo of a moving object, you may want to speed up the shutter and hence open the aperture to freeze the motion. Or, you may wish to do the opposite to enhance the motion blur for your creative purposes. The camera, though many are quite clever these days with pre-programmed settings, does not know what it is you want. So you take manual control and you set the shutter speed and aperture you wish (these days you may also manipulate the ISO if your digital camera permits that).

Now, which aperture was 'correct'? The answer again is that there is no 'correct' aperture, there is only the aperture that you wanted for the effect you desired.

Exposure is different in only one way. Both focus and creatively manipulating shutter speed / aperture are quite easily done by the human eye and mind. We do in fact have eyes adapted to detecting sharp focus, and we do indeed have minds capable of remembering details of, for example, shutter speed to show motion blur on an airplane propeller to a degree we find pleasing. But exposure is outside the competency of the human eye / brain combination.

I am not referring to common tables of exposure, collectively known as 'Sunny 16', which people can carry with them or memorize if they wish. Those will do for some situations, and will produce results that probably won't be too horrible some of the time. And if that is all the creative control one wishes to exercise over one's photos, then that's fine, and I have no argument with it.

I continue to exhibit surprise that so many people are so interested in the OTHER aspects of creative control and completely abandon the art of exposure, however.

Given an example situation as before, where the camera selects an exposure setting we disagree with (and how many people have agreed with me by stating exactly this) or an incident meter reading which people override because they feel the 'meter lies' or the 'meter is less accurate' than their own eyes, I have to wonder how it is that people who clearly agree with me - don't agree with me. It is not the meter that is inaccurate. It is giving a reading based upon its limitations and the fact that it cannot read one's mind and know what one intends the exposure to be. Given that our minds can conceive of what the resulting print should look like, we need a tool that tells from where we are starting.

The clearest example I can give is to ask someone to tell me prevailing EV is as if they were an incident light meter. Then have them go into a movie theater for several hours and re-emerge and tell me again. No one can do that, and no chart will help you. Your eyes are not light meters, they were not built to do that and they do not do it.

If I wish to take creative control of my exposure, I must meter. There is no other alternative. And further, I must use a spot-meter, as an incident or reflective meter cannot give me the degree of accuracy I need. I rely upon a spot-meter because my eyes are not one.

I need to know several things. The first is what the EV of the darkest part of the scene is. The second is what the EV of the brightest part of the scene is. Having obtained that information with the spot-meter, I then need to determine what the latitude of my recording media is, and what the darkest area of the scene in which I wish to hold detail is, as well as the brightest. It may be a case of intentionally losing detail in one end or the other, or some in both ends, if the dynamic range of the scene surpasses the latitude of my recording media. But it is under my complete control.

I can say at that point that yes, I know the exposure. I won't say I know the correct exposure, because there is no such thing, no objective standard by which to judge.

Now, I realize full well that most people can't be arsed to take this level of manual control over each and every one of their photographs. I don't do it myself. But I also often rely upon auto-focus, or aperture-priority AE, or the exposure that the camera has chosen (the histogram is very nice for this). All of these things will generally work to a degree I find acceptable in many cases. I give up creative control of these features in exchange for convenience, or expediency, and I'm happy with it. If others are too, then yay for them.

However, as we discuss the relative sharpness and definition of the latest uber-sharp lens, or the dynamic range of the latest digital sensor, or the graininess of some B&W film, or the merits of this developer's accutance over that one's, the art and science of using a meter correctly to obtain proper exposure (which is not 'correct' exposure, it is the exposure one intends) ought properly to be in the mix.

The part that amuses me no end is the sneering dismissal of a meter and its use by people who obsess over every other aspect of their photography. They claim to want manual and full control over everything, and then utterly disregard proper metering in favor of ... guessing.

Yes, sir, those people are idiots. Because they are smart enough to understand my little treatise, but they choose to ignore it, and remain ignorant intentionally. Do I sneer at them? You bet I do. What a pack of morons.

And yes, sir, they can ALL be wrong. There is no reason on earth that if everyone believes something, it must therefore be true. They are all wrong.

I've said all this before. It's as clear as I can make it. If anyone bothers to respond to it, it will be a series of accusations that I have said something which I did not, or exaggerations of what I have said to make it appear I'm wrong, or flat-out statements that they indeed CAN meter accurately with their eyeballs (which is not correct). So we go nowhere. It's the simplest thing in the world. You use tools which measure to measure things that you wish to have control over. A ruler is needed to cut boards to length because we cannot judge distance well by eye, and a light-meter is needed because we are not good judges of relative brightness.

mrisney
09-07-2009, 07:50
I have 3 camera's of 5 that don't have meters. And I move the Voigtlander VC Meter II from camera to camera - it sit's in the hotshoe. I highly recommend, it is very small, unobtrusive, intuitive, and that it

I use it on my Mamiya C220, my Polaroid 600SE and my M4-P, makes it the only meter I need. I sold my sekonic 508, and my minolta spot meter. I have been in gear reduction mode for the last year, and down to just 5 cameras and this one meter.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2496/3682976716_130b579426.jpg

It is very handy, and I need it, as I don't have the ability to estimate correct exposures without it. funny thing, is the built in meter on the Mamiya 6 - is not very accurate for some reason, and I have to bracket more than the rest of my camera's. I don't have any SLR's or DSLR's. I have a Lumix G1, and that meters fairly accurately.

Tom A
09-07-2009, 14:43
I have a handful of meters - the one that gets the most use is a small Gossen (cant remember the model - uses a flat battery) - it is cute, tells me the temperature in the breast pocket of my vest and time somewhere. Cant remember how to reset the clock anyway. It is handy for non-400 asa films as it removes some heavy math from my brain when I try to convert 400 asa values to 64 or 125 asa.
Shooting strictly black/white it is less of a problem, more latitude, more control over processing (add/subtract times depending on light situation). I have shot enough 250/320/400 asa films to guess pretty close to what I need. This said, shooting with films like Tech Pan and Minicopy II - a meter is essential as 1/2 stop will blow it.
If I had to shoot color (chromes) - again a meter is essential, either in camera or hand-held as you are dealing with narrow exposure latitudes
If the camera has a built in meter - I usually rely on it - occasionally argue with its reading - and sometimes I am right too.
For the last three weeks I have been using the Bessa III folder in 120 format. It has a very good meter and AE exposure. I have to admit that the few times I tried to outsmart it - it did a better job than I did. This is only based on 30-35 rolls of film though - sooner or later I will catch it in a position were it needs my "experience" - could be when I start shooting the last 12 rolls of Tech Pan 120 from my freezer. Now, 6x7 negs from Tech Pan is something else too - almost worth contact printing on 5x7" paper just for the hell of it. But you better have that exposure right - so I will check the AE reading AND double check with my spot meter (a Sekonic something with a 5 degree spot on it ).

rxmd
09-07-2009, 14:52
Dear Roger,

This is a perennial debate. Does anyone want to argue with the following?

Anyone who does not use a light meter when necessary is a fool.

Anyone who does not accept that using a light meter may not always be necessary is an even bigger fool.

Anyone who cannot understand that different people have different definitions of 'necessary' is the biggest fool of all.

Karl Valentin once said that "everything has already been said, just not yet by everyone." The man was right, it seems.

Cheers,
Philipp

Brian Sweeney
09-07-2009, 15:00
Meters are useful items. They do not always meter the portion of the image that you want.

I have never felt comfortable with Matrix Metering. I do not like the meter coming up with some exposure based on what it thinks the image should look like. With Average, center-weighted, and spot meters at least I can see what it is basing the measurement on.

Henryah
09-08-2009, 16:53
A comment to the never ending debate.
Study the nature of light, and use whatever metering device you have skilfully.
One early lesson in commercial B&W photography was to determine which
part of the subject matter should render a chosen density in the negative.
Or starta campaing for putting Verichrome Pan back in the market.
Henry (One of the few survivors of the sheet film days)

mh2000
09-08-2009, 17:03
>>Then, these self-same purity addicts throw metering to the winds and just roll the dice instead of taking a mere moment to take a meter reading.

The mere moment only gets you a starting point, a starting point which is often worse than sunny-16... then you guess how to correct the meter's suggestion or guess how far off the scene is from sunny-16... whatever gets you there...

I shoot a lot of old cameras using sunny-16, I own handheld meters and use them occasionally, I have cameras with TTL metering and use them as intended... I get good results with all. Outdoors I tend to get best results using sunny-16.

mh2000
09-08-2009, 17:14
>>Yes, sir, those people are idiots. Because they are smart enough to understand my little treatise, but they choose to ignore it, and remain ignorant intentionally. Do I sneer at them? You bet I do. What a pack of morons.

you say that even you (expsoure god?) can't spotmeter every shot and use in camera metering; in camera metering is often way worse than an educated guess... experience is not ignorance. Aperture-priority AE is pure ignorance... but when you are lucky, it will be close enough to sunny-16 guidelines to produce a decent photo. Yes, I shoot aperture-priority when I lazy or don't have enough time to carefully meter, but I don't ever think I'm being more precise when I use it, in fact that I know for a fact that the worse uncorrected AE shots are way way worse than sunny-16 exposures... shoot a neutral gray wall and the AE *may* be slightly more precise.

-doomed-
09-08-2009, 18:21
I use a meter when I feel its necessary ,getting by on my ancient GE selenium cell meter. That thing cost me $1.00 and seems pretty accurate as far as i can tell , I may be overexposing sometimes but this is no fault of the meter. I intend to upgrade to something a bit better , but its paid for itself a few times over now. Sunny 16 isa decent guide for guessing, but if one needs to nail that exposure reach for the meter.

aizan
09-08-2009, 19:40
the rules:

1. you cannot use a light meter for 1 month.
2. you cannot bracket.
3. you must record your settings for every frame.

at the end of the month, let us know how it went!

Chris101
09-08-2009, 20:40
Wow - I've always considered myself to be all free, and easy. "No meter for me!" I'd say as I shot blindly into the sun or shade, carefully calculating steps of shade from bright (sunny-16) to dark (indoor-30). My shots usually come out - I mean, they need an extra minute or so of printing exposure along with 2 or 3 grades, but they "come out" ok?!

But I just checked - I have 10 light meters in the house! One of my cameras (with an interchangeable finder) even has two! ... Ten meters! I'm a meter freak, and I never even knew it!

I should just join the mattock-dogmatics.



ps, Bill, this is not a personal slam or anything. In fact I admire your determination toward sensible education. But your drive to educate is so strong - plus, it rhymes! How could I not, once I thought it?

Trius
09-08-2009, 20:50
Aperture-priority AE is pure ignorance...

That is a really strange claim. Can you explain? I really don't understand.

JohnTF
09-08-2009, 21:58
But those new digital light meters are not as good as the old analog Pentax Spot meters, if you are using film, you should use the analog. ;-) There did not seem to be enough of a fuss over that one.

Unintentional double entendre? How very anti Freudian. ;-)

When I use a meter, I try to know when it is out of the niche of its design purpose and I need to use common sense.

I am pretty sure photography pre-dated light meters, I once heard something about movie film being used in still cameras to shoot tests, making cameras de facto trial and error light meters?

My first decent meter came about several years in to the hobby, it was a Gossen Pilot, still a good meter.

I do not find them really useful for the moon, or fireworks.

Finally, I really would like camera bags to be made in some standard reflectance, perhaps the percentage to which many meters are set?



Regards, John

watchyourbackgrounds
09-13-2009, 21:33
We shoot for different reasons, with different gear, with different goals, with different standards of success. Any manual film shooter accepts, and I'd guess even enjoys the challenges of getting a good shot with gear that doesn't guarantee it. It's part of the fun, and it's particularly relevant these days, when technology can do so much for you. For every advancement of technology, there's a backlash on the other end. DSLRs give birth to pinhole camera on the other end. This is a phenomenon common in many, probably most fields that have been (and I say this nicely) technified in the past decade.

The line somebody draws to make sense of their own shooting doesn't have to make sense to anybody else. In my shooting, I can draw squiggly line borders that include sharp lenses and no meters, or fine film and Target processing. My own rules don't have to make sense to anybody else, because they don't affect anybody else.

I can improve my batting average by fifty points by shooting a Yashica T4 rather than my Bessa with Skopar 35/2.5--because the T4 is a better camera than I am a shooter. But it's not about batting average for me. I like the challenge, and when i get what to me is a super shot of my family or friends on a camera and lens that requires me to dig deep and pay attention to light, I feel, in my own private world, that I've accomplished something. I don't get that feeling with the PS camera. And lately I've been trying to shoot meterless (batteryless Bessa, or BB), trying to learn to pay more attn to the light. My batting average is low, but getting higher, and for me, it's a winning combo.

If I were the master that Roger and Frances are, or if I were a pro, I wouldn't shoot meterless. But for me, at this stage of my life and photography, if I can voluntarily introduce an unnecessary challenge and "win" with a good shot at an ever increasing rate, then I kind of dig it.

This doesn't have to make sense to anybody else, and it may not, but it shouldn't threaten anybody, either. :)

Roger Hicks
09-13-2009, 23:18
We shoot for different reasons, with different gear, with different goals, with different standards of success. Any manual film shooter accepts, and I'd guess even enjoys the challenges of getting a good shot with gear that doesn't guarantee it. It's part of the fun, and it's particularly relevant these days, when technology can do so much for you. For every advancement of technology, there's a backlash on the other end. DSLRs give birth to pinhole camera on the other end. This is a phenomenon common in many, probably most fields that have been (and I say this nicely) technified in the past decade.


This is a real 'philosophy of photography' post, worth more than any sterile discussion of Sontag or Barthes.

It's likening photography to target shooting, in a way. There can be few more pointless pursuits than trying to put small holes in a piece of paper, yet many people enjoy it, and enjoy trying to get better, even though they know they will never be of championship status.

Yes, you can liken it to using a Holga (Holgas leave me cold) but everyone has a level of certainty/uncertainty that they can tolerate, and a level to which they want to rely on a machine to do things for them.

A few weeks (or maybe months) back I did a column for AP on phatic photography, by analogy with phatic speech which is speech as social interaction ('Good morning,' etc) rather than as a means of conveying new information. Many here's-my-cat-look-at-the-bokeh shots are phatic.

Here, we have a third variety of photography, as distinct from (1) 'It's the picture, stupid' and (2) phatic, viz. (3) the process of photography as relaxation and physical and mental exercise, a bit like many sports.

Cheers,

R.

bmattock
09-14-2009, 03:44
It's likening photography to target shooting, in a way. There can be few more pointless pursuits than trying to put small holes in a piece of paper, yet many people enjoy it, and enjoy trying to get better, even though they know they will never be of championship status.


Then we are talking about fotografvergnügen, to coin a phrase. Nothing wrong with that.

However, if such be the case, then one ought properly not ask 'what is wrong with this photograph' because one does not care. Likewise, the sharpest lens and the most well-made camera body should have little to do with it - if one is simply deriving enjoyment from the act of photography and not the results one obtains.

I enjoy the act of fotografvergnügen myself. Like the target shooter, however, I challenge myself to make the best photographs I can make in a given circumstance. That would include trying my best to obtain exposures that are as I intend them to be, rather than leaving them to the tender mercies of 'acceptable error', fate and memories of similar lighting situations. As a sometime target-shooter myself, I would be discouraged if I found that I could not get anything resembling a tight group on the paper, and found it was due to my lack of caring about breath control (for example). Choosing to forgo breath control because it is more enjoyable to disregard it, I would be unpleased with my results.

Roger Hicks
09-14-2009, 04:07
Dear Bill,

It occurs to me that we may (or may not) have been misunderstanding one another fundamentally.

I pretty much agree with you that it is foolish NOT to use a meter when you are learning photography: the percentage of losses is likely to be very great. I started with a clip-on meter on a Pentax SV in 1966 and 800 feet of free outdated FP2.

Where we differ is what you need to do once you have learned and gained a bit of experience. In 1969 or so I bought a Leica IIIa. I carried it everywhere. Carrying a meter as well would not have been practical. By then, I was pretty good at guessing exposure, so I didn't worry.

And I haen't worried since. I'm sure I'd have lost more pictures to faffing around with a meter for every shot than I have lost by guessing exposures when a meter isn't convenient. Ideally, of course I'll meter, but for photography-as-sport, going for a walk locally, I do sometimes enjoy the sort of thing described by watchyourbackgrounds: my Retina, or an old roll-film camera, and no meter. I don't recall the last time I lost a shot, or even got a significantly sub-optimal image, with this approach.

And yes, I do care about the pictures. I also care about a leisurely stroll without worrying about professional pressures. I just prefer a different balance to what you espouse.

Cheers,

R.

David R Munson
09-14-2009, 04:40
My view on this is colored by my experience in commercial photography. An incident meter is phenomenally useful a cinch to use, and pretty much takes just a little more than zero time. In the span of three seconds (actually three seconds, I timed it once out of boredom) I can whip out my Sekonic and know if my exposure has changed, etc. The beauty of an incident meter, too, is that it is in no way influenced by subject reflectance, as it measures the light falling on the subject. I have used a meter long enough that it is second nature to me. It is easy as could be, and it guarantees that (outside of the stupid mistakes we all occasionally make) I nail my exposures every time. Given that, why wouldn:t I use a meter?

(note that I:m on a Japanese keyboard and there:s no apostrophe)

Oh, and I don:t always use my meter with digital (histograms are a godsend), but do plenty often.

bmattock
09-14-2009, 04:46
And yes, I do care about the pictures. I also care about a leisurely stroll without worrying about professional pressures. I just prefer a different balance to what you espouse.


I confess that I do not go out to take photographs when my purpose is actually to stretch my legs. However, I do not condemn those who do just because I do not.

Like you, I take photographs for the pure joy of the act at times - and as many here have seen, I will gleefully employ a Kodak Brownie with an intentionally inverted lens or duct-tape a copier lens to the body of an old SLR just to see what sort of effect I might get. Metering in such situations would be rather gilding the Lilly.

What I have counseled against are two notions, neither of which you espouse, but which are rife on RFF.

The first is that meters are unnecessary, because one can eventually learn to guess the best exposure in any circumstance. You haven't said it, but many others here have. I have agreed that exposure charts can be useful and accurate 'enough' for 'reasonable' exposure, as can memory of similar lighting situations of times past. What I don't agree with is that reasonable exposure is the same thing as putting exposure under one's control.

The second is the concept that there is some sort of purity to be obtained by not using a meter. This is a concept I find utterly absurd. We demand that our shutters be accurate - for the very reason that we want good exposure. But if we refuse to meter, shutter speed accuracy is hardly important (just as an example).

I also have to admit that I derive a great deal of enjoyment from the irony - which I have stated repeatedly and which those affected seem to feel as a sharp stick in the eye - of those who demand the very best in everything and then eschew metering in favor of 'reasonable exposure'. Imagine thousand-dollar (or more) lenses which are blinkered by being used in less than optimal circumstances. I have to chuckle.

"I want the best of everything, and I send back nine lenses out of ten which I buy, on the basis that they don't meet my exacting standards. Exposure? Meh, who cares?"

I also espouse a standard which I freely admit I have raised myself. I realized some time ago that exposure is not an objective standard, but rather a subjective one. "Correct exposure" is simply the exposure that one desires, no matter what others may say or what a meter may indicate.

However, having said that, if one does not have precise control over one's exposure, one cannot be said to be exercising one's desire with regard to exposure (other than 'reasonable accuracy' as stated in previous posts).

It was an enlightening moment for me (pardon the pun) when I realized for the first time that just as focus and aperture can be used creatively to achieve the effect one wishes, so to can exposure. Exposure is not just about getting a reasonably accurate image - it is (or can be if one wishes) a method of exercising creative control over the image itself.

It was while thinking about Gene Meatyard's photographs that I began to realize that one of his themes was not so much the subject of the images, but the atmosphere he intentionally invoked, through exposure more than composition or focus. Now this may seem like utter child's play to one who has formally studied photography, but I am an autodidact, and I had somehow missed this.

Thus, exposure to me has become a last frontier, and one that is not frequently explored by photographers. So much has been done with all of the other properties of photography, and so little with exposure. it is not enough to say one wants to underexpose or overexpose a scene creatively, that is gross control but not precise. High key and low key photography are like baby steps in that direction but are used for such basic effects that they are relegated to the toolkit of the portrait photographer as an occasional trick.

I recently went to a bodybuilding competition. I have no real interest in bodybuilding, but I thought it would be an interesting photographic exercise, and so I went. Whilst there, I invested some time in my thoughts on exposure, with interesting results:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3573/3393656046_7a4a62c55e.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/3393656046/)

I did not use the typical composition for portrait photography, nor the usual attempts to get good WB, etc. I went for the emotion and drama of the event, and I put my camera under manual control and intentionally chose what my camera insisted was underexposure. I wanted what I got and I got what I wanted - this was a manifestation of my continuing to desire to exploit exposure as a creative photographic tool.

Exposure can speak as powerfully as focus, framing, and aperture control. But I feel it is woefully neglected.

And so, as you have said, I am 'religious' about the subject. Doesn't everyone have something they feel passionate about?

Ronald_H
09-14-2009, 04:52
To be frank, meters confuse me. I often carry a meter (Gossen Digiflash) for my meterless cameras, and for example a Nikon FM, which has a decent meter.

BUT... the Gossen needs a quite severe exposure adjustment for normal circumstances. You can only do that with the manual.

The FM is not accurate at very low light levels.

If I use my TLR, I know the shutter is a bit slow, so I have to compensate for that.

Some films I use work better at other ISOs than is on the box.

The list goes one and on. Bottom line: A meter can be very handy, but never take it at face value. Better still: If you think your meter is wrong, it usually is!

Roger Hicks
09-14-2009, 05:15
My view on this is colored by my experience in commercial photography. An incident meter is phenomenally useful a cinch to use, and pretty much takes just a little more than zero time. In the span of three seconds (actually three seconds, I timed it once out of boredom) I can whip out my Sekonic and know if my exposure has changed, etc. The beauty of an incident meter, too, is that it is in no way influenced by subject reflectance, as it measures the light falling on the subject. I have used a meter long enough that it is second nature to me. It is easy as could be, and it guarantees that (outside of the stupid mistakes we all occasionally make) I nail my exposures every time. Given that, why wouldn:t I use a meter?

(note that I:m on a Japanese keyboard and there:s no apostrophe)

Oh, and I don:t always use my meter with digital (histograms are a godsend), but do plenty often.

Very true with colour tranny or digi, where exposure is keyed to the highlights, but with neg (where exposure is keyed to the shadows) the only way to be SURE of adequate shadow detail without unnecessary overexposure is a direct (usally spot) reading of the shadows: not a 3-second job.

Cheers,

R.

ZorkiKat
09-14-2009, 05:56
Kodachrome with a speed of ASA/Weston 10 or so sold for years. Bought by people who didn't really have meters, and used the off-the-box table recommendation of 1/60 @ f/5,6 (or 1/50 @ f/6,3) for their sunlight snapshots, and following the tables for the other situations. After selling for years and gazillions of slides later, they must have been doing something right, not always with meters though.

bmattock
09-14-2009, 06:07
Kodachrome with a speed of ASA/Weston 10 or so sold for years. Bought by people who didn't really have meters, and used the off-the-box table recommendation of 1/60 @ f/5,6 (or 1/50 @ f/6,3) for their sunlight snapshots, and following the tables for the other situations. After selling for years and gazillions of slides later, they must have been doing something right, not always with meters though.

It is an unwarranted assumption that since something has been going on for years, there must be something valid to it. For generations, people have been throwing a pinch of spilled salt over their left shoulder. Do you actually suppose that this negates 'bad luck' for spilling salt?

Just because lots of people do something only means that lots of people do it - it does not mean they are right.

Roger Hicks
09-14-2009, 06:25
Just because lots of people do something only means that lots of people do it - it does not mean they are right.
Dear Bill,

True. But if meterless Kodachrome users got the exposures right enough, often enough, to keep on doing it, it suggests they weren't entirely wrong either.

Cheers,

R.

bmattock
09-14-2009, 06:39
True. But if meterless Kodachrome users got the exposures right enough, often enough, to keep on doing it, it suggests they weren't entirely wrong either.


Again, we just get wrapped around the use of the term 'right'.

It's 'right' if it is acceptable to the photographer, and if that is all they wish for, then they have done well and estimation of exposure has worked for them.

It is not 'right' if they got a blown-out sky and wished they had not, as an example.

One understands that DoF at a given aperture for a given lens will cover a small focusing error, and thus be 'acceptably sharp'. Is that a good substitute for careful focus?

The continuing use of single-use cameras equipped with fixed-focus lenses, no exposure control, and color print film indicates that for many, this is acceptable - and thus 'right'.

But is it what many of us would want?

ZorkiKat
09-14-2009, 07:39
It is an unwarranted assumption that since something has been going on for years, there must be something valid to it. For generations, people have been throwing a pinch of spilled salt over their left shoulder. Do you actually suppose that this negates 'bad luck' for spilling salt?

Just because lots of people do something only means that lots of people do it - it does not mean they are right.


Your analogies are soooo far off. You back your ideas with concepts of logic, but the examples you use to support your logic are by themselves unrelated to the issue.

Kodachrome in meterless Retina, Argus, Leica, Contax, or Perfex cameras, exposed using the tables provided by Kodak is not the same as 'believing' that tossing salt will cancel bad luck

You see, the exposure tables from which users learn to 'guesstimate' were based on what the film manufacturer knows about how its emulsion reacts to light (its 'speed'), coupled with what is actually seen (physical: light), to arrive at values which can be used for exposure. When the film gets developed, a proper looking shot is produced, making the shooter happy enough to buy more Kodachrome.

On the other hand tossing salt involves elements which have no known factual basis, no physical manifestation other than getting salt sprinkled about, and whatever form of luck which follows cannot be truly attributed to this action. That's entirely different and cannot be used to compare with what an Argus toting Kodachrome shooter does when he guesstimates.

And BTW, unlike Kodachrome, tossing more salt (pinching too much by not using a measuring spoon) will not necessarily result in an adverse reaction.

Do you really just want to annoy people?

bmattock
09-14-2009, 07:46
You see, the exposure tables from which users learn to 'guesstimate' were based on what the film manufacturer knows about how its emulsion reacts to light (its 'speed'), coupled with what is actually seen (physical: light), to arrive at values which can be used for exposure. When the film gets developed, a proper looking shot is produced, making the shooter happy enough to buy more Kodachrome.


A) you cannot 'see' the light value. Only a guess based on what the EV of the typical sunny day tends to be (or cloudy day, etc).

B) "Proper looking" is as I have said - subjective. Single use camera owners seem happy enough with 'good enough' and if that is what you want, I certainly have no objections.


Do you really just want to annoy people?

I am stating my opinion and defending it with logic. Shall I cease doing so because you find it annoying? That seems as if you're saying I am right, but you don't like hearing it.

JohnTF
09-14-2009, 07:47
Roger,

I object mildly to the use of the word guess if it involves every exposure made without the use of a light meter.

It seems a trained eye can judge the light, made easier by using common IE's, knowing your equipment, and the nature of the medium and materials. Some things become known through experience.

A painter makes a stroke on a canvas, is it a guess if he does not use some mechanical device to most precisely control it?

There was a time when I used what I had, which was a camera without a practical meter nor rangefinder. In fact, I was delighted when I had my first camera that had adjustable focus.

Is the use of a meter in some cases "over use" or a "comfort" issue?

Can the same be said of Program and AF modes, or even the use of a rangefinder?

I used to work/hang around the local photo shop, and sometimes people did not want to buy cameras they "had to set" -- most photos were made with fixed focus and exposure cameras-- box cameras. The salesmen offered to set their new cameras to F8, 1/60 second and ten feet for them. ;-)

In the end, you set yourself, not the camera.

Regards, John

ZorkiKat
09-14-2009, 07:53
Again, we just get wrapped around the use of the term 'right'.

It's 'right' if it is acceptable to the photographer, and if that is all they wish for, then they have done well and estimation of exposure has worked for them.

It is not 'right' if they got a blown-out sky and wished they had not, as an example.

One understands that DoF at a given aperture for a given lens will cover a small focusing error, and thus be 'acceptably sharp'. Is that a good substitute for careful focus?

The continuing use of single-use cameras equipped with fixed-focus lenses, no exposure control, and color print film indicates that for many, this is acceptable - and thus 'right'.

But is it what many of us would want?

Judging by the popularity associated with 'simple' things, perhaps that's what many of us would want. (Too bad, in the English language, "us" can be taken to mean 'you and me' or 'us and you'...I refer to the latter).

Yes, to many of us, "acceptably sharp" can be acceptable, compared to no shot at all....how many times did aligning the split image delay tripping the shutter and caused the loss of a shot?

Guesstimation will not automatically lead to washed out skies. Count out the tyros. They will likely get bad pictures anyway with the first tries. So no amount of exposure tool will remedy this.

However, using a meter isn't always a guarantee for getting the skies right. Even those who use meters would bracket, ignoring what the meter tells them and use something else which they feel right. How different is this from using 1/125 at f/16, based on a table, and then a couple more at plus and minus values?

And BTW, "simple" is the operative word which made (and still makes) photography more popular. The box Kodak made it simple. Roll film and flexible film replacing glass made the work simple. Small candid cameras made it simple. Were all these wrong because they were simple?

varjag
09-14-2009, 07:58
A) you cannot 'see' the light value. Only a guess based on what the EV of the typical sunny day tends to be (or cloudy day, etc).
Sun is a constant light source, therefore for every season and latitude the amount of light from the sun in clear sky is constant. Geographic and seasonal variations are usually less than 1 stop, combined. This is the basis for Sunny 16, and it is pretty scientific.

I am stating my opinion and defending it with logic. Shall I cease doing so because you find it annoying? That seems as if you're saying I am right, but you don't like hearing it.
There was that Zeno guy who was proving, by using flawed propositional logic, that movement is impossible. I can easily imagine him speaking in your voice :)

Roger Hicks
09-14-2009, 08:02
Roger,

I object mildly to the use of the word guess if it involves every exposure made without the use of a light meter.


Dear John,

Well, unless you've taken an earlier reading (or Polaroid or digi...) and the light has not changed, it's never more than a informed guess, but it can be a VERY well-informed guess, so there's my mild concession to your mild objection.

Cheers,

R.

ZorkiKat
09-14-2009, 08:02
A) you cannot 'see' the light value. Only a guess based on what the EV of the typical sunny day tends to be (or cloudy day, etc).

[...]



I am stating my opinion and defending it with logic. Shall I cease doing so because you find it annoying? That seems as if you're saying I am right, but you don't like hearing it.


Neither can film "see" EV. EV is an artificial value meant to divide light intensity into 16 or so steps. And I never mentioned anything about 'seeing' light values. I said "see" light- as in sunny, dull, or grey.

What film 'sees' is what is given it it as it comes through the aperture when the shutter opens.

When you look at the typical 'weather' scale of an exposure table, what you see as daylight conditions from bright sunlight to cloudy can translate to LV values.

As for defending your opinion with logic, sorrry, I don't see any. I see mostly non-sequiturs. Like comparing shooting Kodachrome meterless to tossing salt for good luck.

Edit: And that's not -and never could be- saying that I am annoyed because I find your argument right. It's your flawed reasoning ad nauseam which is annoying.

bmattock
09-14-2009, 08:20
Judging by the popularity associated with 'simple' things, perhaps that's what many of us would want. (Too bad, in the English language, "us" can be taken to mean 'you and me' or 'us and you'...I refer to the latter).


Again, I agree with you. If that is what is desired, how could I object to it?


Yes, to many of us, "acceptably sharp" can be acceptable, compared to no shot at all....how many times did aligning the split image delay tripping the shutter and caused the loss of a shot?


Again, I agree. My statements were that a guess which results in 'acceptable' results is fine if that is what you want. Is that what you want?


Guesstimation will not automatically lead to washed out skies. Count out the tyros. They will likely get bad pictures anyway with the first tries. So no amount of exposure tool will remedy this.


But guestimation will not eliminate blown out highlights, either.

Guessing is prone to error. Perhaps the margins are smaller for those more experienced at estimating local weather conditions, but error prone it remains.


However, using a meter isn't always a guarantee for getting the skies right.


If the meter is functioning properly and the person using it knows how, then I would disagree and say yes, it is.


Even those who use meters would bracket, ignoring what the meter tells them and use something else which they feel right. How different is this from using 1/125 at f/16, based on a table, and then a couple more at plus and minus values?


That would be the inappropriate use of the meter. The meter gives readings. It does not tell anyone what the correct or even appropriate exposure should be.


And BTW, "simple" is the operative word which made (and still makes) photography more popular. The box Kodak made it simple. Roll film and flexible film replacing glass made the work simple. Small candid cameras made it simple. Were all these wrong because they were simple?

They are not 'wrong', nor have I said that they were. I have said that they are not accurate. I like simple too. I do not attempt to use a simple camera, nor do I choose not to meter, when exposure is important to me. Exposure is not always important to me.

JohnTF
09-14-2009, 08:22
Dear John,

Well, unless you've taken an earlier reading (or Polaroid or digi...) and the light has not changed, it's never more than a informed guess, but it can be a VERY well-informed guess, so there's my mild concession to your mild objection.

Cheers,

R.

I suppose I have a reaction to the common language usage of a hypothesis as an "educated guess", which can have some meaning I suppose, but if it is educated, is it really a guess, or the best prediction based on the data? Your experience from a collection of past data, and a light meter reading are both merely data.

Probably from years of trying to dissuade my students from blindly guessing, and the ensuing pride associated with the occasional dart hitting the board, I have developed a bit of a concern about the use of this word. I try to label a lucky guess as just that.

It is further reflected in my current personal irritation in the media with instant expertise and what passes for valid news reporting spiced with impulsive responses twittered to the broadcast.

I have shot with some very experienced people and if their "guess" disagrees with my light meter, I check the meter. ;-)

We can all too easily become over dependent on devices, I wanted to set the cash registers in some fast food place to give out too much change, then wait for the operator to ask for more change when the machine runs out of cash. ;-)


Regards, John

antiquark
09-14-2009, 08:35
This is a perennial debate. Does anyone want to argue with the following?

My vote is: to each his own.

rxmd
09-14-2009, 08:38
I like simple too. I do not attempt to use a simple camera, nor do I choose not to meter, when exposure is important to me. Exposure is not always important to me.

Great! Then you're actually right there with everybody else.

skibeerr
09-14-2009, 08:44
Measure the light, where to start........?

David R Munson
09-14-2009, 15:44
Very true with colour tranny or digi, where exposure is keyed to the highlights, but with neg (where exposure is keyed to the shadows) the only way to be SURE of adequate shadow detail without unnecessary overexposure is a direct (usally spot) reading of the shadows: not a 3-second job.

Cheers,

R.

Well, it is a method that I have based my process on and I get precisely the negatives I want pretty much 100% of the time. Maybe not for everyone, but it works wonderfully for me.

wolves3012
09-20-2009, 10:25
Some meter every shot. Some refuse to meter. The pro-meter crowd says the no-meter crowd is wrong and vice-versa. Neither camp is correct.

Fact: the human eye is an appalling judge of light level, since it's adapted to a huge range whilst maintaining adequate vision. However, the human brain can read the clues and figure a fairly good approximation, given the experience and desire to do so.

Personally, I meter most shots. I still goof at least a couple of frames per roll by forgetting to change aperture or speed but I accept that. Those who say a meter is essential fly in the face of the experience of those who manage without. Those who say a meter is unnecessary should really add "for them".

Why can both sides not simply accept that we choose what works for us? Some rely on a meter, some cannot guess accurately enough and so need one (myself included). Instead we have one side telling the other they're wrong, which is itself wrong. I admire those who get away with good guesswork, I know it's something I can't manage.