To meter or not to meter...

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by cajuncc, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. cajuncc

    cajuncc Member

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    I've recently acquired a camera with no built-in light meter. For my first few shots, I used a light meter app on my iPhone (I don't have an external meter that works), but then I decided to go without and shoot a couple frames outdoors using "Sunny 16" minus a few EV to account for clouds and shade. It's a rather liberating experience, but I'm not sure if I'd want to commit an exposure table to memory and just go from that...

    Some things to consider:
    - I'm shooting color negative film (or C-41 B&W) in 35mm, so i've got a lot of latitude. I'd not dream about going without a light meter shooting chromes
    - Mostly I'd be doing spontaneous street-type shooting. Again, I'd absolutely use a meter for critical work, landscapes, larger-format stuff, etc

    Anyone else shoot meterless on a regular basis? Would there be enough latitude in C-41 films to just "wing it" and still get good (not expecting perfect) results?
     
  2. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I would shoot without a meter most of the time if the camera doesn't have a meter or the meter is broken or needs mercury battery. Yes commit an exposure table to your memory. It doesn't have to be elaborate. I got good result doing so at least for color negative film doing so gave me better result than the Nikon F5 matrix meter.
     
  3. marenmcgowan

    marenmcgowan Subscriber

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    I agree... it is liberating to shoot without a meter. I say go for it! Especially if you are not shooting for a client. This is an awesome way to get good at evaluating lighting. You may want to take some notes about what you are doing...
     
  4. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    I don't use one, minus crital work. Unless I'm getting the tripod and everything out I don't use one. I'm shooting all medium format also. Took a trip for 3 weeks traveling india and had one with me in my bag but never cared to use it. That was when I started to trust my internal meter. I now normally win arguments with a meter.
     
  5. marenmcgowan

    marenmcgowan Subscriber

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    love it:laugh:
     
  6. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    Yes, and yes. Go for it, and enjoy! :smile:
     
  7. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Yes, I own a nice VC II meter, but generally don't use it. I find with C41, you've got buckets of room to make mistakes, just err on the side of over exposure.

    When I first shot without a meter, yes, it's a liberating experience, and also I was shocked that when I got my negs back from the lab, they tended to be *better* exposed than with a meter. I guess it's because the meter just measures light, but has no concept of bright skies, or dark shadows. So I can see a dark corner, and think "I'll give this one a lot of exposure" a meter does not. I like my little VC II meter, but it's basically clueless, and you have to use it knowing that it's clueless.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Shooting negatives exclusively, I typically just do my metering and settings once for any given lighting situation and then go shooting. If you know where the limits of your film are this even works for a lot of critical work too.
     
  9. fotch

    fotch Member

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    A meter is like any measuring device. Rulers, levels, micrometers, thermometers, scales, etc. Use depends on outcome. If the outcome is important and time permits using a measuring device, I would use. JMHO
     
  10. jernejk

    jernejk Member

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    I shot a roll of CHS25 (which doesn't have huge latitude) and a roll of Etkar in my canonet without any metering. I created a cheat (EI estimations by observing shadows, light sources etc.). Not a single shot was lost - and I've noticed that I payed attention to the most important thing in photography - quality of light. Something i don't instinctively do when shooting TTL metering cameras.
     
  11. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I'm not much of a gambler myself. Although I use a meter all of the time, I use it intelligently and find that measuring each shot isn't always necessary if one is attentive to the lighting conditions.
     
  12. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    When using a metered camera, I often have a guess to myself what the exposure is going to be before I actually look. Most of the time I am pretty close - within the exposure latitude of the film. Anyway, even using a meter requires thought. Snow. White building. etc. You still have to assess and open it up a stop or two. Here in the UK I tend to use sunny 11ish
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    A meter contributes useful information - as a suggestion.

    I like to let my eyes/brain/experience use that information to determine the exposure.

    That being said, my eyes/brain/experience frequently agree with the meter's suggestion.
     
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  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    There is really no such thing as exposure latitude, just a factor of how far thing can be off and still be
    nominally usable at the expense of what the film was really engineered for in the ideal sense, which of
    course is related to the amount of contrast in a scene. Amateur color neg films are marketed under the assumption that folks will be winging it with less than ideal training or equipment, and will want Aunt Maude's skintones still looking vaguely human even if everything else in the print looks like hell. I use a spotmeter for everything, though have worked sheerly from memory in a few instances even with trickier chrome films. But otherwise, it's about like asking a sniper to walk around with a blindfolded.
    In the old days, they'd print a little tip sheet on the film box, which usually worked for garden-variety
    applications. My mother tooks photogrphs her whole life using a little box Brownie with no meter -
    and every single shot was horrible!
     
  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have a prism meter in my Hasselblad, which I find useful when using colour, or doing critical macro work. However, when using the M2, with the same film and developer year on year, I can usually guess within ½ a stop.
     
  17. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    I always use a meter as if it is easy to misuse a meter, it is much easier to get the eye fouled by light condition. It does not mean I meter before each shot but I do it at least once to get a correct basis for exposure. Of course, with sunny16, no need for a meter...
     
  18. cajuncc

    cajuncc Member

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    My line of thinking is to commit a couple common situations to memory (Sunny, overcast, dusk, bright indoor/streetlights, dim indoor) at one ISO (probably 400) and use my noggin to figure things out from there. There are only a few EV steps in between those situations, so it shouldn't be hard to judge one way or the other.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    For you this may be perfectly true, that doesn't mean it's true for me or anybody else though.

    Did a little test a while back, shot Delta 400 from -1 to +2 stops, developed in DD-X and was able to print the exact same, really nice print across the whole range of negatives by changing nothing but enlarger exposure.

    Took a vacation a while back, used a dozen disposable cameras and got a lot of great stuff across a wide range of situations. Do the same with my Holga regularly too.

    The book "Theory of the Photographic Process, forth edition, T.H.James" page 506 in chapter 17 by J.H.Altman has a graph that show about a 3-stop range (1-log relative exposure) across which the panel of 200 observers judged as producing excellent prints. Same book chapter 19 by C.N.Nelson page 556 a graph comparing differences in print quality from short toe and long toe films on a studio portrait. The graph shows a range of 4-5 stops across which a negative can be shot which can produce excellent prints, 90th percentile quality or better. Short toe films approach the 100th percentile for a very short maybe one stop area, and maybe that's where you are trying to hang out which is great, but switch to long toe films in the same situation and they approach the 100th percentile over about a 3-stop range.

    Exposure latitude exists.
     
  20. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I agree.
     
  21. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    I would no more go out with a camera and not bring a meter than I would make parts on a lathe without a micrometer.
     
  22. Pfiltz

    Pfiltz Member

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    It's all I know. I started out metering shots.
     
  23. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I agree,I knew how to do "sunny 12" fifty years ago, but the human eyes IMO are a very poor device to register changes in light intensity because they register them so quickly and imperceptibly that you don't notice them, and even taking a reading with an exposure meter only gives you an indication of the light level not the correct exposure It's a point to start thinking about the reading and filtering it through your experience before setting the camera.
     
  24. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    It's true for me, too. If I want to use the entire range of whatever film I'm using, there is no latitude for error in exposure or development.
    And the fact that 200 observers find a print acceptable really has nothing to do with me getting negatives or transparencies the way I like them, does it?
    I can work with a less-than-ideal negative, but I'd rather get as close as possible to ideal. Sometimes you can't, for any number of reasons. But any time I can, I will. It's like shooting at targets, under one set of circumstances a 5" group might be acceptable, but the ideal is a "group" the diameter of a single bullet.
     
  25. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    It's a difference of philosophy, or maybe sloppyosophy. You have machine-gunners who will take sixty
    shots a minute and still never bag anything worth cooking, and you've got snipers who can down a duck
    with a single round. That's probably why, back in the heyday of film wars between Fuji and Kodak, they sponsored workshops teaching people to shoot as much film as possible if you wanted good
    pictures. Worked for their bottom line, but not for mine!
     
  26. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Exposure latitude is the difference in dynamic range between film and paper.