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Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 05:17 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Ok, You have a model on the beach. The sun to her back and a reflector adding some light to her front. I keep hearing meter the shadow. So you meter the shadow and you have your camera in manual mode and set it to your meter reading. You take a few test shots load them in the laptop and you see the bright areas from the sun are blown out. Why meter the shadows if that is going to happen ?

I might add that if I let the camera do the work in Aperture priority mode the shutter speed is faster then what my meter read.

So do I pick a shadow that is not to dark and meter or take a few readings on different shadow areas and find an average?

Mike
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 05:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Have a look at this article in Outdoor Photographer
The principles apply to your situation and makes for a good read. Enjoy!
This image was shot with a single SB800 and a Westcott 5in1 reflector.
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 05:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Shooting digital is like shooting chromes: you expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may. Both formats have similar dynamic range, about 5 stops (zone 3 to zone 7). Digital is actually a little more forgiving down in the shadows than slides, but a little less forgiving in the highlights.

I always meter the shadows AND the highlights (ignore specular highlights, they're way out of range anyway) and then use reflectors and/or fill flash to keep the dynamic range reasonable. If you keep in mind that caucasian skin is typically 1 or 1-1/2 stops above neutral gray (Zone 6 6-1/2) I have found that anything that meters above zone 7 1/2 gets blown out with digital or chromes.

-Chip
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 05:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yes, the way you are metering you will blow out the highlights. The meter, incident or reflective, is expecting Kodak gray. If you raise the value of the shadow up to Kodak gray, the highlights will also be raised to a higher value. You don't say if you are using reflective or incident. With incident, you'd meter the main light, which is the light from your reflector. With reflective, you'd meter the diffused highlight on the face and adjust for skin tone. Caucasian skin is normally one stop brighter than a gray card. From that gray card value you can record two stops brighter and two stops darker, five stops in all. Anything beyond that will have no detail. If you meter the highlight and shadow side of the face and the direct sun behind, they must all fall within that five stop range or else something will be lost. Let's say the sun is f16. The reflected light on the face is f8. Camera set to f8. Shadow side of face is f4. That is your maximum range. The shadow will be very dark. The backlit highlights very bright. A better plan would be to have a softer reflector as a fill in addition to a reflector main. Perhaps bring the shadow side up to f5.6. Hope that helps.
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 06:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The trick with digital is to make use of the histogram. Try for an exposure that pushes the highlights close to the right hand boundary of the camera's histogram. That then pushes the shadow areas more to the right also and thus you get more information in the shadows. Keep in mind that the further to the left the shadow are, the less information there will be in that area because digital is a linear process. If you think of the Histogram as representing 5 zones of the photo, then the right zone has 1/2 the info, the next zone from the right has 1/2 of what's left, and so forth as you move to the left. If you have too great a tonal range, then use reflectors or fill flash to narrow the tonal range. If you have access to a black/gray/white calibration target, then you can really go to town with the histogram.



Cheers,
rfs
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set it STRAIGHT
Old 06-01-2005, 08:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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While it is important to know the theory and relationship behind the contrast ratio your medium can accept...

I just look at my lcd screen and decide whether I like or not, damn the math and full speed ahead...

my highlights are BLOWN skyhigh...



some people get too technical with their shots and miss the picture.

equipment used: model, camera and me.

oh yeah the flare was allowed in on purpose.
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 08:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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joey who's the model ?
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-01-2005, 11:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Her name is Carrie and she can be booked through Otto Models
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-02-2005, 02:34 AM   #9 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]
Ok, You have a model on the beach. The sun to her back and a reflector adding some light to her front. I keep hearing meter the shadow. So you meter the shadow and you have your camera in manual mode and set it to your meter reading. You take a few test shots load them in the laptop and you see the bright areas from the sun are blown out. Why meter the shadows if that is going to happen ?

[/ QUOTE ]

First, you probably don't have enough fill. If you're using a reflector card, get it in closer, or use more reflective surfaces. If you're using flash, put it in manual mode and take the reading from under the model's chin. There will always be some blown out highlights, that's what gives the image its natuaral "bright" look. (see my image below). The trick is to condense the tonal range (with fill) so that they don't ALL blow out. At the other extreme, with flash, you could use a fast shutter and very small f-stop, to get the dark background sky/water look that you see in the lad mags a lot. (Remember with a manual flash, the flash-to-subject distance must remain constant to keep the exposure consistent. If there's only you and the model, and the flash is attached to your camera, teach the model how to read a flash meter while you pop the test flash).

[ QUOTE ]

I might add that if I let the camera do the work in Aperture priority mode the shutter speed is faster then what my meter read.


[/ QUOTE ]

That's because the meter in the camera is seeing all the bright background and tell the camera to stop-down, in this case by make a faster shutter. When the camera stops down to accomodate the background, guess what happens to the subject?

Take your reading by putting the hand-held incident meter under the model's chin. If you have to use an in-camera meter, put a gray card under her chin and read that (from up very close - only read the card). Then walk back to where you want to shoot from. If you're using flash, you'll have to use a flash-incident meter because you want to shoot with the flash in manual too*. Note - if you're at the beach, expect your model and assistant (holding the reflector or flash) to be fighting the wind and surf which will work against you to change your positions, and therefore your exposure. Welcome to beach portraiture.

*Note - if you try to use some kind of auto-flash, expect your exposures to be all over the place as you change the framing of the shot, because the more water or sand that shows in the frame, the more the camera will try to underexpose the image because its trying to make everything 18% gray (it does NOT know what parts of the picture are important to you, no matter how many millions of images the manufacturer's computer anaylizes, and this goes for non-flash, "auto" settings as well).

In this shot of Erika which I've shown before, we had one large (6'x6') silver textured reflector off to her left (camera right) side. A reading was taken from under her chin being careful not to let the direct sun hit the meter, and then she did not move. It was harder to keep the reflector from moving, but that's why this takes experience. And I don't care if my reflectors get wet, they're only tools in service of the photograph. Because it was almost mid day, it was hard to get enough light onto her face, I probably should have used a flash fill, but I don't do it much. If I'd been able to get more light onto her from the front, I could have stopped down a bit and gotten more saturated water behind her. If I had shot it on digital, it might have blown out more, but then I would have shot in RAW, so I would have some latitude to play with later.



Remember, your meter is always trying to make everything 18% gray. If you have a pale model in a white bikini with wet skin, your in-camera reflective meter will want to make it incorrectly dark. Conversely, if you have a very tan model in a black bikini with dry skin, the meter will try to ligthen it up. Using an incident meter will give you a more absolute reading, irregardless of what tones are in the image that will confuse the meter. If you've ever seen snapshots on ISO 400 film, taken at the beach and processed by your local one-hour-lab, and they came out dark, its because the camera meter (and the one-hour processor) worked to make the sand that is supposed to be white, shift darker (more toward gray). If you've ever shot pictures at an indoor party where everyone was in black, and had the people look washed out, again, that's the camera and lab working to lighten up all that dark area, and taking the faces - a small percentage of the image -with it. If your pictures looked good, that's because you lucked out, and a human operator manually overrode the printer machine, by visially recognizing what your subject matter was, and that it was going to need such help. (Did I ever mention my 10 weeks running a one-hour lab when they first came out?). Don't trust the machines!

Hope this helps!
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: Metering the shadows..someone set it strait..please
Old 06-02-2005, 07:30 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I am presuming that you have a dome type meter and you are not using a spot meter? To answer your question quickly as to why meter it if the background blows out.... if you didn't, the subject would be grossly UNder exposed. When the sun is to your subject's back, then your subject's face is IN the shadows. The only remedy is to:

Reposition the subject
Reposition the sun (good luck with that one and wear oven mittens)
Use fill flash or a reflector to increas the amount of light in the shadows thereby bringing the subject and background into a closer exposure range.

-Craig
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