Follow the nose of the subject?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by markbarendt, May 5, 2011.

  1. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've gone back and forth on turning an incident meter's head in alternative directions to get a reading.

    This morning I found this shot on flickr and had a minor epiphany.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mafatale/5240929368/in/faves-30056819@N00/

    Seems to me that in this type of shot, pointing the meter head the same direction as the subjects nose should place the face properly, and may actually be the best practice, rather than pointing the head at the camera; to get this effect anyway.

    Anybody using this idea already?
     
  2. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,127
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2005
    Location:
    Live Free or
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Often, I point it in the direction of the light I want to expose for. In that particular case, I would probably do as you suggest.

    That said, if the meter dome was in the light from the window, and pointing to the camera, the exposure would likely be the same or very close. The danger in the pictured situation would be having the dome entirely in the shadowed interior.
     
  3. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would still want to get the dome on the nose of the subject.

    It seems to me that if I did that it shouldn't matter whether the meter was in the shade or not, if I'm thinking straight it should properly place the main subject regardless.

    The idea of pointing it at the source is a very reasonable one.

    What I'm thinking though is that following the nose is that the face is not just being lit by the main source (open sky here), but also by the reflected light from the table, the restaurant's lights, blah, blah, blah...

    As with this example, what's important to me is the main subject, the rest of the frame is just there for context, not for detail.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2011
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,318
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    YES!
    this is the perfect way to think about how to read the light ...
    it is the subject you want illuminated, not the background noise
    although as you said the background provides details ...

    thanks for the link!
    john
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,968
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    There was some recent discussion of this on another thread with some advocating pointing at the camera and others in favour of pointing at the light source (sun).

    I recently bought a secondhand copy of the book Exposure Manual by Dunn and Wakefield. They suggest taking both readings and averaging them out.


    Steve.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The last discussion of this that I remember was with regard to studio lighting.

    If I remember correctly there I was advocating for pointing at the camera.

    The big difference I see between the two situations is that in a studio setup we have "control" of the light. Normally the camera, subject and background are set up along a centerline and the lighting is moved around as needed to light the subject properly.

    I'm not saying there can't be parallels in thought here but in the "apparently candid" example I used for this thread the lighting is essentially fixed.

    Pointing the dome at the camera may actually be more work. That's what I'm trying to sort here at least in part.
     
  7. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,120
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've used this "Duplex" method Steve for more than twenty five years and whatever direction the light is coming from front, back , or side lighting as it shows in the colour pictures of the lady in Dunn and wakefield's book it works.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ben & Steve,

    I've thought about the duplex method in that it splits the difference between the bright side and the dark side and can give a do-it-all negative with plenty of shadow and highlight detail.

    That's not what I'm shooting to get at here.

    What I'm trying to get/find here is a way of placing the face/skin tones with great accuracy and simplicity (meaning a direct reading) while almost totally disregarding Where the highlights and shadows fall.
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,006
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I generally meter the light that is illuminating the part of the subject that I want to expose best. This does not mean the strongest light in the area in all cases (the Sun when outside). I meter the sun only if the subject is being lit directly by the Sun. In shade, the Sun is the original source of all the light, but the light on the subject is not directly from the Sun. It is from reflected Sun light. So, I meter the reflected light.

    If I want a bit more on the neg on the darker side, so that I can dodge it back, I will average the reading between the lit side and the dark side by placing the dome halfway between the two sides, i.e. at 90 degrees from the main light. In this case, a compromise is made to be able to dodge; the brighter side of the subject is overexposed in order to allow more to be dug from the darker side in printing. If I want a proper exposure for the dark side, so that I can dodge till the cows come home, I will take a reading from the darker side; I do this knowing that I am gaining the ability to print extreme shadow detail at the expense of grain and tonality changes on the lit side, due to the overexposure. I do this rarely, and when I do, I usually underdevelop the film quite a bit.

    Try doing anything but method 1 on a digital camera or slide film, and you overexpose the lit side your subject; the greater the illumination ratio, the greater the overexposure when you meter down the middle or meter the dark side. You can pull E-6 film enough to help if you meter down the middle, and I suppose if shooting digital you can try highlight recovery, though it will look weird in anything but minor overexposure of the subject. But if using these media, exposing for the subject and filling the shadows is the best way to go if you want to have a tighter illumination ratio than what nature is giving you.

    In flat lighting, such as an overcast day, or the aforementioned shady scenario, it doesn't matter all that much where you point the meter – left, right, or down the middle. If the subject is facing the camera dead on, and light is coming from all directions pretty-much equally, then the dome can follow the nose and it will work fine. But it doesn't follow the nose as a rule. If, after the dead on shot, the subject were to turn his or her head 45 degrees to his/her right, I would then meter the light falling on the left cheek. That means that the dome faces away from the cheek as if it was a huge boil on the subject's face: 45 degrees from the centerline, the other direction from how the subject turned, i.e 90 degrees from the nose.

    Of course, if the light is the same where you are as where your subject is (which it often is outdoors, since the Sun is so far away), you don't even need to walk up to the subject. I only bother putting the meter to the face if the light is different where I am vs. where the subject is.

    In any case, I never consider where the camera is. It is not relevant, beyond the obvious fact that I meter to get a good exposure for that which is shown in the frame (i.e. not the back of the subject, unless I want a silhouette). Hand held incident meters are for measuring incident light independent of the camera, not for making a composition-based reading; you use hand held meters specifically to avoid having your metering tied to composition. But by pointing the dome at the camera all the time, tying them together is exactly what you'd be doing. You'd be ignoring the lighting entirely, and chaining yourself to metering based on the angle of the film plane; you'd be missing out on a lot of the information that the meters can give you; and you'd be wasting a lot of the control that you can get with incident meters.

    If you shoot negative film and meter toward the camera all the time, you will survive, and you may never notice unless you skillfully pay attention to exactly how your negatives look and how far away from "normal" your prints deviate. But you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do this when shooting transparencies or digital.

    Studio versus natural makes no difference in this. It only makes a difference in the amount of control and time that you have. It is easier to craft the exact lighting ratio that you want when in studio.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2011
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am using negatives so there is some latitude. Given that; the idea of rotating the head to give precedence to shadow or highlight for use later is interesting. In effect this mimics changing the EI and shadow point on the fly.

    In this thread's case though, I am actually considering only the "straight" result of the metering, simply place-the-face-tones & let-the-rest-fall on paper, no dodge or burn and hopefully having all the faces fall properly in every frame all the way across a contact sheet.

    At it's essence, rotating the head and duplexing, both seem to be akin to using exposure compensation to suit a challenging lighting situation. The EI/shadow point remains fixed in this modle.

    What I'm trying to sort in my head is if it's better to take a classic reading and compensate in my head or to guess at the "right" off center angle and take a direct reading.

    Both ideas require thought, with my follow the nose thought I was trying to take away some of the guess work, don't know if that's realistic.
     
  11. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,120
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If that's the case Mark you only need to take one normal incidental reading pointing the dome from the subject to the camera and not overcomplicate things if you're shooting a girl in a white dress against a light background reduce exposure by half a stop, and conversely if she has a dark dress against a dark background open up half a stop, otherwise in normal circumstances just follow the meter reading.
    In my experience Incidental metering gives an uncannily high proportion of correct exposures for normal subjects other than distant landscapes, sunsets, and stained glass windows without having to do the mental gymnastics that are required by some reflected light metering systems.

    P.S The Duplex System requires one reading to be taken pointing the dome at the light source ( outdoors the Sun) in the studio at the mainlight, and the other from the subject to the camera in the normal way and the two readings averaging.
     
  12. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

    Messages:
    1,844
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Location:
    Rome, Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'm with 2F/2F on that. In situation of high contrast like the one shown as example, when using slides or digital one has not to burn highlights and any kind of "averaging" is not guaranteed to place highlights not too low on the toe.
    In this situation I would point the dome toward the light source, and that would be my first choice, letting the shadows fall where they may. I might also make a second picture (or second series) with +0,5EV which might put the highlights nearer the top toe but would open the shadows a bit more.
    The high-contast final result of the example is likely unavoidable with slides (without light control, that is) but is probably avoidable with B&W film. We have to assume that the photographer deliberately chose the high-contrast effect he got. I suspect that with B&W one can make such a portrait while preserving details in the shadows, if so inclined.

    Fabrizio
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The more I think about this, the more I keep falling back to pointing the meter at the camera.

    I say this because that relationship to the camera defines a very specific point on the film's curve. Every other position is a guess, albeit they might be good guesses, but they are still guesses.

    I understand that this is the classic idea but this is a decision that redefines what the subject is (is it the face or the dress?) and I think it's a hold-over from slide shooting. I don't know that this is a necessary step when shooting the Delta 400 (or another negative film) like this shot was done with.

    I agree heartily here.

    Duplexing as you describe it here makes more technical sense now, one classic reading plus one reading pointed at the light source averaged would protect the highlights.

    I could see using this method with slides, but I don't shoot slides much. :wink:
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,120
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Incidental Light metering is magic Mark, it's beauty is in it's simplicity and if it is accurate enough to produce correctly exposed slides in reversal film where the margin of error is minimal how much better is it likely to be with Delta 400 where the latitude is far larger to produce a good negative ?, you just have to get out of the mindset of reflected light metering and placing tones in the right place on the Characteristic Curve, all I can say is try it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
  16. robbalbrecht

    robbalbrecht Member

    Messages:
    78
    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Location:
    Los Osos, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is a great thread. Lots of really helpful info!
    I'm starting to get away from digital for my personal work so I've been spending some extra time with my light meter. I like the follow the nose idea, it's simple and easy to understand.
     
  17. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Location:
    Carbondale,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    To quote one of my old photographic mentors:

    "Its a damn light meter, it measures light. Its not a camera meter, its not measuring the camera....Well, so why the hell you pointing it at the camera?"

    Pointing the dome of an incident meter at the light source is a way of making sure your highlights are salvaged and not blown.

    And you're right- Incident metering is MAGIC!!
     
  18. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,246
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Answer: Because, by design, the incident meter measures the light falling on the subject as seen from the camera. It's not measuring the camera, it's measuring the light falling on the part of the subject that the camera can see. That's what it's designed and calibrated to do.

    Lee
     
  19. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Location:
    Carbondale,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Suppose my humor isnt appreciated as much as I thought...:pouty:

    Eh...I still chuckle at that crotchety quote...w/e
     
  20. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,246
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, humorous intent is notoriously hard to convey with internet posts. And emoticons don't help much with expressing nuance either. I can appreciate the crotchety 'cleverness' of the quote. But at the same time, if taken in isolation, it's an expression of his ignorance of how in incident meter is designed to work. He may have known better on some level, but 'always point an incident meter at the light source' is bad general advice to hand out. It's a real disservice to beginners who will not understand what happened when the technique fails.

    Lee
     
  21. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,246
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just received a fourth edition (1981) copy of the Dunn and Wakefield Exposure Manual in the mail today. There is some mis-reading of their methods in this thread and elsewhere. The duplex method is shown in the book as a correct method with a flat sensor incident meter (or perhaps an invercone), not with a domed meter. So for duplex readings, a flat sensor is used to meter toward the light source, then toward the camera, and the two readings are averaged.

    They have this to say about using a domed incident receptor under the heading:

    Italics from the original have been set bold in my quote because vbulletin automatically italicizes quotes.

    So Dunn and Wakefield recommend the duplex method for flat-sensor incident meters, and a single reading with the hemisphere pointed toward the camera for domed-sensor incident meters.

    The Janusphere meter attachment mentioned somewhere on APUG recently took an incident reading but combined it with a reflected reading only from the bottom half of the scene when used on a Weston meter.

    The series of the woman on Kodachrome mentioned in this thread or another was taken with an experimental meter using a half dome of a table tennis ball that leaked light from "behind" the meter where the dome rose slightly above the body of the meter.

    Lee
     
  22. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,968
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Yes. I re-read mine recently and realised it was for a flat receptor and that the dome style diffusers automatically carry out the duplex calculation.

    If I get a bit of spare time tomorrow I might do some experiments with my Weston meter with its invercone and a Zeiss Ikophot with it's flat diffuser to see what the variance is as I thought the invercone behaved as a dome rather than a flat receptor as you suggest. I suppose I should go and read that chapter again!.


    Steve.
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks Lee,

    I just ordered a used book from Amazon, 0.31 + 4.00 for shipping.

    That 130 degree limit and using the flat face actually makes a lot more sense on the duplexing.
     
  24. Lee L

    Lee L Member

    Messages:
    3,246
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I haven't read all of the book yet. Discussion of the Invercone appears to be spread throughout the book. My first impression is that they may see the Invercone as having a cardioid response pattern, but that's not based on a complete reading.

    It's a new book to me. I'd heard of it, but haven't seen it locally available or widely discussed in the US. My hardback 1981 copy was ordered through abebooks for US$1 and US$2.99 shipping. It appears to be technically very solid, although a bit dated in areas where some equipment is concerned, but it is based on a 1952 edition with revisions until at least 1981. Well worth a read. They do discuss under what conditions it's necessary to depart from standard metering techniques, and what methods of departure are effective.

    Lee
     
  25. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,968
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have re-read the section on duplex metering but I'm still not sure if they consider an invercone to be equivalent to a flat receptor or a dome.


    Steve.
     
  26. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

    Messages:
    1,844
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Location:
    Rome, Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The original posting shows a particular situation with a very strong lateral light left of photographer and a deep shade on the other side, right of photographer.

    If you point the dome toward the camera, the dome will collect light from both sides and "average" them. If you use the flat receptor and make two measurements and average them, you are going to have more or less the same results. No surprise in that.

    The problem is that, in the specific condition of the picture of the original post, this "averaged" exposure might burn the highlights. When making an incident reading there is no explicit or implicit guarantee that the subject range will fall inside the dynamic range of the film. In a situation like this, where what we are interested in is the face of the subject, which is in the highlights, we want to avoid burning the highlights, and any "average" is a risky choice when using slides.

    The point that was raised is whether, in the specific conditions of the picture of the original posting, wouldn't it be better to point the dome toward the light source, so as to be sure to have a reading which is appropriate for the girl's face, and letting the shadows fall where they may.

    The dome will in any case collect light from its sides, so pointing the dome against the light source is going to give a slightly more open exposure than pointing the disk toward the light source. One can see it as an "average skewed on the highlights" which is IMO the most correct choice for that particular situation.