Portrait shooting in black and white. Incident or reflected metering?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by 10speeduk, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. 10speeduk

    10speeduk Subscriber

    Messages:
    148
    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Location:
    Ash, Kent
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hi all,

    I am wondering if there is a 'correct' way I should be metering my portraits in B&W?

    I have a gossen digisix and a minolta IV.

    I currently use my digisix to take an incident reading from the end of my subjects nose towards my lens.(with the glass bulb covered by the white plastic hat!). I then use this as zone V for the skin and use these readings for my shutter speed/aperture. I use the same technique when metering portraits for colour.

    I was reading a book recently that suggested spot reading from the cheek is then way to do it so I am considering a 5 degree spot attachment for the minolta.

    Is there a work around for this? I am not unhappy with my results so far (http://www.flickr.com/photos/31286367@N06/) , but I am not sure I am experienced enough to know anyway!!!

    Thanks

    Paul
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,188
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There is no right or wrong way.

    For me direct incident readings are plenty.
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,058
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have had a look and if you are getting prints like these then I can't see anything wrong with your exposure method. If you were to move to a 5 degree spot attachment would this be small enough to take a reading on the right area? Caucasian skin is said to be Z6 so a spot reading needs an adjustment - possibly.

    Not strictly relevant but I think your B&W portraits are better than you rcolour ones. I'll re-phrase that. They had more impact for me

    pentaxuser
     
  4. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,076
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Location:
    Rome, Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Incident light metering seems the most logic thing to do, the less error prone, also when using colour slide film.

    When using reflected light metering you must "place" the subject's skin in some zone, i.e. you must figure out how different is the zone you are measuring from "middle grey" and act consequently.

    When using incident metering you don't use the reading as "zone V". You use the reading - period. If the subject's skin - or the thing you are photographing - is dark it will come out in zone IV or III, which is probably what you want, and if it is bright it will come out in zone VI or VII, which again is probably what you want.

    Incident metering lets you abstract from "placing". The reflectivity itself of the subject will take care of the "placing". That's the normal case, when you don't want to reach some special effect.

    The only thing you must be aware when using incident metering is that when you use slide film and when you have a subject with an extreme subject brightness range you might have problems because the extremes of the range might fall in a zone of the film where you don't have much detail*.

    Normally when doing portraits you don't have a very extended subject brightness range. That means you can just take an incident reading, apply that to the camera, and that's going to work quite fine.

    When using negative film you have ample "slack room" in the highlights, and not so ample in the shadows, so in case of doubt just open a bit more.

    * For instance if your subject is very white somewhere and you want detail in that very white - imagine a bright white wedding dress or a very white hat and you obviously want to preserve the texture of the hat - you should expose a bit less than what the incident metering suggests, when using slides, so that the hat doesn't come out in the upper part of the curve where the detail is mostly gone. If you use an "accent light" you should be aware of the "mirror effect" the light can have on the hat, or maybe even the hair of the subject, and you should avoid using digital technology as that will easily create a white "hole" in the head of the subject :wink:
     
  5. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,494
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For me it incident metering for portraits is both quicker and more accurate.
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,599
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    What are you guys on? Z6 at what lighting ratio, context and subjectivity. Image capture and representation is far more complex than this.
     
  7. 10speeduk

    10speeduk Subscriber

    Messages:
    148
    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Location:
    Ash, Kent
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks all. I feel smarter now. Diapos, thanks for taking the time to explain all that. I feel confident to know what's going on now. Pentax user, thanks for your compliments. I agree with you.
     
  8. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,058
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    To be strictly accurate I think it was "guy" singular. Only I have suggested that Z6 was the usual zone for caucasian skin :D

    By the way, what did you think of the OP's exposure method? I thought he had got things right and felt he deserved confirmation of this. Did you think it got the right result?

    pentaxuser
     
  9. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,599
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    No I didn't. If he was using slide film perhaps, but for black & white perhaps a reflective reading on the area he considered most important. But impossible to tell without being there and viewing the subject/context in question. Is it a portrait of a baby or Count Dracula?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 4, 2012
  10. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,058
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm

    ???? Were you and I looking at a different gallery to the one OP gave us a link to? Where was the portrait figure that made it difficult for you to tell whether it was a baby or Count Dracula :D

    I keep on adding a smiley face because I assume you are being provocative in a funny way and not trying to insult the OP with the reference to "baby or Count Dracula". Fortunately I didn't see any baby portraits but had there been one it would be easy for the OP to misunderstand your comment as we have seen happen recently. However I was simply asking you to say what differences you would have made to the B&W and colour portraits to improve them.

    I think the OP was asking for our advice,help and essentially whether we thought his method had exposed his portraits reasonably well. I thought he had made a reasonable job.

    This ends my discussion here in case this turns into a dialogue between you and I which effectively but wrongly highjacks the OP's thread. However if you can suggest an exposure method which will improve his portraiture, based on the evidence of his work that he has given us then I am sure he will appreciate it

    I love the longer nights at this time of year. The coffin gets very uncomfortable after 18 hours in mid summer:D

    pentaxuser
     
  11. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

    Messages:
    615
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Location:
    Norway
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use the thumb rule that says caucasian skin, placed at around zone 6, usually gives the "correct" exposure and pleasing tones.

    This means, if you take an incident reading, set a camera with a spot meter to this exposure and then meter a middle tone in the caucasian face, the spot reading will usually suggest that this reading is 1 stop over "the middle notch" in you camera.

    By taking an incident reading, you are establishing an exposure that will place 18% gray in zone V (middle gray in the middle). When you do this, caucasian skin which is thought to be one stop brighter, will be placed at zone VI and thus your exposure will render skin naturally.

    I've found this to work very well in natural light portraits, especially outside when there is overcast weather.

    Off course you can be anal about it and state that makeup, light hardness and direction will alter the highlights in the skin for example, but if you have nothing else, make an incident reading and shoot.
    (Incident readings should be measured from your subject, in direction of your camera)

    My two € cents...
     
  12. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

    Messages:
    4,070
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2008
    Location:
    ɹǝpunuʍop.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    All photographers will have their individual methods in portraiture, and it never hurt to experiment.
    Incident: cheek in shade; cheek in shadow, front of face, add mid-tone (or grey card), average all — none of these specifically with aim-back (cone to camera).
    If using mono film, meter should read in 0.5 to 1 stop increments. With tranny film (unlikely in this scenario), meter to 0.3 steps. You have a lot of latitude in mono and small adjustments generally will not have a lot of effect as opposed to printing versatility in the darkroom.

    Spot metering will give any number of variations depending on what you are specifically aiming at, and 5° is too great an angle for spot.
     
  13. Thebes

    Thebes Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I tend to like reflected spot readings off of the brightest parts of the skin and placing them at zone VII while using a developer and film combo that doesn't block up highlights.
    Or else I put my important shadows at zone IV and then develop by inspection, pulling the films when my highlights look "right" to me.
    I note that both methods tend to give an extra stop of exposure vs "standards". This is my preference and I know I'm not the only photog who likes to give portraits more light than landscapes.
    There is no correct method. Use what works for you, ultimately this will be a part of your look.
     
  14. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,188
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So Saturday I hand-loaded some fresh Delta 400, not exactly the OP's Tri-X, but close in a general sense.

    Ran a test to find my limits again, developed using DD-X by the book for EI 500, metered using the "duplexed incident" method at EI 500. Normal incident reading was within 1/3 stop.

    Shot 10 consecutive shots inside about 10 seconds: portrait of a black, white, and brown dog in northern window light; so normal studio portrait contrast.

    Shot at EI's 125,160,200,250,320,400,500,640,800,1000. The frames at 125 & 1000 were lost because of cutting errors when I cut the roll to develop and test other EI's from the same roll separately.

    Each print from 160-800 was printed to get "the same print". Given the results even if 125 & 1000 had a taste of clipping the prints would have been just fine.

    The prints from 160 & 800 are virtually indistinguishable. At arms length I can't tell the difference. With a 10x loupe I can barely tell in the near white and near black areas, in the mid-tones I can't tell them apart at all.

    My point here is that the OP's Tri-X, like my Delta 400, has really good latitude.

    Get either of these films "somewhere in the ballpark" and you have a really high probability of getting the print that is expected.
     
  15. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,494
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've never shot Delta, but plenty of Plus-X, Super-XX, Bergger 200, and a bit of Tri-X... they all share that wonderful characteristic. That is exactly why I generally take a quick incident reading and don't worry about spot measurements or "duplex incident" techniques. It is very interesting to hear the results of a real experiment!
     
  16. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,494
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    p.s. I'll bet you'd get the same result using a 30 deg. reflected lightmeter reading too. :laugh:
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,188
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I like using the duplexed reading to set the camera for the general lighting situation, not necessarily each shot; this gets me reliably inside the limits.

    After that I typically meter and reset the camera again only when the lighting situation changes significantly.
     
  18. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,494
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I should look into the mechanics of duplexed incident metering -- the closest thing to that practiced by me would be measuring twice becuase I can be insecure about taking only one measure. :smile:

    Like you, I'll measure once or twice in a shooting session. Last week I shot four hours and metered twice: once in bright light and again when the cloud rolled in. That was enough light information for the entire day. The EVs were 15 and 13... which may not have even been enough to make changing the shutter worthwhile.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,188
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Dunn & Wakefield Exposure Manual, 3rd or 4th edition.
     
  20. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    6,494
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks, Mark. I thought Dunn had something to do with that!
     
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,855
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Great test! Need some higher-scale tests, you know black dog in shade of a tree in a park with the white dog in the sun. Brown dog can play Frisbee with a gray card. But still a great test (since you went to the trouble to do it) and proves its point.

    I never got to ask Todd-Zakia when they did the demonstration that 2-stops underexposed pretty much trashed your chances. Theirs was a guy in the sun in a suit with a white shirt and sunglasses, gray scale and gray card...

    These are the questions I could never ask them:

    Did you cut the film and develop the 800 longer and the 160 less? Did you go to great heroics to make the best possible prints? Was there any clear choice if you had to pick a favorite, did negs near 250 print the easiest? Any gleanings like that from this test?
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,188
    Joined:
    May 18, 2008
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I get a kick out of the extremes of exposure placement that people expect will fall gracefully onto a given sheet of paper without burn and dodge. I'm more amazed a people's reluctance to apply a bit of flash to the black dog in the shade.

    The 2 under thing isn't a surprise though.

    Ok Bill, in order.

    The set of 10 I talked of above were all developed the same per Ilford's instruction sheet for EI 500, the target was normal contrast, only exposure was varied.

    No great heroics on this set.

    I use a Beseler PM2L to set enlarger exposure, the challenge is mostly in finding the right point on the negatives to peg to. The PM2L has the same issues as any meter does in the field, one must properly judge what is being measured. (For those that don't know the PM2L and it's kin are basically spot meters for the enlarger.) Once I found the right point to peg to the negatives were equally easy to print. All done at grade 2.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2012