I am new here and think this site is the cats whiskers. I hope you can help me. I am new to photography and still learning. I was out with a buddy a couple of days ago and he gave me his light meter to use. I took some readings but I did'nt know what to do with them . I was too embarressed to ask. I hope you guys can help, I know this is basic stuff but it would clear up a lot.
If I take a meter reading in bright sunshine am I right to assume that the reading given refers to a medium grey? And if I meter in the shadows any reading will give me the same medium grey reading? Am I making sense?
Appreciate all replies. Pete
Most light meters do read for a middle grey (18%, Zone V) for whatever they are pointed at. Some meters may be slightly different, though.
If you're just starting out, try metering and using the reccomended settings. I typically meter towards the shadows of the scene so there will be sufficient details on the negative in those areas.
Then just dial those settings in on the camera and go.
You may also want to try to bracket (expose some higher and lower than what the meter says), just to get a feel for what happens with exposure. You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Have you still got the light meter?
If yes, then post the manufacturer and the model number and we'll step you through how to use it.
By the way, welcome!
Just a quick clarification of the middle gray idea - I don't know if it was clear from the previous post. The simplest (and somewhat oversimplified) way of looking at it is this:
Lets say you have a house with white walls, black doors and a grey roof.
Now you take a photo of it with B&W film using your meter. Lets assume that the house is pretty evenly lit (I think you will see how shadows fit into this by extension). Now, if you point your meter at the white wall (so it is ONLY reading the light reflected off the white wall - not the whole scene), it will assume that the wall is in fact middle gray. Now, if you expose as per the meter reading, give the film "normal" development and printing, your white house will be gray. The meter assumes that whatever it is pointed at IS middle gray. (part of the reason why most photos of snowy scenes look so mucky and... grey!). In this case, you would want to meter the gray roof - and the photo would then properly relate the other values.
This is the very, very basic of how it works. In reality, you would meter the door, so that you would have enough exposure on the darkest thing you still want to see some details of, then develop so that your highlights are controlled - but that is something that I think is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. I think its something that you will discover the need for when you snap a few rolls. Keep in mind that most consumer cameras are set to take an average of the entire scene you see through your viewfinder - which works surprisingly well most of the time... but when it reaches its limitiations, it really shows. Many hand held meters are what is called "spot" meters - that is to say they take a reading of a very lmited area (imagine a cone 1 to 3 degrees starting at your meter), so that you can be very specific in what you want to meter.
I don't know if you are familiar with the theory, the basis of apperture and exposure time? I know its basic stuff - but we all had to learn it some time - I simply don't know how far along you are in this arcane knowledge:)!
As far as I know, most if not all light meters work on this principle - whatever they read will give you the middle gray - wether its reflected light (meter in your camera or one you point at the subject) or incident (one you place in front of the subject to meter the light actually falling on the subject and obtain you reading that way).
I know there are websites with content written by people much more qualified than I am - but I can't seem to find them in my favourites - perhaps someone could direct you. I don't know of any threads here on APUG that go in depth on the subject. I certainly recommend some reading - either on line, or the old fashioned way. Again, I really don't know which books would be best, I hope others will chime in!
Best of luck and welcome to APUG!
What kind of meter? Reflected or incident? Incident will have a white half dome on it.
If it's incident then you can more or less just use the results it gives you.
If it's reflected then you need to adjust.
If it's reflected the question then becomes how big an area it reads.
You need to tell us more ;)
Welcome, Pete - both to APUG and photography.
As noted by others, there are two basic types of meters - incident meters (with the white dome) that are intended to measure the light falling on the subject, and reflective meters that measure the light being reflected from the scene.
Point an incident meter at the light source and it will give you an exposure reading that will render the subject in that light at its "true tonality". Other factors, like nearby reflective surfaces, or multiple light sources, can complicate things, but that's the basic idea.
With reflective meters, the trick is to know what the meter is actually measuring and, thus, what the meter is really telling you. By their nature, reflective meters have a "field of view", and will give you an average of whatever the meter is "seeing" within that field of view. If what the meter is seeing is an even balance of bright and dark areas, the suggested exposure will similarly be a reasonable balance. Otherwise, you have to do a bit of interpreting to get the "right" exposure.
For example, if what the reflective meter is seeing is mostly a white area, you'll want to open up a couple of stops to properly render the scene on film. Conversely, if the meter is seeing mostly shadow areas, you may need to close down a couple of stops.
Spot meters get around this problem to a degree by metering a very small area, and giving you a visual indication of what area they are reading. The result is then easier to interpret, but the same sort of adjustment to the actual exposure will be required.
At the heart of these interpretations or adjustments is the idea that the exposure suggested by the reflective meter is that which will render the metered area as a middle gray - a Zone V, in Zone System terms. Thus, how much you adjust the reading for the actual exposure will shift the metered area up (toward white) or down (toward black) the corresponding amount in relation to the real middle gray in the scene.
The multi-segment matrix meters in modern SLR cameras attempt to make intelligent interpretations of the scene by examining the patterns of brightness and darkness within the camera's firmware. Most of the time, they do a fairly good job, but can be fooled (just like photographers) by unusual lighting situations, such as strong backlighting, etc. Using a good hand-held meter simply puts the photographer in charge of that decision-making process.
Actually, a light meter be it averaging reflected or spot reads 18% be it gray, green, blue, red, orange...... The dome on an incident meter "creates" the conditions when facing the correct direction to simulate and record 18%.
Are you thoroughly confused yet? Ha!
Are you shooting color or B&W? What type of meter were you given (see previous messages)? Once we know these details, then we will be able to help you learn to user your meter properly.
This is great and helps a lot. Thank you. For the record it was a sekonic 308/608? meter - incident ( with white dome) - and b/w film.
I don't develop film myself. It is sent away.
Can I use the one reading from an incident meter and assume I am getting an 'accurate' reading - ( if the imaginary shot is not too complicated with light and dark)?
Thanks again Pete