Why can't I use incident for true black and whit with close ups portraits?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Heidia, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. Heidia

    Heidia Member

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    Okay, I understand why you would use the spot meter and zone system for bw. Especially with landscapes and architecture, for example. I understand that. But, if I am taking a very close up portrait, do I really need to use spot/zone for the skin tone? Why wouldn't an incident meter work the same in this instance? I mean, you are so close, you are certain to be in the same light, unlike far away landscapes. Thoughts?
     
  2. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    You can meter however you want as long as you get the results you want!
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, you can certainly use incident metering for portraits and other close subjects. Take a reading with the dome in front of the subject's face pointing back at the lens for the general exposure. If you want the contrast ratio, you can use a flat diffuser to take separate readings of the main and the fill (or to get a reading from the sun or the window providing the main light, and an ambient reading pointed away from a natural light source), or use your hand to shield the dome to get separate readings.

    If you're shooting medium format or larger and using a handheld meter, don't forget to account for bellows factor at portrait distances.

    It's also possible to use incident metering for distant subjects, as long as the light falling on the subject is the same as the light where you take the reading. BTZS works this way.
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I always use a hand held meter on incident mode for portraits. It is an accurate method of metering. Just take your reading facing the camera, not pointed at your subject. I have a Sekonic L-398 Studio Master and get perfect results every time.
     
  5. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Agree with everyone. And in fact, the incident meter excels for this type of photography.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Incident metering works perfectly in this situation.
     
  7. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    If someone told you, or you read somewhere that incident metering doesn't work for portraits or close-ups, they didn't know what they were talking about.

    Hold the meter at the subject's position (or in lighting identical to that of the subject) with the dome pointed toward the camera position, and you should get an excellent exposure.

    In all the commercial and advertizing studios I worked in (about a dozen), this is the way metering was done for table top, portrait, and group photography. Checks were done on Polaroid before shooting film.

    Lee
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    You can use the incident meter for you work. See post #3.

    Steve
     
  9. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    The cases where incident light metering might not give you what you expected is with pure white or pure black objects. Incident light metering abstracts totally from the reflectivity of the subject, but if let's say the subject is very very white, such a reading might place your subject in a zone of the characteristic curve of the film where you don't have much texture.

    So when using incident reading with a "milk white" subject, you would close a bit more than what suggested by your light meter. That's probably more true with small format than with MF or LF where film retains more details in the extremes "zones".

    That said, with skin tones incident light metering is the best thing because you don't have to worry about the skin tone of the subject: any skin tone will be rendered well.

    On the other hand, if it's a model in a wedding dress you are taking pictures of, or with a pure white hat, than, as said above, some caution might be used and some compensation applied.

    Fabrizio

    PS As ever when talking about precise exposure, what above is mainly true with slide film. If using negative, and especially B&W negative, you have ample overexposure room and you dodge/burn as appropriate during the printing stage.
     
  10. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    Polaroid perfect, these days Fuji Instant First :laugh:
     
  11. Heidia

    Heidia Member

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    Thank you!!! :smile: This confirms it for me. :smile: I appreciate the feedback. :smile:
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I have never worked in a studio, but I know from experience that Lee knows what he's talking about.

    And, incident metering works all the time, regardless of what the lighting is. The key is to meter at the object, pointing the dome to the camera lens opening general direction. The idea is that your meter should see the light that your camera lens is photographing.

    It doesn't matter if the object is very bright, very dark, or if it's all mid-tones; the tones will be rendered correctly if you meter this way.

     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yep, incident will work well for portraits. But....

    ...pay attention to this ^^^ :wink:
     
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  15. ghostcount

    ghostcount Member

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    Should the dome face the light or the camera? I just saw Dean Collin's video and I believe he stated the incident meter dome should face the light not the camera. I assume if you have the light on the subject's side and you face the dome towards the camera, wouldn't the dome partially meter the shadow side also since it is not illuminated evenly? Wouldn't facing the meter towards the light give a more accurate reading since the whole dome is illuminated evenly?

    Just curious as I do not work in a studio also.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    But which light? The main and the fill both contribute to the exposure, so to determine the overall exposure, I point the dome toward the lens from the subject position. To determine the contrast ratio, however, I would point the meter at the main, then the fill, and compare the readings
     
  17. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council

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    The dome is a dome for a reason. It is a 3 dimensional representation of the subject and catches the light falling on, across and around the subject. The dome should point at the camera regardless of the direction of the light source.

    The disk, on the other hand, is a representation of a flat surface, such as a picture on the wall. It receives an even illulmination across the surface.

    In either case the dome or disk should point to the camera.

    I never worked in a studio either.
     
  18. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You can use either method for most situations. Use the one that works best for what you want to do. I use both types of meters, myself.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Dome to the camera works well.

    Turning the dome to the light, just measures the light pointed at the subject.

    The dome "mimics" a face and measures the light the camera will be able to see.
     
  20. ghostcount

    ghostcount Member

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    Hmmm.. I guess as long as you are consistent you can "chuck up" the exposure delta to be insignificant and film latitude can recover it.:cool:
    I wonder if you get more difference in exposure density due to film processing. :confused:
     
  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Reflected readings isn't necessarily better than incident reading. it's all how you like to work. Incident readings aren't useful for the zone system though.
     
  22. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Collins is most correct, and it is a damned shame that so many will unbudgingly argue otherwise without even thinking about it, because it is what they have always been told and what they have always done.

    It is simple to theorize, and easy to prove; in uneven lighting (i.e. not 1:1), if you point the dome at the camera, you overexpose. Plain and simple. This is because the dome is not measuring the actual light falling on the brightest side of the subject (which is what you should expose for to get a "proper" exposure), but is measuring less light, due to "dilution" with the reading from from the dark side.

    To get the textbook "correct" exposure, you should point the dome at the light that is illuminating the part of the subject that you want to be most properly exposed. This light could be a studio lamp; it could be the sun. It could be surrounding plant life – a field of grass, for instance; it could be a bounce card or a wall. All that matters is that you point the meter toward the thing – or toward the "general area," in many natural lighting situations, which tend to be much larger than studio sources – that is providing the most light to the part of the subject that you want to properly expose. The shape of the dome accounts for all other light that is illuminating that part of the subject, e.g. spillover/flare from other light sources, light skimming in from the sides, etc. This is the beauty of the dome, not that it is shaped like a human head for the purposes of averaging two lights in uneven ratio.

    If it is hard to visualize why this happens in theory, try it out on some transparency film or instant prints to see it in practice. Set up a 1:1 ratio, a 2:1, 4:1 ratio, and so on and so forth. For each different lighting ratio that you set up, make two exposures: 1) dome facing the main light, and 2) dome facing toward the camera.

    In totally even lighting, the 1:1 shot, you'll see that it doesn't matter where you point the dome; you're going to get the same reading.

    In the 2:1 shots, you will see that the shot metered for the brighter light has a correct exposure on the bright side of the subject, and the darker side is where it is expected to be with that lighting ratio. In the shot metered down the middle, you'll see that the brighter side looks about 1/2 stop too bright, and the darker side appears about 1/2 stop lighter than you would expect it to appear in that lighting ratio.

    In the 4:1 shots, you will see that the shot metered for the brighter light has a correct exposure on the bright side of the subject, and the darker side is where it is expected to be with that lighting ratio. In the shot metered down the middle, you'll see that the brighter side looks about 1 stop too bright, and the darker side appears about 1 stop lighter than you would expect it to appear in that lighting ratio.

    In other words, if you meter down the middle in uneven ratio lighting, you will overexpose by half the difference in stops between the two sides. This is easily overlooked with negative film, as the actual lighting ratio is not severely changed; you just have "global" overexposure of the image, which is naturally compensated for when test stripping. But do it with a Fujiroid, a transparency, or digital, and you've got a problem.

    If you want the most accurate representation of the lighting ratio that exists at the subject, you should meter the strongest light that is illuminating the part of the subject for which you want to expose. If you specifically want to average the main and the fill (i.e. deliberately overexpose), which you may want to do in order to prevent futzing about when working with negative film, then you can place the head of the meter on a line between the main and fill lights. In cases in which the two lights are on a plane parallel to the film plane of the camera, then yes, would be pointing the dome at the camera.

    And there is no difference in theory between outdoor and studio light. What differs are the specifics of isolation and control, and the fact that sources outside are generally far more broad. But light is light; it all behaves the same. It is either even or uneven, and you should meter accordingly in any situation. Outside there is always a main source of light (e.g. the sun on a sunny day, the grey haze on an overcast day, or the sky and surrounding objects when shooting someone in open shade); there is also a less intense light coming from other directions (e.g. reflected light from the ground, sky, and/or buildings). In the event that both of these have an equal effect on the subject, you can point the dome at the camera and get a textbook exposure.

    And, of course, you point the dome at the camera if the light is coming from the direction of the camera. That goes without saying.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2011
  23. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Dean Collins worked that way in a specific system of his own that used multiple lights in a controlled studio setting and he taught that in workshops. He also shot Polaroid tests to make final adjustments. His incident metering method was a personal style and the methods he demonstrates should be taken as teaching his methodology, not as instructive of how an incident meter should always be used. He used either fill light or reflectors in a studio setting. He really doesn't take into account the intentional design of the meter dome that Bruce mentions. Collins was a nice guy, but he teaches a very specific way of shooting. None of the pros I worked for in studios went to his seminars when he was in town. They already knew how to light in a great variety of ways and how to use a meter. Collins drew mostly wedding and portrait studio folks, and he helped them a lot.

    The Weston Invercone and standard incident domes were designed and calibrated specifically to be used pointed at the camera from the subject (or in that same orientation in identical light levels). Other methods may work if you know how to account for any necessary adjustments (or take other readings or adjust lights and reflectors to determine fill ratios like Collins does), but they are not using the incident meter dome as intended by the designers.

    Case in point is Phil Davis' method of using an incident meter to find subject brightness range for an incident meter Zone System method. His method shows an excellent understanding of the characteristics of film and of incident reading methods. You'll notice, if you read his method, that the dome is pointed at the camera for metering light levels in both the fully lit and shadow portions of the subject. With Davis' method, incident readings are perfectly functional in a Zone System setting.

    Incident and spot metering methods are both extremely flexible, and someone who doesn't understand them can get lousy results with either. Someone who does understand both can get great results with either. Special circumstances can make one method or the other preferable, but either can cover a great majority of circumstances.

    Lee
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Not real sure what you are getting at here.

    The reason I say that is that artificial light used well with a specific standard development regime can make printing very easy. It may not even be necessary to adjust enlarger exposure to print negatives from different sessions. Heck the vignette and everything can be designed into the shot with the lighting. Camera settings can even be standardized.
     
  25. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Member

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    I find what 2F/2F says very convincing. Just to visualize it, imagine a portrait where the main light is a very lateral one (going by heart, Churchill's portrait by Karsh). Pointing the dome at the camera would bring overexposure. One does not want to "average" light and shadow, but to expose for light and then devise and use shadows to give more or less volume, "drama" etc. to the subject, so it is the main light that should drive the exposure.

    I always use reflected metering but I'm going to get out with my incident light meter next time and do some practice. Maybe the dome of certain light meters is made in a way that it reads the same value both if the light source is at 0° (front) or at 45°. Maybe the dome of other incident light meters is more "directional" and that would lead to the problems pointed out by 2F/2F.

    Besides, in a test in my balcony, my Gossen Sixtino II gave, in incident light, results that are way off what I get with the Gossen Multisix and what one gathers from experience. The Sixtino II in incident light, pointed toward the camera, would lead to gross overexposition. For many years my Sixtino II was all I had for incident light and I considered incident light measuring for years as a devilish trick or a mystery.

    The Multisix has an hemispheric dome. The Sixtino II has a curious rolling shutter that must be moved in front of the cell. That I suppose is quite directional, and now I infer that the Sixtino II must be used the way 2F/2F points out, toward the light source, to give reliable results. I'll do some text when I have a proper sunny day.

    Fabrizio
     
  26. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I always thought it was to be pointed towards the light. Then reading posts here and in other places I was convinced that it should point towards the camera.

    Towards the light makes more sense to me.


    Steve.