Question about exposing for the shadows pls..

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by dwdmguy, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    Good day.
    When it's said to expose for the shadows, is this specifically for the blacks or middle gray please? Then recompose?

    I use a leica M6.

    Thank you much.
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    What they don't say is that to do this you generally need a zone scale to do it easily. So, meter any area from black to middle gray in your scene and assign it the appropriate zone from I to V according to the accepted zone system nomenclature. For example on the Leica's spot meter you point the spot to a shadow area in which you need reasonable detail and call it Zone III and make the meter reading, then subtract (or close down) 2 stops to make the exposure.
     
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  3. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    ic-racer, thank you very much.
    No recomposing? The leica meter area is pretty small, 18% I think, so if I dont have any zones 1 to 5 in the meter area would I not then recompose or am I missing something simple?
    Again, thank you.
     
  4. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Edited out. Thought you were using a handheld meter at first :wink:
     
  5. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Here is a 'zone wheel' you can print out with which to experiment.
    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/misc/zswheel.pdf

    So, if using that wheel with the Leica, realize its meter places thing on Zone V. So, on the wheel, set the zone metered (ie III) to the speed the camera suggests (1/8th in the example on that page) and expose for the time opposite the 'V' (1/30th in the example).
     
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  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    First this saying is normally for negative film.

    You simply meter (spot or Incident) in the darkest shadows that you want to see detail in and then "place" those shadows by stopping down maybe 2 stops (your mileage will vary and you need experience with the film to know what works best for you). This typically puts those shadows in "zone 3". Middle gray is normally in "zone 5", Caucasian skin in "zone 6", each zone is one stop.

    You ignore the highlights when deciding on the camera exposure and that is why this technique is not normally used for trannies.

    I find that for C41 this works great but the cheap proof prints I get back from a mini-lab are typically "light" (a bit on the pastel side) but the negatives are just great, detail everywhere I wanted it.

    Same basic idea for B&W, just add contrast to get a nice final print.

    Doesn't matter what camera, just need to know how the meter works.
     
  7. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Basically what your talking about is the application of the zone system and it can be only somewhat applicable in 35mm b&w photography. It is really set up for single sheet developing. The whole idea is to compensate the exposure and developing routine in order to expand or contract the range of brightness in the neg in order to get detail in the shadows and highlights. In 35mm photography it is harder since you will normally have many different exposures on a roll. If your looking to just shoot the shadows tho, any meter will give you a middle gray value. Normally you underexpose the scene in order to show your interpretation of the low values as low and not middle gray unless you want middle gray values.
     
  8. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    Guys, thanks you so much. I'll print out tomorrow and have fun learning. This has been a big help.
    Very best to you both.
     
  9. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Blacks are black. If they register not at all on the film just
    as well. Meter for those shadow areas which should register
    then assign a zone; for shadows with important pictorial
    interest zone 3 is appropriate.

    All meters make a zone 5 reading, shadows or highlights.
    Each zone represents one stop. So, to expose correctly
    for a meter reading based upon zone 3 shadows
    reduce exposure by 2 stops.

    The meter reading, depending upon the scene,
    may or may not be part of the scene to
    be photographed. Dan
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Dan makes a great point here, basically black in the frame represents a perfectly underexposed area. If you know how many stops down it takes to get an underexposure you can "place" where the blacks start.
     
  11. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    The phrase commonly used is "the darkest area you want to see detail in"


    Steve.
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    The phrase "expose for the shadows" is thrown around easily in photographic circles. Unfortunately, like most rules of thumb, if not accompanied by further understanding of its meaning, following the "rule" will make your results worse than they would be shooting with an in-camera averaging or patterned reading, automatic exposure, or even an educated guess or pre-printed exposure chart.

    Additionally, and very importantly, the term is designed to be used in conjunction with "develop for the highlights". If the second half of the rule is not heeded as well, you can really get some mangled exposures, with bulletproof densities on the highlight areas of your negatives. Yet again: worse than just going with what your camera sez to do.

    "Expose for the shadows" does not mean to meter a shadow and employ the exposure your meter sez to use. It means meter the shadows and expose to place them at the desired negative density that will make them easily print to *your desired tone* and contain *your desired amount of detail*.

    If you expose for the shadows straight off of the meter, your shadows will easily print to a middle grey, and the over all shot will be one to four stops over a decent exposure. (It is such a wide range of possible amounts of overexposure because there is a wide range of what you might *want* the shadows to look like.)

    Your [reflected light] meter *does not* tell you what the "right" exposure is. It tells you how to make something easily print to a middle grey, and nothing else. All it does is give you that one reference exposure that will make the metered object easily print to a middle grey tone. It is up to you to know what it is telling you, and make your exposure decisions based on the knowledge of what exposure will render the metered area as middle grey.

    In other words, you need to decide what kind of grey you want the metered area to be on the print. It is likely not middle grey. To make something darker than middle grey, you need to give less exposure than the meter suggested. Vise Versa for areas that you want lighter than middle grey. You can reduce exposure from the meter reading by one stop if you want it to just be a little darker than medium grey, two stops if you want it dark grey but still with detail, three stops if you want it very dark grey with some texture but no detail, four stops if you want it to be nearly black with no detail or texture, and five stops if you want it to be totally black. Vise versa for the lighter end of the gray scale.

    This all assuming that the EI you are using gives you accurate placement. :D This opens another can of worms...

    There are three basic ideas behind the practice of "placement" of print tones (AKA the zone system), and one preliminary fundamental idea:

    0. *The negative is an intermediary step on the way from 3D world to 2D print.* Your quest is not to get a "perfect" negative as defined by the books or anybody but you. The quest is to get *the print that you want*. To get this, *you need to know what you want*! This is an artistic/aesthetic choice and has nothing to do with technique. It has everything to do with *visualization*. Then, on the technical side, you have to know how to get a negative that will let you get that print. Basically, this entails:

    1. Figuring out an EI (film sensitivity input into a light meter, such as 100, 400, etc.). This lets you *predictably place low tones where you want them to be on your PRINT*.

    2. Figuring out a standard development procedure. This lets you know what development procedure will closely match *contrast at the scene* to *contrast on the negative* to *contrast on the PRINT*. (In practice, I find that this works out to simply be a reference point in most cases, and is rarely ever actually used. This is the step that lets you know where your highlights will end up if developed normally, thus tells you how to employ number 3:smile:

    3. Figuring out altered developing procedures. This lets you change the relationships named in number 2 above. This is the main step in how you how to control the PRINT tones of the highlights.

    To get what you want, all of these steps must be calibrated to *your* actual prints by eye, not just some magic "correct" negative densities that you got out of an Ansel Adams book.

    Back to number 0, the zone system is just a tool to take a healthy amount of control over that intermediary step. Don't blow it up beyond what it is. it is a very easy system, and that is why it works so well, and is so popular, IMO. This is all about serving your idea of what your print should look like; nothing else. That is the part that most zone "users" *do not* get.

    Sorry for the stupid book.
     
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  13. dwdmguy

    dwdmguy Member

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    Thank you to each of you but could someone please walk me thru an example of doing this? It's becoming a bit confusing. Here's what I've got thus far, if indeed I'm correct....

    The meter in my Leica M6 is designed for zone V, so if that is in fact a netural gray, why would I not meter off of a Med. gray and then recompose and shoot. This is my disconnect but if you can just walk me thru an example it would help a great deal. Thank you so much again.
    Tom
     
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  15. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Why not indeed. If you have a medium grey in the scene or nearby then this is a perfectly good way to meter. No need to complicte things for now.


    Steve.
     
  16. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    When shooting 35mm, I just meter off the palm of my hand (zone VI) and open 1 stop.
     
  17. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    In alot of respects it's all about shooting alot of film and learning thru mistakes. But don't get too caught up in the topic to the point you become brain locked trying to figure out just what the heck to do. Now you can certainly meter off a medium gray card and could just as well use an incident meter. This would theoretically give you the right exposure to capture the brightness range scene as long as it's not outside the films capabilities and it is average, but many times not every scene is the same as far as it's division into equal areas of brightness. Camera metering systems evolved into multiple zone divisions as high as 20+ just to handle such complications so to give a good exposure to the layperson.
    Now as a somewhat simple example considering shadow and highlight metering, the most easily understood example is when you shoot a black cat and a white cat whole frame. Both will come out medium gray. If you want the black cat black you have to give less exposure. If you want the white cat white you have to give more. If your in the deep woods and you are shooting an enviromental portrait of a person that only takes up 15% of the viewfinder off center, the woods will be medium gray and the person will be a stop or two lighter, depending. It's all about remembering that the brightness range will be averaged to medium gray and hopefully the exposure will be correct. Now if you used an incident meter to meter the subject in the woods example above or used a gray card the person would be of average tones and the woods would be dark (or bright) according to their reflectance. Some advanced metering systems are good at metering, simple CW meters are not so one usually needs to make adjustments. I say as a learning tool in extreme low or high brightness ranges to take your first shot using the incorporated meters suggestion and then shoot additional exposures 1.5 stops open and 1.5 stops closed down from the meter reading. 1 roll will clue you in real fast in standard developing and printing without print exposure adjustment. In the zone system shooting individual sheets of film you can alter exposure/development for each sheet to increase or decrease the tonal/detail range according to your desires.
     
  18. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    35mm is the best choice for fast shooting - many frames in short time intervals - that's how you get more keepers. Concerning yourself with exact exposure technique defeats the purpose of using that format. By the time you decide on the correct exposure the best shots are sometimes missed. It's better to fire of a few frames while bracketing the exposure, in 3 or 4 seconds, instead of fiddling while the shot is missed.
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    OMG! :surprised:

    I do not know where to start on this one!

    I'll just sit back and watch the fun ... :munch::munch::munch::munch::munch:


    Steve
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Thanks for doing your part to help keep film alive!
     
  21. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Yes, I think you should do this, but not without first understanding the limitations of the gray card, you can't expect too much from it in certain situations---it will definitely let you down if you are not aware.

    The meter assumes that what you are pointing it at contains equal amounts of light and dark areas (i.e., average), this is why it is calibrated to return exposure values to provide negative density values that print middle gray. When there are other reflectances in the scene brighter or darker than the gray card, then you can expect them to print readily. But this is only when all areas of the scene are receiving the same amount of light intensity, such as on an overcast day or on the shady side of a building with a clear blue sky.

    When the subject is illuminated by the sun, then this means that there are also areas not illuminated by the sun i.e., the shadow areas-------therefore, the card cannot compensate for the low level of luminance in those shadows; if the shadows are too dark, then you shouldn't expect much density on the negative. This is where the use of a spot meter along with the refinements of the Zone System allow you to provide adequate exposure to the shadows, while controlling the density in the highlights through development.

    So, what 2F/2F said earlier is true, the other half of "expose for the shadows" i.e., to "place the shadow" on the low end of the gray scale is to "develop for the highlights" so they will "fall" on the upper end of the gray scale where you want them to-----easily done with intelligent use of the ZS.

    With the gray card however, you are "placing" the exposure on a known middle value and then letting all other reflectances "fall" on the gray scale relative to the luminance of the gray card. The card will fail you totally in some shadow areas----and it may even fail you in other shadow areas that seem to have developed with some density but perhaps not enough to suit you. The shadows, as you know, are not illuminated the same.
     
  22. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry9000/4.6.0.167 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102 UP.Link/6.3.0.0.0)

    Everything has been covered here well. Now for the shameless plug. We have some good resources for using light meters with an explanation of the zone system at CiM. Follow the link in the sig
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    dwdmguy,

    It is really simple; your meter, and most everybody else's, is just plain dumb. You on the other hand are not dumb.

    You know (or can know), whether or not, what you are metering off of should be in "zone 5" or not.

    The trick is in knowing where the tones in your composition should fall and how much correction you should dial in from what your meter is telling you.

    Examples;

    When metering off a brighter than normal subject your meter will ask you to underexpose. Caucasian skin is normally brighter than normal mid-tones and falls in "zone 6". So when you meter off Caucasian skin with your Lieca you need to take what the meter says and offset the camera setting by 1-stop (the difference between zones 5 & 6). In this case open up 1-stop to put the skin in zone 6.

    When metering off a darker than normal subject your meter will ask you to over-expose. That same skin, at night by a campfire, might need to be in "zone 4" to keep the mood. In this case you would need to close down from what the meter is asking for by one stop (the difference between zones 4 & 5).

     
  24. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Tom: Really, consider picking up Phil Davis's book ( Beyond the Zone System ). Read about 30-40 pages on the way meters work, how gray cards are to be used ( not as you might think ), reflective vs. incident metering, how to relate your meter readings to the zone system and exposure, etc. Everyone here has been very, very informative. Mr. Davis's explanations are lucid, easy to comprehend, and only technical when they need to be. Now just get the book. Enough.

    Ed
     
  25. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    What does the averaging meter measure? Don't forget that the Zone System came from a very fine musician and photographer who saw the zones of a scene as analogous to the tones of the musical scale (the Western one at that). In the BTZS, you need know nothing about music. You need to know the scene's brightness range as the exposure meter shows it, in logarithmic units or f-stops and fractions thereof. You measure from shadow areas whrein your eye can see details to bright areas wherin your eye may distinguish, say, white clouds against a blue sky. Now you contrive a way to make that brightness range fit, eventually, on a printing paper that can display a certain limited brightnass range by first saving it on a film that has a much wider recordable brightness range than the paper, but it has a threshold below which it sees almost nothing. If you know that the film's near-nothing threshold is 3 f-stops below the average, then you can use your meter to measure the areas where your eye sees next to nothing, set your exposure meter as if your film is 3200 instead of the 400 it says on the box, and set your camera accordingly. Now, depending on how you develop your film, it's density range from that shadow to the brightest point of the scene that you want to record will "fit" on the paper of your choice. Thank the Deity for VC paper.
     
  26. OMU

    OMU Member

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    Hi,
    I have a M6 and this is my procedure:
    I have calibrated my exposing and development to find my E.I.

    Since I can’t spot meter with my Leica, because of the fact that I will have different motifs in one film, I meter in the palm of my hand in the shadow of my body, and open up one stop.

    This gives me satesfactoring result.

    But, and that is an important experience to me, before I found my own E.I, my negatives was often too thin. So, to establish one’s own E.I. is important. (Sorry for my English)