How do you determine exposure without a meter?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by johnny9fingers, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. johnny9fingers

    johnny9fingers Member

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    Hello, Is there a guide or method to determine exposure without a meter that gives consistent results? I will be getting a Fuji G690 soon and want to take the best advantage of the nice big negative. I've used digital cameras (all gone now) and cameras with meters, ie the Yashica GN, and the Oly XA. The G690 is meterless. I'm still an amateurish photographer with a lot to learn, and am wondering if it's best to go with a meter for a while then try shooting without to match the results I got while using a meter, or just go without from the start?? I will be shooting a wide variety of situations, candids, landscape, portraits..... but will stick with HP 5+, and will devope and print in my brand new darkroom. Is that a factor as well, it's been 30+ years since I've worked in a darkroom? Thank you for your time and consideration, 9fingers
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Rules of thumb exist but a meter sure helps indoors.

    Search for Sunny F/16 rule. That covers most outdoor situations. But it takes awhile to really learn. I think it's also easier if you've got a meter or a camera with a meter while you're learning. Basically judge the light then compare with the meter. Then figure out why it's different.
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    In Wisconsin, the sunny-16 rule should work for most of the year, between 10am and 4pm. It goes like this:
    On a bright day, take your ASA speed and turn it into the shutter speed, then shoot at that speed at f/16. So, a 400 ASA film would be used at 1/400s at f/16. Always round the number to the next slower speed, since overexposure with B&W film is not an issue but underexposure is a big problem. You can modify the rule to the cloudy-f/8 rule or the gloomy-f/4 rule to make it work. The sun is a very constant light source.

    Kodak film boxes also come with some exposure instruction inside. On the web you might find old exposure instructions for a variety i-of lighting conditions. Beyond that and to get better and consistent exposure, get a good light meter.
     
  4. DBP

    DBP Member

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    There is an extremely comprehensive guide to not using a meter on Fred Parker's website www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm. For outdoor work I use a meter maybe half the time. Some of my better shots have been taken using the Sunny 16 rule, which you can easily condense onto a small piece of paper to carry around, or as many amateurs used to do, tape inside the camera case. Black and white print film is pretty forgiving.

    Here's the cheat sheet I sometimes carry.


    Aperture Lighting Conditions Shadow Detail
    f/22 Sand or snow Distinct
    f/16 Sunny Distinct
    f/11 Slight Overcast Soft around edges
    f/8 Overcast Barely visible
    f/5.6 Heavy Overcast /Open shade No shadows
    f/4 Deep shade
    Set shutter speed close to film ISO, e.g. 400=1/500

    From here you can of course trade off speed for aperture. There are also both old and modern slide rules you can find for calculating exposure.

    Indoors, carry a meter. They can be pretty cheap.
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Here are a couple more--

    Indoors--average room light at ISO 400 is about f:2 at 1/30 sec. This is surprisingly consistent, but I guess humans like a certain amount of light. Turning on an extra lamp or two in a room with overhead lighting usually doesn't make a huge difference--less than half a stop. For really low lighting, say in a bar or dim restaurant, you usually need another two stops or so--f:1.4 at 1/15 sec.

    A floodlit building at night at ISO 400 is about f:2 at 1 sec. This also seems remarkably consistent.
     
  6. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    When ( not if ) you move up to a view camera. Use the camera ground glass as a meter when outside, but it doesn't work to good in low light.
     
  7. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I would use a good meter. I used a Minolta SRT-101 with a dead meter for years and I got good results using a source of the sunny 16 rule plus a lot of guessing. The reason I didn't have money for a meter or a camera with a working meter. I don't have problem using a camera without a meter. But if I have a good meter I would use it. If I were you I would simply buy a good meter, or may be two.
     
  8. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    for night work -
    sodium ( or is it mercury ) vapor lamps ( 3 to a pole 30 feet up?)
    asa 100 film f22 45 seconds
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Johnny 9 fingers

    You will love the 6x9 fuji camera , I am looking for a replacement myself, busted mine.
    This is an excellent thread and some wonderful advice.
    The simplicity of this sunny16 way of exposing is my preferred metering, it allows one to concentrate soley on image creation and I think a lot more photographers should give it a try and work less on technique and more on composition and the details within the framework of the ground glass.
    I exposed over 200 rolls of tri using the fuji and this metering method on a metal project that is still ongoing and have yet to see a bad negative.
    have fun
     
  10. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    My father used to have a little dial calculator that allowed you to dial in the film speed, type of subject (open, shade, etc.), type of light (direct sun, overcast etc.), and a time of day and geographical latitude. In principle it was as good as an incident meter. It didn't help with subject contrast - you had to do that bit in your head.

    Useful little tool.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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  12. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    The guidelines you've been given are all good, but obviously, nothing can guarantee consistency except either experience or a meter (otherwise meters wouldn't exist).


    Armed with the information you already have, practice, erring always on the side of overexposure, as this does far less harm than underexposure: in fact, I'd advocate 'sunny 11' rather than 'sunny 16'.

    Or buy a cheap meter; practice guessing; and compare your guess with the meter. You can do this anytime, even when you are not carrying a meter.

    On the bright side, it's astonishing how fast you can acquire the ability to guess well.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
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  15. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    For What it is worth:

    Wheweee, Does this date me! When I began to learn to see light, the friendly exposure meter had not yet been invented. To make good negative exposures one had to learn how to read. see. or interpret the light. I had never heard of the "sunny 16 rule" until about 20 years ago. We used techniques similar, but did not give them cutsy names.

    The instruction sheet packed with the film always used the reciprocal of ASA and f16. Heck it wasn't a big thing to work without a meter. It did save some time I guess when meters finally made their appearance, but they were then and in my opinion still are very unecessary if one simply learns to see the light and all of it's various indicators. I don't believe there is a quick and easy way to do this, but practice. practice and more practice. It is great fun the set up your box, compose and focus then take out your meter and check it against the setting you have already determined and set the camera to and find it to be dead on. When you really have learned to see light, there are very few surprises. You can practice "seeing" light indoors as well, but I find that it does not vary as much as some believe. Today few practice what has become my way doing things, but even though I ocassionally do check with a meter, I find I am exremely close on my exposures. I am not guessing, I look into the shadow to see what is there or perhaps not there then the highlight or brightest point in the composition then I adjust everything based on the knowledge I have accumulated over the years. It works for me! And has for thousands of others.

    I do not expect anyone to throw away their meters and learn to actually see the light but it is a gratifying way of doing things the original way.. 18% reflectance gray is 18% reflectance gray with or with out a meter.

    Charlie......................
     
  16. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    One of the things that can make 'guessing' easy or harder is the film & developer you're using.

    For instance, HC110 tends to encourage a film response that makes shadows darker, and highlights brighter, than a 'straight line' response. XTOL, on the other hand, tend toward a straight line. If you are using Tri X with HC110, a little error can result in big problems. With XTOL, even a big error is seldom trouble.

    So, if you're working with HP5, you can develop in Xtol, DDX, or D76 and get generous shadows and long smooth highlights which will ameliorate any 'errors'.

    Keep a log of exposures. You'll probably discover that the pictures you make are usually in one or two conditions, and you'll only need to know a couple exposure settings anyhow !

    good luck
     
  17. DBP

    DBP Member

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    It's been a couple of years (just over two, in fact), but the last time I bought one of Kodak's pocket photo guides, they were still including an exposure calculator.

    Roger - Good point about Sunny 11. Sunny 16 works fine for me in Virginia, but both you and he are a bit farther north. The exposure tables people used to use before meters came along adjusted for such things - have a set somewhere....
     
  18. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

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    I did that a few years back. I carried it in my car and used to do the estimating exercises whenever I was stopped in traffic.

    In about a week I was consistently within an f/stop of my meter. I still do it every now and then, just to make sure I still have my chops.
     
  19. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Maybe a general exposure but for finer control and detail you really can't without a lot of waste.
     
  20. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Your comment is very very wrong! How did we get the images that required finer control and detail before the invention of the light meter? I guarantee I knew no photographers who could afford to waste anything. A news paper editor would send us out with one film holder and a Speed and two #22 bulbs.
    If you did not come back with two different printable detailed prints, your rear
    was on the carpet before you left work. Getting the finer control and detail became rather easy, once you learned the necessary skills and actually knew what you were doing. The exposure meter for most camera persons is a necessary crutch, but it doesn't have to be!


    Charlie..........................
     
  21. RichSBV

    RichSBV Member

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    I agree with Charles 100% When I started 35mm with an Argus brick, a friend had a camera with a meter. We started with me asking him for exposure settings. He was nice enough to make me guess every single time. It was only a few weeks when the guessing was close enough that I stopped asking him. And for odd lighting situations we used items like the Jiffy Calc, avaiable here:
    http://www.southbristolviews.com/pics/Graphic/graphicmanuals.html
    Scroll down to the bottom to find the PDF file of it, print it out, cut out the windows and fold...
     
  22. johnny9fingers

    johnny9fingers Member

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    Thaks to all for the great info. I knew whatever I did would involve lots of practice, and practicing making photographs is a joy... I think I will bite the bullet and buy a meter, then using the info you have shared with me, determine the exposure, take the shot, then use the meter and take the shot, then compare the results when I see the print. I will also try XTOL, DDX, and D76 and see how that works out. I will let you know how things turn out and post a few pic's. Thanks again... 9fingers
     
  23. johnny9fingers

    johnny9fingers Member

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    I also would like to thank the folks that provided charts or links to them. These will be invaluable to me as I learn to "see the light". Now to read up on the different properties of developers. Thanks again everyone. 9fingers
     
  24. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Originally posted by Charles Webb "Your comment is very very wrong! How did we get the images that required finer control and detail before the invention of the light meter? I guarantee I knew no photographers who could afford to waste anything. A news paper editor would send us out with one film holder and a Speed and two #22 bulbs.
    If you did not come back with two different printable detailed prints, your rear
    was on the carpet before you left work. Getting the finer control and detail became rather easy, once you learned the necessary skills and actually knew what you were doing. The exposure meter for most camera persons is a necessary crutch, but it doesn't have to be!
    "

    But I ask. How much waste, unneed trial and error, might have been avoided if one had used, as Ansel Adams strongly suggested, a light meter?
     
  25. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    It's funny to see your comments, Christopher... I just became the proud owner of a stack of photography magazines from the mid-1930s where they talk about a new-fangled device called a "light meter". Before there were light meters, there were charts and exposure calculators.

    Your comments make me think about how people today cannot fathom that we put people in space using... a sliderule! Everything new tends to negate the old and render it "useless" in the eyes of the present... whether that is true or not. :wink:
     
  26. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    Well, I think they used more than slide rules. Remember all those consoles with flashing lights in Mission Control?

    Anyway, I always thought that one needs ten fingers so they can count all the zones when determining exposures?