Light Meters

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. I've been thinking of getting a light meter. Still trying to work out the
    practicalities of using one and which one to go for. Here's three cheap
    ones. The more expensive ones come with flash triggers, spot meters, and
    other whizz bang stuff.

    I was wondering about buying a Pentax V spotmeter that came up on Ebay for
    cheap but let that go as I wasn't totally convinced. Been having a play with
    using my cameras spot meter instead.

    Been reading through 'Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital
    Photographers' by Lee Varis. Head's still in a spin over that. Some dude has
    a quick online guide to the same thing.

    DxO swear blind the Canon G9 has a 10 EV range at ISO 100 but I'm not
    convinced. After losses in processing and the real world, I reckon, it's
    probably closer to 7EV at best. More slide film than reversal.
    Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 11, 2011
    1. Advertisements

  2. Charles E Hardwidge

    Michael Guest

    Don't understand that last. Slide film IS reversal.
    Michael, Apr 11, 2011
    1. Advertisements

  3. Tripped up on colour reversal. I meant slide v negatives.

    With film I gather things used to be about expose for the shadows develop
    for the highlights. With digital it's expose for the highlights develop for
    the shadows. Just trying to get my head around what that means when picking
    shots and working on it in post.

    Because film and digital capture light differently there's much less wiggle
    room which is why with my shitty G9 I should be aiming towards the
    discipline with slides as the dynamic range and latitude with highlights
    isn't there. It just doesn't have the stretch of an SLR or film.
    Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 11, 2011
  4. Charles E Hardwidge

    dadiOH Guest

    With color, no.

    With B&W, sorta. The trick is determing *which* shadows and how much
    development. Of all the B&W photos ever made, I can reasonably assure you
    that only a teensy-tiny part of one percent were ever done that way...except
    for Anal Ansel, most people just shot normally and used different paper
    contrasts as needed.



    dadiOH's dandies v3.06...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at
    dadiOH, Apr 11, 2011
  5. I've only just started paying attention to the zone system so you'll have to
    forgive a few snarl ups. I'm assuming I'm not doing the wrong thing, here,
    or getting things too mangled up otherwise the NG would be flooded with
    a stack 50 deep screaming at me.

    Found this essay on the Canon G10. My G9 is /slightly/ worse than that
    according to DxO Mark without running tests myself.

    I've got a range of images in my library (and can shoot some more). I've had
    a loose feel for the cameras range, and what shots work and don't in terms
    of exposure. I've now also got a slightly better understanding why.

    On a personal level I'm hoping this simplifies things. Been wrapped in a fog
    of funk for a while which leads to overcomplicating and worrying. So if it
    works I'm not going to knock it.
    Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 11, 2011
  6. Charles E Hardwidge

    The Bailey Guest

    Digital: Groom in black tuxedo, bride in white - I meter for the
    white, or she'll kill me if she comes out in a cream dress.
    Otherwise I just meter on the average scene.
    But you do really have to use film cameras for weddings to capture all
    the dynamic range present.
    Using Digital for the scores, even hundreds of candids.
    The Bailey, Apr 11, 2011
  7. For whatever media the image is being recorded on the
    exposure has to be adjusted for the area with the lowest
    density. That is because there has to be some density
    to get a viewable image.

    With *negative* media that means expose to get the
    shadows correct. Both BW and color print films are
    examples of negative media.

    With *positive" media that means expose to get the
    highlights correct. Both BW and color transparancy
    films, as well as modern digital systems, are examples
    of positive media.
    The system Ansel Adams used worked well with the
    materials available at the time he developed his system.
    Sheet film had replaced glass plates, but roll film was
    not yet available. And when roll film was initially
    introduced it was not suitable for the fine art large
    print type of work that Adams did.

    Of course Adams worked in the 20's, 30's, and 40's too,
    and your comment applies only to the period from the
    middle 1950's through about 2000 and then only to roll

    With roll film it is exceedingly inconvenient to process
    the raw product, a single negative, individually. That
    changed the way photographic processing was done. But
    note that digital photography has once again made
    individual images easy to process, and the way
    processing is done has once again swung back in that
    direction (shoot raw...). As always there are Luddites
    who resist whatever is modern, which was also true in

    But given the huge expansion of personal photography
    with easy to use digital cameras, if it has not already
    reached the point where a majority of images are
    processed in much the way Ansel Adams did, it no doubt
    won't be long until it is.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Apr 11, 2011
  8. Charles E Hardwidge

    Pete Guest

    The problem with all reflective light metering (especially spot) is the
    difficulty in learning which objects in the scene have 12-18%
    reflectance. Grass frequently catches me out because it depends on the
    type of grass and the angle of the light (shiny surfaces).

    I get much better results using an incident light meter, when
    appropriate, than relying on any of the camera metering modes.
    Certainly, it forces one to use manual exposure mode thereby making
    post processing a sequence of shots much easier.

    My Gossen Sixtomat Digital meter is used far more often than I thought
    it would be, but it has a serious ergonomic design flaw: the time it
    takes to respond to a button push is so variable that it either jumps
    two steps or none at all, which is irritating. I've heard that the
    Sekonic meters are much better so "try before you buy." Another thing
    to consider is the placement of the light detector: both my Gossen and
    my Shepherd flash meter have their detectors on their top surface
    therefore they measure light from the direction my hand is pointing. If
    I attempted to use a Sekonic L-308 I'd end up measuring how much light
    I was reflecting!

    A 10 EV range on your G9 sounds reasonable to me on a purely technical
    level, but attempting to extract "goodness" from the lowest 3 EV on any
    imaging or audio device will lead to perceptual disappointment. The
    methods of ISO rating for digital cameras is far beyond this
    discussion, but I would expect your G9 to have a RAW clipping level
    above its JPEG clipping level. IIRC, you post process RAW output from
    your G9. If so, then it is very useful to take this headroom into
    account when using an incident light meter.

    I think the phrase "Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital
    Photographers" is just gobbledegook. Read "Camera Manufacturers are
    totally lost with Exposure Metering for modern Digital Sensors." The
    ISO rating standard has compounded the problem and I believe there are
    much better solutions for exposure metering. Currently, the only better
    solution is choosing an ergonomically designed light meter and
    exploring the RAW limits of our cameras.

    Hope some of that is useful.
    Pete, Apr 11, 2011
  9. Either get a modern digital camera, or learn better
    processing techniques. Film can't touch digital for
    dynamic range in that type of work.
    I can't imagine a wedding shoot that does not involve
    many hundreds.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Apr 11, 2011
  10. Charles E Hardwidge

    dadiOH Guest

    Used to be a guy in Texas who went around giving PPA programs who *swore*
    that it was impossible to print a color negative acceptably unless it had an
    overall minimum base density.


    What it needs is sufficient highlight density so that the "unexposed" areas
    will print black. Example: a long shot of a bride on top of a cliff at
    midnight on a moonless night with the flash feathered so very little hits
    the foreground. The "auto it" labs will send back a print where the bride
    is washed out and the unexposed areas will be that sickly blue. Expose the
    print for the highlight area (the bride assuming she is adequately exposed)
    and all will be well.
    So you used to have your Vericolor development manipulated?



    dadiOH's dandies v3.06...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at
    dadiOH, Apr 11, 2011
  11. That statement is not true.
    He apparently (if understand correctly what you are
    saying) was right.

    If there isn't at least *some* density, then *nothing*
    can be printed.
    You've switched to a different topic. Exposure of a
    print is not what the previous discussion was about.

    With the original *camera* exposure of the bride the
    important issue is getting sufficient exposure of what
    ever area of the shadows you wish to have detail. That
    part of the negative has to get enough exposure to have
    some minimum amount of density. The negative is then
    developed to provide appropriate contrast for the
    highlight area compared to those shadows.

    Printing it is an entirely different subject.
    That skips the point that it is *exposure* that
    determines the level at which shadow details become
    visible. Whether one can or cannot manipulate
    development to adjust the contrast range does not change
    Floyd L. Davidson, Apr 11, 2011
  12. Charles E Hardwidge

    Alan Browne Guest

    With digital photography, the need for a meter narrows considerably as
    you can test in camera. A meter is very useful, still, in the studio
    for initial setting of lights, most esp. when you're seeking to achieve
    high ratios and with differing lighting ratios in different parts of the
    scene. In that case, the flash trigger is essential to setting up.

    But even after setting lights in such a manner, tuning takes place in

    I'd bet you can find a used meter at a good price.
    The Pentax V spotmeter is one of the best - but IIRC does not do flash.

    In any case, with digital, exposing for the highlights is a good
    approach in most cases. Just like slide. And reversal.
    Alan Browne, Apr 11, 2011
  13. Charles E Hardwidge

    Paul Furman Guest

    I thought low ISO digital raw had much more wiggle room (other than
    highlights) - that the shadows can be pulled up more.
    Paul Furman, Apr 12, 2011
  14. Charles E Hardwidge

    Paul Furman Guest

    I would think that ought to be adequate. I tried that for a short while
    and found it very frustrating but perhaps I should have given it more
    time. I did sometimes shoot manual, like with a shift lens, it's
    necessary but frankly even then I've tended to let the camera do the
    work, chimp, adjust and lock that in with the AE-lock button for the
    remainder of that scene. I set up that button on my D700 so it sticks
    till the camera is turned off or the button is pressed again. Or
    sometimes I'll shoot, chimp, adjust, and set it manually to that result.

    Spot metering is very counter-intuitive to me. I'm not sure if the spot
    is narrow enough and I tend to shoot in pretty contrast situations so
    there will be blown highlights but they are small and hard to judge if
    no big white areas, in that case it's a matter of how large the blown
    area will be. I suppose I could spot meter the shadows and decide from
    that end but that requires memorizing a bunch of numbers.

    As for shooting manual, that's how I learned on film, with a light meter
    in the camera, set the aperture and adjust the shutter speed till the
    metering needle centers. That approach should work fine for digital and
    I've tried but it always messes me up to turn the camera on later and
    forget so I stick with aperture priority and the AE-lock button.
    Paul Furman, Apr 12, 2011
  15. Charles E Hardwidge

    Peter N Guest

    Practice composition first, them worry about exposure.
    Peter N, Apr 12, 2011
  16. Only with negative film.
    Exactly the same as with positive film.
    In either case it's just making sure that there is a minimum
    density. With one that means in the shadows and with the other it
    means in the highlights.
    That is a common misbelief. They don't capture light much
    differently, and the wiggle room is greater with digital.
    Of course, digital is like film in that differen products are
    different. If you choose a camera that has low dynamic range,
    it isn't correct to claim that mean digital has less dynamic
    range than film.
    What does "dyanimc range and latitude" mean in realtion
    to "with highlights"? If you want more head room, simply dial
    in -1 EV for exposure compensation. If you want a better camera,
    visit a camera store...
    Floyd L. Davidson, Apr 12, 2011
  17. I'm just trying to get a feel for the cameras range versus the range of
    scenes. The photo you get can depend on metering and composition all of
    which is controllable to a point.

    I've got a test scene with a bellcurve of exposure levels. The biggest issue
    is metering so you place highlights with texture you want to capture just at
    the right level. As Pete suggests darks have to be pretty much nailed.

    The cameras evaluative mode is pretty good for what it is (and does snow
    insanely well for some reason) but it's like it's metering for film when the
    sensor is acting like slide.

    There's the obvious don't shoot in stupidly contrasty scenes, use overcast
    days, use shade, and shoot scenes and/or objects that are colourful and
    bright over a narrow range.

    I need to spend more time with the raw processors, doing some more shots,
    then working on them in post. That might be better (and clearer) than
    confusing everyone with words.
    Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 12, 2011
  18. Charles E Hardwidge

    Paul Furman Guest

    You can't beat shooting tethered to a laptop!
    Paul Furman, Apr 12, 2011
  19. My G9 does raw but tethered is jpeg only. (There's a partially completed
    CHDK tethered raw hack but it's awkward and crashes the camera.)

    Found a quick summary of incident and spot metering. Not sure it helps you
    but it helps illustrate things.
    Charles E Hardwidge, Apr 13, 2011
  20. Charles E Hardwidge

    Alan Browne Guest

    Tethered to an iPad or similar would be better.
    Alan Browne, Apr 13, 2011
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.