this is a bit embarrassing but i've never been much cop when it comes to metering a scene. I'm fine when it comes to portraits because I know where i'm pointing my meter but when it comes to landscapes i always feel like i'm doing it wrong. I generally tend to point the meter in the direction the camera's pointing but something someone said recently made me think i should do more.
Should i take more than one reading? Should i take the meter as fact even if i'm reading a scene which is mostly in shadow? I use a Weston III meter and would really appreciate someone explaining it to me as if i was a 2 year old :redface:
The long and the short of it is this. If you are satisfied with you negatives then a general reading will suffice. When you see a need for more control, then that is when you need to dive on in.
Most times, when I was using my Master IV, I would pick the brightest portion of the scene (usually sky or a major glare like white stone) and mark down the top end. Then I would meter the darkest shadows and note the lower end. You either need to get close to these parts of the subject or pick a suitable replacement at hand AND under like lighting conditions.
This will give you your luminance range between highlight and shadow. Then, ascertain values/readings for important parts of the subject to see where they fall and place your exposure to match the desired end result.
It's much more involved. But that's the long and short of it all.
I'd suggest reading Dunn & Wakefield's Exposure Manual. Third or forth edition. They are available used very reasonable.
They explain very nicely where the different metering techniques fit best.
I gave up on spot metering after reading that book, incident for everything now. Spot metering simply doesn't fit the subjects and materials and processes I normally use, like incident metering does.
Here is what the original manual says about using your meter:
The important thing to understand about using a reflected light meter is that you need to know what you are pointing your meter at, and how light or dark you want that subject to be recorded on the film.
I tend to use my meters mostly in incident mode.
An incident meter tells you how bright is the light falling on a scene, and records the range of brightnesses in the scene where they naturally fall on the scale of tonalities.
A spot meter allows you to read the range of brightnesses in a scene and determine how well (or how poorly) they fit within the dynamic range of the film being used.
Different animals for different purposes!
For example, you might read with an incident meter EV18 as the inherent brightness of the light falling upon the scene. But then when you use a spot meter and read the darkest part of that scene you read EV13 and the brightest part of the scene as EV21, and you know that your slide film can only record 6EV of range (range assumption for discussion purposes only) while the scene is 9EV wide, so you get to decide to sacrifice the shadow detail (by shooting at EV18) or to sacrifice the hightlight detail (by shooting at EV16)