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light metering
Old 09-17-2005   #1
FrankS
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light metering

This topic has been in the back of my mind this morning and I'm going to try to present it in words.

Much has been said about the liberating experience of using a hand held light meter as opposed to the camera's built-in meter, and I totally agree with that. Photogs who have never used an external meter often use their cameras' meters incorrectly, assuming that each time they frame a new image, the aperture or shutter speed dial needs to be adjsuted so that the camera's meter is satisfied. They end up fiddling for 30 sec. or so before each exposure, CHASING THE NEEDLE OF THE METER. By not understanding the nature of reflected light reading, they are often rewarded with incorrect exposures for their trouble. (when the frame contains an unequal mix of light and dark elements especially near the center where the light metering pattern is commonly more sensitive.)

Once you break away from that, and using a handheld meter is a great way of doing so, you will probably realize the problem with this practice. Using (especially an incident type) hand held meter, one begins to better understand the nature of light and the concept of light metering.

Once this understanding is reached and one can use a camera's built in meter correctly without chasing the needle, a built-in meter is more convenient than a separate hand held meter IMO. A hand held meter is an extra object to carry and manipulate. A very small meter that lips onto the camer's hotshoe is a pretty good alternative to both a hand held meter and a built in meter because it allows you to adjust the camera's setting without raising the camera to your eye to see the built in meter. The problem with these meters however, is that even though they are fairly small they do add bulk and they occupy the hotshoe which may be needed for an accessory finder.

Anyway, having used hand held meters extensively, I believe that I can now use a camera's built-in meter effectively and prefer such cameras. My M6 cannot be beat!

(No, my M2, M3, and IIa are not for sale.)
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Old 09-17-2005   #2
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Thanks, Frank. I'm soaking in these words now, and rethinking about how I meter. This week I bought a handheld meter (incident and reflected). I haven't gotten a chance to see results yet, but I've been comparing readings between the two modes and the CdS meter on my Canon 7s. It roughly matches the reflected mode on the handheld, but the TTL meter on my Minolta XG-M reads way, way different. I'd like to force myself to use only the handheld for all my cameras for the next few weeks, although carrying the extra gadget for one body, one lens street shots doesn't really appeal to me. I have to learn though.
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Old 09-17-2005   #3
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An incident mode reading should be the same as a reflected mode reading of an 18% grey area under the same lighting. This is a good way to learn what sort of things one can use to get an accurate reading for a scene using an onboard meter.

A meter is also good for practicing Sunny 16, whether or not you are in the mood to take pictures. Practice guessing exposure using Sunny 16 and check it with an incident reading.

A handheld meter can actually be less obtrusive for street photography, since it allows you to preset exposure before bringing the camera up to your eye. Sunny 16 is the least obtrusive, however.

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Old 09-17-2005   #4
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A handheld meter can actually be less obtrusive for street photography, since it allows you to preset exposure before bringing the camera up to your eye.

I've been doing this (preset exposure) using the camera's built-in meter. This is what I've been talking about, rather than "chasing the needle" for each picture.
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Old 09-17-2005   #5
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i sold my leica m4-p and lens cause it did NOT have a meter built in.

i could/would not get used to handheld.

that was a long time ago.

and now, it's hard to imagine using a camera WITH a meter built in.

joe
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Old 09-17-2005   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS
This topic has been in the back of my mind this morning and I'm going to try to present it in words.

Much has been said about the liberating experience of using a hand held light meter as opposed to the camera's built-in meter, and I totally agree with that. Photogs who have never used an external meter often use their cameras' meters incorrectly, assuming that each time they frame a new image, the aperture or shutter speed dial needs to be adjsuted so that the camera's meter is satisfied. They end up fiddling for 30 sec. or so before each exposure, CHASING THE NEEDLE OF THE METER. By not understanding the nature of reflected light reading, they are often rewarded with incorrect exposures for their trouble. (when the frame contains an unequal mix of light and dark elements especially near the center where the light metering pattern is commonly more sensitive.)

Once you break away from that, and using a handheld meter is a great way of doing so, you will probably realize the problem with this practice. Using (especially an incident type) hand held meter, one begins to better understand the nature of light and the concept of light metering.

Once this understanding is reached and one can use a camera's built in meter correctly without chasing the needle, a built-in meter is more convenient than a separate hand held meter IMO. A hand held meter is an extra object to carry and manipulate. A very small meter that lips onto the camer's hotshoe is a pretty good alternative to both a hand held meter and a built in meter because it allows you to adjust the camera's setting without raising the camera to your eye to see the built in meter. The problem with these meters however, is that even though they are fairly small they do add bulk and they occupy the hotshoe which may be needed for an accessory finder.

Anyway, having used hand held meters extensively, I believe that I can now use a camera's built-in meter effectively and prefer such cameras. My M6 cannot be beat!

(No, my M2, M3, and IIa are not for sale.)
Hi Frank,

You can meter off a gray card with the camera's meter. I've used a gray lens cleaning cloth with a reflective meter in tricky lighting situations.

There's some good information here on using gray cards:
http://www.acecam.com/magazine/gray-card.html

I'd like to train myself to see EV values:
http://www.pinkheadedbug.com/techniques/exposure.html
http://home.pcisys.net/~rlsnpjs/mino...0lv%20asa.html

R.J.
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Old 09-17-2005   #7
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We don't NEED no fricken' gray card! It's easy to find a medium gray tone in or near the scene. The pavement, a lawn, an open shadow. No problem.
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Old 09-17-2005   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS
A handheld meter can actually be less obtrusive for street photography, since it allows you to preset exposure before bringing the camera up to your eye.

I've been doing this (preset exposure) using the camera's built-in meter. This is what I've been talking about, rather than "chasing the needle" for each picture.
Right. I only meant that a handheld can be less obtrusive than using an onboard meter (the way most people do: needle chasing).
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Old 09-17-2005   #9
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A grey card works just as well as incident metering, but it is still one more thing to mess with, cancelling one of the advantages of using an onboard meter instead of a handheld.
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Old 09-17-2005   #10
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I agree. I would not be caught dead metering off a grey card. Nothing screams "photo student" louder. I"m not quibbling the fact that it works, there're just way easier ways, eg. incident meter.
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Old 09-17-2005   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS
I agree. I would not be caught dead metering off a grey card. Nothing screams "photo student" louder.
Yes, it's like using training wheels with a bicycle. Still, it's a a big step in the right direction beyond crude, inaccurate "needle chasing." Maybe R.J. is just not concerned about keeping up appearances.
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Old 09-17-2005   #12
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Yes, it's like using training wheels with a bicycle. Still, it's a a big step in the right direction beyond crude, inaccurate "needle chasing."

Agreed! But using a gray card is only a step along the way of learning light metering, not an end point. Using a gray card for meering is like training wheels on a bike, something one hopes to get beyond. Once competent in light metering, it is certainly no longer necessary. Not something I would use after 30 years experience in photography.
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Old 09-17-2005   #13
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Unhappy

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS
We don't NEED no fricken' gray card! It's easy to find a medium gray tone in or near the scene. The pavement, a lawn, an open shadow. No problem.
Hey Frank,

You're not afraid to ask a total stranger on the street to hold a gray card for you, are you?

After I posted, I read your second post indicating that you wanted to apply these techniques to street photography. Sorry, I thought we were discussing metering theory in general.

R.J.
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Old 09-17-2005   #14
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Who knows? It could make a funny series of images. Street people of various kinds, holding up grey cards! Interesting unifying theme.
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Old 09-17-2005   #15
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What about a spotmeter (pentax) ? I had to shoot a white car on a green lawn last weekend in strong sunlight. HP5 film was already in the camera. M2, 35 Summaron. I used perceptol.

Hmmm, wish I'd used XP2.
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Old 09-17-2005   #16
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Easy. Strong sunlight = f16.
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Old 09-17-2005   #17
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perceptol - f11.

there's too much contrast in the scene, only a spotmeter or a lot of experience will tell you that.

it is a pain having to use a separate meter though.
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Old 09-17-2005   #18
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I have to say that the ability to understand and use an incident handheld meter is a cornerstone to becoming a really good photographer. I know spending $$$ on a light meter is not as appealing as buying a new lens but I think I would still rather have a good light meter and a cheap slr than an M6 and no way of reading incident light if I was shooting colour slide. I know some people don't get on with them but it is the only way to really learn about exposure (coupled with exhaustive testing and its application in the field). A spot meter still depends on reflected light ( although I do own one they are most useful as a measure of contrast).

P.S.
My only qualification to this statement is buy a recognised brand and buy it new. If not new get it calibrated before you use it if you are not 100% confident in your meter it is a waste of time (this statement copyright the bitter experience school of photography)

P.P.S Remember when using incident meters they do not compensate of any effective change in f-stop that comes at closest focus like TTL. For example I own a Pentax 67 165mm lens that loses 1/3 stop at closest focus compared to infinity (also (c) bitter experience school of photography)
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Old 09-17-2005   #19
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Couldn't agree more - nothing beats incident metering when it comes to max. accuracy & min. effort (except in very few difficult light situations).

Roman
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Old 09-18-2005   #20
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The best thing about a lightmeter is when you really know how to use it ......
you don't need it anymore !
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Old 09-18-2005   #21
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It would be interesting to know how people on the forum meter scenes with a handheld- for example do you take reflected readings from both shadow areas & highlights or do you habitually only take an incident reading on your main subject?

IMO taking 2-3 readings at the beginning of a session- whether using built in or handheld meter, is usually good enough if one knows the brightness range.
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Old 09-18-2005   #22
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Using an incident meter has led me into a phobia about using the Aperture Priority on my cameras, so much so that now I only use it in emergency situations.
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Old 09-18-2005   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Film dino
It would be interesting to know how people on the forum meter scenes with a handheld- for example do you take reflected readings from both shadow areas & highlights or do you habitually only take an incident reading on your main subject?

IMO taking 2-3 readings at the beginning of a session- whether using built in or handheld meter, is usually good enough if one knows the brightness range.

i mostly take relective readings but sometimes incident too if the mood strikes.

my main method is to meter in all directions but my final readings are with the meter pointed downwards, usually at the pavement and i go with those readings.

joe
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Old 09-18-2005   #24
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my readings are with the meter pointed downwards, usually at the pavement and i go with those readings.

That's how I do it, too!
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Old 09-18-2005   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave H
Using an incident meter has led me into a phobia about using the Aperture Priority on my cameras, so much so that now I only use it in emergency situations.
AP is a deterrent to accurate exposure unless one centers an appropriate area in the finder, sets the exposure lock, then recomposes the scene before firing the shutter, all of which just amounts to setting the exposure manually. However, thanks to center-weighted averaging and the wide lattitude of most film, AP can often determine an acceptable exposure even when used naively.
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Old 09-18-2005   #26
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Normally I take a single reading, If possible incident for protraits etc. Reflective otherwise. If it's flat cloudy light I angle down a tad.
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Old 09-18-2005   #27
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I usually take a single incident reading before shooting - only with difficult light situations (liek concerts with bright lights on stages, or scenes with very different light on an unreachable subject) I use reflective - though in those situations a spot-meter would be best (which I don't own).

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Old 09-18-2005   #28
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Today was overcast and I took some photos at a street festival in daylight. Metered once upon arrival, and didn't meter again all day. As Frank said, it's a liberating experience. In strong sunlight it's a bit more of a bother, since walking from sunlight into the shade necessitates remembering to change the aperture, and by how much. If I ever bought a metered camera again, I'd leave the batteries out.
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Old 09-18-2005   #29
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Ahhh, but the whole point of my original post was that using a camera's built-in meter like a hand-held meter and pre-setting the exposure (instead of chasing the needle for each exposure) is the ultimate in convenience with no sepaprate meter to handle and carry. My M6 with built-in meter rocks!
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Old 09-19-2005   #30
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Frank - ok, I get ya. Thing is, I meter against the light rather than with the light. An interesting experiment to try would be mounting a light baffling white cap onto whereever the camera's built-in meter is installed, and using the entire camera as an incident meter.
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Old 09-19-2005   #31
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It,s called an "Expodisc" - currently available in various sizes, - v.good on digi's for white balance as well as exposure measurement. you would put in on the lens with a ttl metering camera.
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Old 09-19-2005   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoot
Frank - ok, I get ya. Thing is, I meter against the light rather than with the light. An interesting experiment to try would be mounting a light baffling white cap onto whereever the camera's built-in meter is installed, and using the entire camera as an incident meter.
Such caps for incident metering were available for the selenium cell meters on Rolleiflexes (and possibly other old cameras as well).

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Old 09-19-2005   #33
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Hello Frank and thanks for bringing up a great topic--metering!

I have a question on incident metering--my understanding of which is very hazy. Like the pictures I take!

As I understand it, to be accurate, an incident reading should be in the same light as the subject--with the meter pointing towards the camera. Clearly this is not always possible--for example--a photo of the top of a building from ground level. How do you get around that?

One technique I read was to point the incident meter towards the subject and then turn the meter around 180 degrees and take another reading.

If you cannot get the the meter to the subject--what technique do you use?

Many many thanks for your help!

Paul in Atlanta
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Old 09-19-2005   #34
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As long as you are standing in the same light as the subject and point the meter in the same direction as you would if you were right up to the subject, the light reading will be the same. The same light means that if the subject is out in full sunlight or hazy sky, then you, with your meter, should also be out in full sunlight or hazy sky. The light would be different if only one of you or the subject was in shade, and the other under the open sky. (Slightly simplified)
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Old 09-19-2005   #35
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Frank

When I use my FM2n, sorry no metered RFs, I point it's centre weighted meter at something approximating 18% grey (pavement, grass etc.) set the camera and shoot. If the subject is backlight I add a stop or two. With snow I meter the snow and add a stop or two. I shoot print film which also helps my rather sloppy metering and it mostly works out. I can see where a built in meter in a RF can be very convenient but I get just as good/poor results using a handheld Sekonic for incident readings.

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Old 09-19-2005   #36
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Lightbulb

I've heard of using a disposable Styrofoam coffee cup over the end of a lens (TTL meter) to get an incident light reading. I never tried it and canít vouch for the accuracy of this technique.

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Light shoes
Old 09-19-2005   #37
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Question Light shoes

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS

A very small meter that lips onto the camer's hotshoe is a pretty good alternative to both a hand held meter and a built in meter because it allows you to adjust the camera's setting without raising the camera to your eye to see the built in meter. The problem with these meters however, is that even though they are fairly small they do add bulk and they occupy the hotshoe which may be needed for an accessory finder.
Perhaps this would solve the "shoe problem"?

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...goryNavigation

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George
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Old 09-19-2005   #38
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I begun with a gray card and now iím using a handheld meter.

While I was using the gray card I had a reading with it and shoot as long as the there was no light change. Light changes? Another reading. And so on. That was painÖ

What I do now, when on street mostly, is that i take three readings with the handheld. One reading in strongest light, another one in thin shadow and a third on heavy shadow. I mark these down in a small sticky paper. I put the paper at the back of my camera and while walking judge the condition. That doesnít always work. But as i shoot more and develop and print more i come to realize how many stops i must add or subtract (Iím talking about Ĺ to 1 stop). And keep shooting and adjustingÖpractice makes perfect.
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Old 09-19-2005   #39
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Some thoughts:
FrankS' original premise was also what I found in my personal experience. I began photography by "chasing the needle." I eventually learned to hunt for and find neutral gray in the scene. Shooting slides, I started using a handheld meter and felt I was really beginning to understand light and how to meter it. Just as important is to understand that there often isn't one exact exposure for a scene but trade-offs that give you varing results and moods. I'm now comfortable with any metering method -- in camera, out of camera, incident, reflected, no meter at all -- because the meter had become just one more tool.

Truth be told, I have hardly ever used a meter for the past 10 years and don't currently own one that I consider to be pocketable enough to carry around. So I fully agree with the observation that a meter is one of those things where, once you learn how to use it, you don't need it.

I wouldn't knock 18-percent gray cards. If they shout "photo-school student" then so be it. There's a lot to be said for going through that step in your learning process if you really want to become technically proficient. If you're worried about appearance, you should still feel free to use the card in the privacy of your own home, at least until you reach that gestalt moment where you understand why a picture of a black wall and white wall will meter into the same neutral-gray picture if your in-camera meter is left to its own devices. In photojournalism I used to also run into the "how do you meter for black people?" question. Once you know the answer to that, toss the gray card (or slip it into a little-used pocket of your camera bag).

And don't forget the old rule of thumb -- with negatives, expose for the shadows, with slides, expose for the highlights.
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Old 09-19-2005   #40
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how many can meter well indoors in varying light?

that's my weak area.

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